One of the business strategies of a successful marina operator is that they look for and find opportunities where others see nothing. By approaching the design and operation of their facility with an eye for solutions that capitalize on site-specific features and have long term financial viability they are able to identify opportunities that generate financial profit and wealth.
As many marinas would attest, fees from slip rentals alone are rarely enough to keep a marina afloat (no pun intended). The business typically needs an additional source(s) of revenue. The challenge for the owner or operator is to identify what those sources are.
In an effort to survive a tough economy and build a financially sustainable business marinas are getting creative. A marina in Washington State provides us with a good example of what one marina has done to help build their profitability.
Bellingham Marine interviews a group of average boaters to see what they look for in a marina.
Megayachts may be among the fastest growing segments of the boating world but ownership of mid-sized boats still trumps the market. Statistics published by the NMMA in 2011 reveal that boats 30’ to 50’ in length dominate the U.S. market making up over 77% of total registered boats.
Although it’s difficult to accurately state the average slip size of the over 12,000 marinas in the United States a best guess would put it somewhere in the 35’ – 40’ range. Given these numbers, it’s easy to see that the 30’ – 50’ boat is the bread and butter of most marinas.
So, what do these boaters want? Determined to find out, Bellingham Marine reached out to a group of average boaters to see what they look for in a marina. All were seasoned boaters; all had a lot to say about what they’re looking for.
Looking at Bellingham Marine’s many different projects across the globe, gives unique insight into the worldwide trends in marina design. The company’s clients are diverse and offer a great cross section of the industry – from commercial fishing facilities in Alaska’s remote reaches to the sophisticated super yacht facilities that dot the Caribbean.
A trend that continues to grow in direct correlation with increasing boat size is the general design and layout of the marina. Bigger boats require longer and wider berths, larger fairways and deeper basins. Many also want higher freeboard and wider walkways. Larger boats require more power and often more services. This trend is nothing new for the marina industry and continues to be the driving force behind many marina renovations.
In addition to the increase in average boat size, is the increase in mix of boats. More and more marinas are being asked to cater to a broader range of boaters, which encompasses everyone from kayakers to mega yacht owners. With growth in vessel diversity comes the need to offer a greater variety of moorage and water access options. Where once standard 16” to 20” freeboard was appropriate for all boats in the marina, marinas are now looking to incorporate into their facility low freeboard areas for kayakers, rowing clubs and junior sailing programs, “standard” freeboard for mid-sized boats, and extra high freeboard docks for larger vessels.
Another trend that’s on the rise is customization. Many marinas are looking to set themselves apart and create a unique experience for their tenants. Modern marina designs reflect playful use of architectural design and color that lead to a sophisticated and polished look.