One of the most visible aspects of the digital change concerning the boating is the more frequent use of the shared economy to experience the nautical activities but also to pursue them later. Buying a boat or borrowing it from a family member or a friend is no longer necessary to try it out for the first time. It is simply enough to have the internet access and being able to find the right platform making such an experience possible. In other words: shared economy.
As explained by the European Commission first speaker, Raluca Ionescu (DG GROW – Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs), the collaborative economy has been growing very fast with €28 billion in 2015, and revenues in five key sectors almost doubling in one year. The European Union (EU) citizens are not only more and more aware of the existence of the shared economy (more than half of the population) but they use it more often, the studies show that 17% have done it already, mostly educated, young people from urban areas. Other research in Member States themselves show that these numbers might be even higher.
According to the European Commission, currently one of the biggest challenges with regard to the shared economy is the fact that the regulatory fragmentation increases within and between Member States. Therefore, the European Commission aims to ensure in a responsible and balanced way, that taxes are paid, consumers protected, and social protection is guaranteed. The clarity on applicable EU rules is needed with the main issues covered, such as market access, liability, consumer protection, taxation and employment.
The next speaker, François Hélard, Co-Founder and CCO at Enaviga, an online platform that manages the nautical experiences, confirmed the trend presented by the Commission by showing how quickly the “internet of things and customized personal experience” have kept growing in the last two decades. He had no doubt that “renting is the new owning” and adapting to this transformation is the industry’s challenge.
The “digitalisation on land” should be closely followed by the digital change on water (on board, in marinas etc.) which will facilitate the boaters’ life. Ioannis Kostopoulos, SaMMYacht (smart App in the world of yachting marinas) CEO & Co-founder, explained that the adoption of digital infrastructure is five times faster than that of electricity. He said that with 50 billion “smart objects” around and the number of mobile subscriptions soon to outnumber the world’s population, the industry needs to prepare even better for this transition, as there are still a lot of marinas not quite ready for the changing world.
This snowball is rolling, faster and faster, becoming bigger as it goes – trying to stop the change or not recognising that sharing might be the new buying, could be counter-productive. Instead the industry should help this snowball direct its course and make sure it knows where the ball is going.
Therefore the conference was followed this year by a special session, presented by the European Commission’s, Linos Voskarides, in charge of the nautical tourism (DG MARE - Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries). During his intervention, Mr Voskarides presented the Nautical Tourism study and the Commission’s working document’s findings which recognised the challenges of the nautical sector (such as professional skippers’ licences; no harmonised rules for safety equipment on board; or “end-of-life” boats). Alluding to the main theme of the event, he stressed the importance of introduction of new technologies and innovation and explained how the European Commission is facilitating this process within its competences.
Sandrine Devos, Secretary General of European Boating Industry said that “digital change will most likely continue, not leaving behind many sectors, but rather taking most of them on board, including boating. This is why nautical tourism needs to anticipate the changes ahead and influence them with the benefit to the whole boating community”.