LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Mo. — Boating is central to life at Lake of the Ozarks, so it may come as no surprise that even amid the temporary coronavirus slowdown nationwide, boat dealers say they're still busy.

Brad Rozier, co-owner of Premier 54 Motor Sports, the Lake of the Ozarks area Chaparral dealer, says while COVID-19 concerns may be keeping some people at home, it hasn't torpedoed boat sales. "We are still selling!" he said.

Jeremy Anderson, GM of Big Thunder Marine, says the same: "Big Thunder is open and busy!" Anderson says Big Thunder has closed seven boat sales in the past week. They've also delivered many already-purchased boats, and the phones ring daily with people wanting to de-winterize their boats as warm weather approaches. He said Big Thunder's de-winterizing schedule is filling up even more quickly than usual (anyone wanting to get on the list can text service directly at 573-964-3450).

It's a good sign: optimism among boaters that the COVID-19 hiccup will soon pass, and determination to spend the summer of 2020 on the Lake.

Socially Distanced Boat Sales

How does a boat dealer sell boats when people are staying in their homes? You can probably guess.

"We have been doing FaceTime videos, walk arounds, and been taking more specific photos for boat customers," Anderson said.

"We literally can do the whole thing without them showing up," Rozier explained, saying Premier 54 sales staff are providing video walk-throughs and detailed digital looks at their boats. The most popular boats selling so far this year at Premier 54 are 29 feet and longer, he said.

MarineMax has been crafting an online shopping experience for boaters, for years. In 2018 it was the Virtual Yacht Expo. In 2019 it was the World's Largest Online Used Boat Sale. Beginning March 26, 2020 the MarineMax "Online Experience" will kickstart the spring boating season. Virtual attendees can explore and take tours from wherever they are using a computer, phone, or tablet. They can also watch video walkthroughs, attend webinars, chat with industry experts, and place a hold on the boat of their dreams. Click here to learn more.

Ditto Big Thunder. "We have upped our online presence, and have been selling a lot of Fountain, Donzi, and Baja clothing online," Anderson said, adding "Sales in the pro shop are up."

Shop apparel and boating gear online at WakeEffects.com.

LakeExpo.com's award-winning site, xBoats, is also thriving. The site features hundreds of local boats for sale from nearly all of the Lake of the Ozarks' major boat dealers. "It's easily searchable, so boaters can type in what they're looking for, and find their future dream boat in just a few clicks," said Brent Simpson, Founder and Publisher of LakeExpo.com. xBoats was launched in mid-2018, and since then has delivered more than 3.7 million pageviews.

Click here to check out xBoats.

That said, Anderson and Rozier both say people are still walking in the door, too. 

"Now more than ever, boating continues to be a way to escape with friends and family as a get away from the stress of life," Anderson ended. "I truly believe that what's happening in the world today will bring families closer together and when this is all behind us we will end up having a huge year with many new people getting into boating, and many who have stopped because their lives became too 'busy' finding the time for what has given them some of their greatest memories."

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