Marina manager Rudy Puystjens offers an insider’s look at the trends in marina development and business, and how they will affect Asia’s marina model in 2022 and beyond
| 2 February 2022
Major industry changes have become apparent in the past year or so. One worldwide trend, accelerated by the pandemic, is that millennials are starting to enjoy a yachting lifestyle. Their preference is sometimes for sharing and renting, rather than owning, which is quite a new concept in our industry. Charter companies are aware of this, but many marinas still stick to the traditional membership concept to raise capital and rely on members’ fees for the marina club budget.
Marinas should allow community access. They should move away from the ‘carpark for yachts’ concept and become a ‘Swiss army knife’ platform for various activities such as triathlons, concerts, candlelit dinners and other activities. This could provide new revenue streams, new future boaters – and some fun.
Asia, known for its high standards in the hospitality industry, has many marinas connected with famous hotel brands, but it often disappoints me that once you enter a marina, those standards are close to non-existent. Many marina managers or GMs hide away for the whole day in their office and are not available for their guests, while marina staff hardly care for the boaters. Would it not be nice to be well-greeted when you enter a marina and to be able to order a good barbecue set for your yacht?
Marinas should allow community access. They should move away from the ‘carpark for yachts’ concept and become a ‘Swiss army knife’ platform for various activities
Despite the efforts of the Marina Industry Association [representing the Asia-Pacific region] and some good marina managers, a career in this industry is not highly respected, which saddens me. With the support of their HR department, managers should design individual career paths and guide staff through training, education, and certification. Some studious trainee-level staff I have known have followed me to various marinas and countries and ended up in senior positions or as yacht captains. They are future marina managers.
Yacht captains and crew are big influencers in picking a safe berth on a cruise; marinas who take care of the wellbeing of this group are usually very successful. The availability of crew transport, affordable food, free Wi-Fi and a crew lounge are not so expensive, as they are easily subsidised by mooring fees. These things create a general feeling of contentment, solidarity and safety.
When a crew enjoys a marina, they will persuade an owner to choose that marina over another one. Also, when good care is taken of visiting crew and staff staying in a marina, suddenly there are additional pairs of eyes to observe general security or offer help at hand if needed.
Pontoons last 20 to 30 years; however, yacht sizes evolve about every five years. If a marina isn’t remodelled accordingly, it becomes obsolete and may force the owner to consider selling up. Therefore, it is best to budget for upgrades – and if needed, do these in phases to keep generating revenue.
It seems that successful, international multi-marina operators are now looking to Asia – perhaps with an eye on ailing marinas.
Another new trend in the Asia yachting and marina industry is more awareness of the environment. One positive effect from Covid-19 is that people began rediscovering the value of nature, and as we start to feel the impact of climate change, people are reconsidering certain attitudes.
When I was the manager at One15 Marina, we started planting coral together with a university in Singapore. Soon, all kinds of fish arrived. We amended our rules and regulations to introduce “eco-fines” for littering, wasting water or fishing in the marina. This money was used to clean the marina seabed or for other eco-infinitives. When I was the manager at Dubai Festival Marina, we donated money for a turtle project.
I am convinced that marinas have a great future, but like every successful organisation, it is important to dare to be critical and, if needed, make drastic decisions to change. There is no one solution for all marinas as each one must cater for its customer base.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rudy Puystjens is a certified marina manager and lecturer for the Marina Industry Association. He has managed marinas in Belgium, Dubai, Qatar, Singapore and most recently, Hong Kong.