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British Marine publishes its latest annual industry statistics showing the impact of COVID-19 on boating and watersports in the UK

Published on: 23 June 2022


British Marine has published the latest edition of its annual economic report, Key Performance Indicators for the Leisure, Superyacht & Small Commercial Marine Industry (2020-21), evaluating the size, performance and health of the industry following the COVID-19 pandemic and its extraordinary effect on boating and watersports in the UK. 

The last two years have seen unprecedented challenges for the UK economy, from the disruption of the pandemic and Brexit-related trade adjustments, to supply chain shocks and inflation over the past year that have contributed to a cost of living crisis for many Britons. British Marine’s Key Performance Indicators report shows that the UK marine industry experienced a difficult year in 2020, with pandemic-related public lockdowns, business closures, international shipping restrictions and reduced consumer activity contributing to a sharp decline in turnover, with a contraction in like-for-like revenue of 22 percent compared to the previous 12 months 1. Total industry revenue is now estimated at £3.4 billion – just six percent above the level of industry output seen back in 2017-18 (£3.2 billion).

The UK’s domestic boating tourism sector was most heavily impacted by COVID-19 public health restrictions, with operators prohibited from offering any kind of boat tour, charter or hire activity to consumers until midway through the boating season, then being forced to operate at a heavily reduced capacity to accommodate new social-distancing safety protocols. Together, these companies experienced a 42 percent like-for-like decline in income, compared with the 2019-20 financial year. 

Boat and equipment manufacturing was also hit hard, with shipyards and factories closed or forced to operate with skeleton crews during lockdown and manufacturers impacted by subsequent supply and staff shortages for much of 2020-21. Overall, manufacturing revenue fell an estimated 27 percent in 2020-21, with boat production revenue down 33 percent and boat production (unit) output declining by 11 percent. Supporting business services performed comparatively well. With services able to keep operating remotely during lockdown, sales only declined by 14 percent overall. Declines were concentrated among businesses offering onsite technical services or in-person events and crewing services; services that catered to marine businesses’ renewed focus on strategic planning, marketing, and upskilling during the lockdown or provided direct to consumer digital services fared better.  

However, the industry has been recovering rapidly, thanks to a post-lockdown surge in boat and watersports equipment sales and rentals as consumers concentrated their spending on staycations and outdoor recreational activities as an antidote to public health restrictions. The latest boat sales data indicate that new and used boat sales revenue has grown over 25 percent compared to their pre-pandemic level (2021 calendar year compared with 2019 calendar year). British Marine expects boating tourism services will show similar revenue increases when this data becomes available. According to British Marine’s latest forecast, industry revenue is expected to grow 11 percent in 2021-22, spurred by domestic boating tourism and boat and equipment sales. Quarterly sentiment polls conducted in 2021 show that across each quarter the majority of marine businesses saw sales increase compared to the same period in 2020. On average, 70 percent of these businesses were optimistic about their future prospects when last surveyed at the end of 2021. The last time business confidence was anywhere near this high was in September 2017 (54 percent), when outlook was buoyed by Brexit-related currency depreciation and its impact on marine exports and domestic tourism. 

As part of its ongoing commitment to supporting members with timely market insight to support business planning, British Marine’s market research and statistics team will be publishing a number of new reports this summer (2022). This includes a new consumer report looking at the participation and purchasing behaviour of British boaters and boat owners post-COVID, as well as an updated review of the UK marina and moorings market. British Marine will also be launching the latest edition of its short Sentiment Poll to gauge sales performance and outlook among marine businesses. Your input into this poll is vital to help us track the health of the industry, particularly at such a fragile time in the industry’s recovery, so we thank you in advance for your support.

All growth figures cited above are calculated based on “like-for-like” comparisons of British Marine member companies’ economic data for the previous financial year.

To download the full report, Key Performance Indicators for the Leisure, Superyacht & Small Commercial Marine Industry (2020-21), please click here

For more information on British Marine’s market research and statistics service, please visit For any queries or comments, please contact Alastair Wilson at