Holiday restrictions spur ‘boat bonanza’

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Another sign of Norway’s fundamentally stong economy has sailed into local headlines lately: Norwegians are buying boats like never before. Sales of both new and used boats are showing huge increases, and prices are rising.

Boating has long been popular in Norway, and now the market has exploded since Norwegians will be spending summer holidays at home this year. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Morten Møst

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my 33 years in the boat business,” Anders Topland at Grimstad Bådsenter on the southern coast told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). “We’ve had more than NOK 55 million in revenues since New Year, and that’s up NOK 20 million from the same time last year. We’re close to being sold out.”

DN is calling it a “boat bonanza.” With holidays abroad cancelled because of the Corona virus crisis, and Norwegians facing a summer at home, many are clearly looking forward to holidays on the fjords and along the coast. Norway’s major online marketplace Finn.no set new records during the month of May, with 7.25 million visitors to its pages where boats are advertised for sale. It’s in line with recent reports that Norway’s economy is already recovering from the economic shock of the Corona virus crisis that prompted the government to shut down much of the country in March.

“We had an extremely good boat market in May, the best month we’ve ever had,” Magnus Frøshaug Ryhjell of Finn told DN. Boat sales doubled in April and May, compared to last year, even at a time with relatively high unemployment.

There are tens of thousands of boats berthed along the Oslo Fjord, around 850 here at Frognerkilen in Oslo alone. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Clearly not everyone is hurting. Used boats are also selling much faster, according to Finn, averaging 10 days on the market instead of 20. Fully 10 percent of boats advertised also sold the same day, with sellers getting the prices they asked. In some cases, prospective buyers resorted to bidding rounds, driving prices up.

The new boat market is also surging ahead, with dealers and producers often struggling to meet demand. Helge Duus, who owns the Norwegian boatbuilding firm Ibiza, reports “formidable” demand especially since the Easter holidays, “but we can’t produce more.” Duus told DN that his company, one of the few producers remaining in Norway, is “undoubtedly riding the wave” now.

“All the dealers are calling us and asking for more boats, be we don’t have any more to deliver,” Duus said. “It’s quite fun, really.”

Marinas like here at Holmsbu along the Drammensfjord are also likely to be busy this summer. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Morten Møst

At boat seller Bakken Motor in Drammen, Terje Bakken is also busy responding to demand for “all types of boats,” from rubber rafts to rib boats, fast “island jeeps” and day cruisers. “There’s been huge demand now that everyone understands they won’t be getting out of Norway this summer,” Bakken told DN. “Boating is a fine segment of the holiday market.”

Marinas are also under pressure, with barely enough berths available for all the demand. A four-meter (roughly 12-foot) spot at the Solvik Boat Association at Høvik west of Oslo sold for NOK 400,000 (USD 42,000) last week, up 11 percent from last year, reports the association’s Einar-Olav Hauge, while seasonal leasing of a three-meter spot has risen from NOK 10,000 to NOK 12,000 this summer.

The outlook for next summer is also bright, since the boat market is expected to be “fully vacuumed” by autumn. “And after folks get a taste of boat life, they may want a bigger boat next year,” Leif Bergaas of the national pleasure-boat owners’ association Norboat, told DN. “It’s a strong market for all the players in the market, whether they sell boating equipment or operate boat yards. Boat owners are always investing in new equipment.”

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund