ECONOMY

Pleasure boat market grows

The pleasure boat market has seen significant growth rates in recent years, thanks to laxer tax treatment of smaller vessels, the easing of registration procedures and the abolition of the requirement for small boat owners to regularly renew their documents and obtain sailing approval, according to a study by business research company ICAP. The sector includes a relatively large number of manufacturing and import firms, which has sharpened competition and discouraged the entry of new companies. Some of the manufacturing units are fully vertically integrated, while others specialize in the making of certain parts only. Demand for pleasure boats is affected by high price elasticity and the cost of storage and maintenance. The recent abolition of ownership of vessels up to 10 meters long without crew as proof of taxable income has helped changed their image as a luxury item and given the sector a strong boost. Also, the creation of several boat docks in proximity to coastal areas has partly solved the problem of storage. According to the results of the ICAP sectoral study, the Greek pleasure boat market grew by an average annual rate of 14.6 percent in the last five years, and most of the demand is met by Greek-made vessels. Imports represented 38 percent of sales last year, while exports amounted to 24 percent of domestic production. Polyester boats accounted for 55.7 percent of sales, followed by inflatable boats with 38.5 percent. Sea jets and sailboats represented 5.8 percent of the market, and their sales are projected to grow by up to 5 percent annually in the short term. Polyester boat sales are projected to grow further at 10 percent annually, particularly those up to 7 meters long, as first-time buyers seem to prefer them from inflatables due to their much lower cost. In contrast, sales of sailing boats are projected to remain stagnant in 2005 and 2006.