Graying has yachting at a crossroads
Boaters are graying and staying home and not enough youngsters replace them. The demographic reality of an aging population having fewer children is leaving a mark on Dutch lakes, waterways and marinas.
Already a 2009 study found that “a third of boat owners in the Delta area (of southwest Holland) is older than 60.” And 18% are under 40. It’s not different elsewhere. By 2030, the ranks of the elderly in the European Union will balloon by 58 million, a rise of 77% from 2010. In Germany, the average boat owner is 56. And 80% of them bought their vessel before they turned 40. The outlook is for the ranks of German boat owners to drop by 31% by 2017 and by 49% a decade later. Apply those figures to the Netherlands and you’ll see 60,000 fewer boats in the country by 2017. And almost 100,000 fewer boats by 2027.
“Last year the boating sector signaled a waning interest in water sports in young people,” says Judith Porsius, who heads a survey assessing the sector’s future in Friesland, Holland’s northern province which boasts dozens of lakes. Early findings are sobering: of the 750 young people already questioned, 25% have never been to Friesland. Of those who have been there, half did stuff unrelated to sailing.
And here ‘s something to work on: Dutch youngsters tend to see sailing as an elitist hobby, something rich old people do. “Until now we have focused on older boaters. We need to invest more in attracting young people,” says Porsius.