Out-of-state boaters are spending a significant amount of money in Maryland, according to a new study released by a marine industry group. The study, which is the first of its kind in Maryland, estimated that boaters from far-flung ports spent roughly $153 million while they were here last year.
"We really didn't have any idea about the extent and the activities of how many people were coming into the state," said Doug Lipton, an official with the Maryland Sea Grant Extension at the University of Maryland, which helped conduct the study. "This was an attempt to get a handle on it."
Maryland Sea Grant estimates that in-state boating is a $1.5 billion industry in Maryland.
The study will be used to devise strategies to attract even more vessels to the state.
"We know there is a constant line of traffic from Maine to Florida, some are choosing to stop in Maryland," said Susan Zellers, a spokeswoman for the Marine Traders Association of Maryland, which released the study last week. "We've expected that this is an industry we can grow.
"This is an excellent place to stop by and drop some dollars. We've got marinas that are quiet, we've got marinas that are bustling."
And once they stop here, skippers spend their money in a variety of ways.
"People come here to get a lot of work done on their boats," Lipton said. "A lot of money is being spent on getting upgrades. Of course, while they are here they've got to spend money on supplies, and they come ashore and spend money on entertainment."
The study found that owners of larger boats spend more money while in the state. The roughly 475 owners of large power boats - yachts 60 feet or bigger - spent about $56,000 each while docked here.
"From a fiscal point of view, you want to encourage these large boats to come here," Lipton said. "You get more bang for the buck with a larger boat."
It also found that boat owners base their routing decision on the quality of boating that can be found in a given area including water quality, interesting coastline to explore and the level of service available to them, Lipton said.
Over the next few months, the Marine Trade Association will examine existing laws and regulations that affect out-of-state boaters. The group will develop recommendations for persuading more boats to dock in Maryland.
"For right now," Zellers said, "making sure we're not chasing them out in any way shape or form is the key."