How the Boating Industry is Adapting to the Sharing Economy

SailTime was founded on Lake Travis in Austin, Texas, 19 years ago. Sharing assets like boats, cars, and second homes was unheard of at the time. Today, however, sharing is not only mainstream, it is the biggest shift in the economy since the dot-com boom. Known as “The Sharing Economy,” it is the fastest-growing segment of the economy today.

Sharing companies, like Airbnb, UBER, Zipcar, and SailTime, have changed the way goods and services are provided and consumed. These platforms bring in a new market of owners who plan to share their assets to generate revenue. They also provide consumers a first-class, ownership-like experience for less cost than the traditional buy-it-to-use-it norm.

Take UBER, for example. When the client requests a ride, it is quite possible that the UBER driver will arrive in a luxury new model sedan with a complimentary bottle of water. That used to be an expensive service provided by a limousine company.

However, with UBER, you can get the same first-class experience for a cost that is less than a taxi fare.

SailTime is changing boat usage the way UBER has changed car usage. SailTime members enjoy all the benefits of ownership, getting regular usage of a very well-equipped new model sailboat all season long. Members can go out for short day-sails or take the boat out for a full week of cruising. They also get access to SailTime boats at 39 locations worldwide.

This shift in consumer behavior is just in the early stages and is a generational event. For the past 30 years, baby boomers made up the main demographic of boat buyers. Three decades ago, the boomers were buying 30-foot boats. A decade later the trend was 40-foot boats, and in the last decade, the boomers have been buying 50-foot boats. The same client has been upgrading and driving the boat market as we know it, but they are making way for future generations.

Over the next decade, Generation Xers and millennials will be buying and using sailboats. Millennials are sharers and not typically buyers like boomers.

They prefer to rent, or even subscribe, rather than own and invest in tangible assets. Gen Xers are both buyers and sharers, depending on a few factors. Gen Xers will buy, but typically they make their decisions on two factors. First, will they use it enough? If not, then they will rent rather than own. Second, is the purchase a good investment? If there is a way to own and perhaps earn income, Gen Xers will be more inclined to buy.

Platforms like SailTime are perfect for combining the two generations. While millennials prefer to share, Gen Xers will own if they can get utilization and a return on the investment. SailTime provides millennials an opportunity to purchase “the experience” without ownership. SailTime provides Gen Xers the ability to maximize their ownership and give them a return on their investment.

As the economy evolves and consumer behaviors change, industries must adapt and innovate.

The SailTime boat-sharing program is just one of the innovations that will keep boating a thriving industry in the new sharing economy. Other sharing platforms such as boat clubs, fractional ownership programs, and peer-to-peer boat sharing have all emerged to meet the new consumer behavior driven by the sharing economy. This is just the beginning.

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