Boating emerges as top outdoor activity

Holland-based maker of luxury crafts is on pace for record fiscal year.
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Tiara Yachts’ higher-end boats, like the 39 Coupe, are proving very popular. Courtesy Tiara Yachts

Many industries have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, but there is at least one industry that has benefited from it.

Outdoor recreation such as hiking, camping, boating and fishing were some of the safest activities to do during the height of the pandemic. One activity stood out from the rest, however.

Boating was one of the most valuable outdoor recreational activities last year. It was the largest conventional activity for the nation as a whole at $30.8 billion in current-dollar value-added and was the largest conventional activity in 39 states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Tom Slikkers, president and CEO of Tiara Yachts, a Holland-based boat manufacturing company, said there were some uncertainties as to how the pandemic would impact his industry.

“As we learned more about COVID and learned about things that we could do safely and things that were less safe, outdoor recreation activities such as hiking, biking, camping, boating, fishing and surfing became the natural go-to for a lot of individuals,” he said. “Boating and camping were probably the two primary big buckets where a lot of people started putting their energy into because it allowed them to isolate and be with their close family or friends and not necessarily have the risk of being with a lot of people.”

The increase in boating activities includes yachting, canoeing, rowing and fishing. 

With the increased interest in boating, the demand for boats also has increased. Slikkers said Tiara manufactures low volume, higher luxury boats, traditionally churning out less than 200 vessels per year. This fiscal year Tiara is on track to make around 250 boats, according to Slikkers.

“We are struggling with the demand for boats,” he said. “The demand coupled with the supply chain issues that have been happening now, as a result of the other side of COVID, that combination is not a great combination for a boat manufacturer or anyone in manufacturing. The supply of materials, the challenges of keeping people healthy and employed, and getting your product built is not an easy proposition today. We are working through it. I wished we had a magic wand that we could use, but the material challenges and the people challenges have made it unusually challenging on a daily basis. It is not one item. It is a combination of a multitude of different items that come up in a given day.”

Some of the boats the company manufactures include 39 Coupe, 44 Coupe, 49 Coupe and 53 Coupe. The company launched the 48 LS, the newest model in its portfolio, in February.

To meet the demand, Slikkers said Tiara is hiring new employees and trying to get individuals back into the labor market. It’s also investing in another area.

“We are investing in new automation and robotics in some areas of our facility that might be able to alleviate human interaction and take the human interaction that we do have and move that to an area that is different in our company that we can’t automate,” he said.

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