As I looked around at the manufacturers, brokers and vendors at our Houseboat Expo last June, I couldn’t help but reflect on where we’ve all come from over the last few years. It’s no secret that the houseboat industry has taken its share of lumps with the roller coaster economy. Sadly, some manufacturers were forced to close their doors, while others have simply done whatever it took to stay in business.
But for the first time I saw those in our industry who have struggled to survive the recession in a different light. Each has been involved in houseboats in one way or another for many years, and all have a passion for our industry. That part has never been in question.
However, what is different is the—dare I say—camaraderie and the interaction with each other. The once fierce competitors are now wishing each other a successful show and enjoying conversations with each other. I guess they realize that it's important that we all succeed, for we’re all doing our part to support and hold up a struggling industry.
Early indications seem to favor the houseboat industry in 2016 as most are predicting a great year. And for those considering buying a new houseboat in 2016, this could truly be your best opportunity to pursue that dream.
“Our 2015 season has been amazing. We have many new houseboats in production and we are working on a new Expo showboat for the 2016 season,” said Trifecta Ventures, LLC., rep Kristen Turpin. “The houseboat industry has started booming again and we are looking forward to 2016 and everything it has in store for us! We built 15 houseboats last year.”
It seems the majority of the manufacturers who have continued to build boats during this slowdown have emerged with a greater appreciation for the industry and can now look back and see the good things that have come from the struggling years.
And the potential success isn’t limited to just the seasoned builders with companies that go back generations. Even manufacturers who are fairly new to the industry, such as Adonia Yachts, are anticipating a great year.
“We’ve got some big stuff that’s being built right now,” said Adonia Yachts president and houseboat veteran Dave Taylor. “It's a different level than what you’re used to seeing as we plan to take houseboating to a different level in 2016.”
Sunstar Houseboats, led by founder George Roberts, is entering its 21st year in business and is also looking forward to the new year.
“We are positive we will see an increase in business for 2016 and we plan to add employees to handle the increased production,” said Roberts. “We are always trying to find ways to improve the quality.”
While the majority are ready to officially state the houseboat recession is over, there are still others who are looking forward to the growth of a new year, but are still concerned.
“I’d say 2015 was a mixed bag,” said Twin Anchors Marine rep Nigel Lamb. “The year started out strong in houseboat builds, but the summer was quiet. From rental companies we kept hearing a lot of, ‘We really need new boats, but…’ We do have a couple of major houseboat renovation projects going on, but in a nutshell I would say we’re guardedly optimistic for 2016.”
A couple years back, three industry giants—Stardust Cruisers, Sumerset Houseboats and Thoroughbred Houseboats—united and merged to create Trifecta Ventures, which has proven to be a tremendous boost to the houseboat industry.
“Trifecta is realizing many of the goals that we envisioned with the joint venture as evidenced by the value we presented in our showboat at the 2015 Houseboat Expo,” says Trifecta President Jerry Harden. “The purchasing power gained through the joint venture has produced the desired outcome by driving down our construction costs. The best news is that our production schedule is full through June and we are on track to build 26 houseboats in 2016. All of the houseboats in our current production schedule are sold.”
At one time or another, virtually all of us have faced adversity so profound we wonder if it can be surmounted. The challenges rise before us like a soaring, steep mountain with no apparent way to pass. Because of the struggles we have all faced together in this industry over the last few years, we are now able to rise to new heights that would have been unattainable without this experience.
No matter the timetable, it’s clear the top builders listed in our annual Buyer’s Guide have positioned themselves well and are now ready to earn your business as this industry continues to bounce back once again.