France is a worldwide leader in the boating industry. It is the top country for manufacturing sailing boats and the fourth largest manufacturer of motorboats in the world. In terms of rental, France is the country where boats are rented the most in the seas and rivers.
Among some of the studies available, we have found that France is the top manufacturer in Europe and second in the world if you add all types of leisure boats together.
The French boating industry: a worldwide leader
The French boating market consists of 5,601 companies employing 43,709 people. The total revenues generated in 2019 were 5.3 billion euros. This maritime industry contains manufacturers of boats, repair companies, services companies, and nautical leisure companies.
In France, in 2019, 45,010 nautical leisure units were produced, of which we could identify 3,943 sailing boats and 11,528 motorboats. The manufacturing activity in the maritime industry generated 1.3 billion euros of revenues (+10% growth in 2017 – 2018). Some studies found there were 650 manufacturers located in France. Others said 120 companies. 76.2% of the units manufactured in France are exported to other markets.
In 2018 and 2019, the annual growth of the maritime industry was +5%. To give you an idea of the geographic concentration of the market: 132 of the 196 locations of boat manufacturers identified in 2015 are on the Atlantic coast.
Types of boats manufactured in France
60% of the boats manufactured in France are liveable sailboats, and 33% are liveable motors boats.
The average size of boats sold has gone from 8.5 meters to 10 meters long in recent years. In 2016, the sales of motorboats from 5 to 12 meters long grew at a rate of 10%. Six thousand units were sold in just a year.
In 2016, motorboats represented 80% of the sales of boats in France. Nowadays, outboard motors are more popular than stern-drive motors.
French domestic market
The number of leisure boats on the French market is 500,000, of which 8/10 are motorboats. The growth of sales on the domestic market before the COVID-19 pandemic was +7.4%. The estimated growth by distributors of boats is +4%.
In France, four million people regularly go boating. In 2019, there were 12,646 new boat registrations (81% for motorboats and 48% for boats shorter than six meters) and 61,172 changes of ownership in boat registrations (80% for motorboats and 60% for boats shorter than six meters). The annual growth of new boat registrations is +3.4%. It is quite similar to the growth of used boat sales: +3.5%. In 2019, 95,572 boating licenses were issued.
There are +1,000 nautical centers, +15,000 nautical sports instructors, and +1 million nautical sports federation members in France. Nearly 11 million people do nautical sports each year.
Exports of boats made in France
76.2% of boats manufactured in France are exported worldwide. This number goes up to 79% for the sailing boat sub-category. More than half of the 76.2% is exported to the European continent. Two-thirds of the exports occur between the European continent and the USA.
The United States is the top export country (with 17.7% of total exports). Long-distance export sales (American continent, Asia, and the Middle East) represent 38% of French production. Before the pandemic, long-distance export sales were growing by +11%. European sales were growing by +21%.
The yachting industry in France
There could be nearly 2,400 companies involved in this sub-category. They could represent nearly three to four billion euros of revenues and 10,000 employees. It is hard to determine exactly whether they only work for this industry and which types of work they are doing, as there is no code to classify all the activities related to yacht building.
River cruise & boat transportation
River tourism (cruise and renting ships) represents 10 million passengers per year in France. There are currently 38 operators in this market (i.e., CroisiEurope).
The river cruise and passenger transportation industry is generating 350 million euros of revenues each year. Ferries are also popular in France and are mixed-use boats with passengers and sometimes garages ranging from 200 to 2,000 passengers.
The size of the market for small and medium ferry boat construction is hard to grasp. Of course, there are French manufacturers in this field, too.
As we can see above, France is at the forefront of the boating industry in the world. There are many boat manufacturers and suppliers of marine products. France also predominates in the maritime leisure sector: it is the country where boats are rented the most in the seas and rivers. River tourism represents 10 million passengers per year in France.