When we work with potential buyers of marinas, we make sure they understand that a marina is more than just a place to store boats. It is a complex business that can combine hospitality, service, and, yes, storage. For today’s boater, the more service and hospitality the better. That means a marina chock full of beneficial amenities is better positioned to attract all those new boaters who have entered the waters over the past few years.
There was a time when a marina was simply a storage area, with a yard where someone could work on a boat, and a restroom with showers for those old salts who spent weekends trawling the ICWW and pulled off for a night when the fuel or food supply got low. It was relatively low maintenance, and decidedly low-key. It was for a time when boaters still used paper charts to navigate, when the comforts of home were left at home, and when boats were anything but high tech.
As technology was introduced and disposable income grew, times changed, and customers changed. To meet the demands of today’s boaters, marinas are now like resorts with the expectation that they will have not just restrooms, but spa-quality bathhouses. A pool is nearly a must, along with a well-stocked ships store, a bar and restaurant onsite or at least nearby, a lounge area, playground, dog park, and of course WiFi, electric, and water.
The idea is to not just attract boaters needing a home for their boat, but to create a home away-from home atmosphere where boaters want to spend their weekends with their families on their boats. Marinas have had to up their game to meet that demand.
A decade ago, a concierge service might have been unheard of while today many facilities offer just that. There was a marina on the ICWW that became famous for its treatment of transient boaters. When the boat pulled into a slip, they were met by locals who handed them a rose, answered questions on where to eat and shop, and later hosted impromptu wine and cheese gatherings. At the time, such service was beyond the norm and a special treat for all who stopped. Today such treatment of visiting boaters is more typical than not.
Because marina buyers understand the need for amenities, if you’re planning to sell, consider what your marina has to offer boaters. Offering a service to stock and launch pre-trip, and wash and stow post-trip, doesn’t require much more than manpower with the bonus that boat launches can be better scheduled and boats won’t linger on the dock while passengers run back and forth to the store or struggle with hoses.
Dogs are now family members, and many are invited for weekends on the boat. Adding a dog walk or run requires minimal investment and maintenance while elevating you to the high status of “dog person.” Similarly, catering to kids with play areas, a sliding board for the pool, games available in the lounge, or a ping pong or pool table, shows you are truly family-friendly.
If the marina doesn’t have a restaurant or other food available on-site, consider the popularity of food trucks and find out if any such trucks operate nearby and can set up on the marina property. Whether it’s a Sunday morning coffee cart, or Friday night beer and pizza truck, providing snacks and drinks extends that resort feel and entices more boaters.
And while many of these options won’t necessarily boost your income, there are amenities you can add to do just that. Paddling sports have gained as much popularity as boating. Having paddle craft available to rent or even having storage areas for customer use can be lucrative. Boat rentals are also popular especially as the influx of boat buyers has left dealers with minimal inventory. If customers have to wait for that new boat, they can still get out on the water in a rental. It also can allow them to try out different types of boats before they buy. And don’t forget to have a supply of towables for rent as well.
If the marina staff is maxed out, amenities can be added through lease agreements. Boat rentals, brokers, boat clubs, and charters, can all be made available if the marina owner leases space to the operator of these businesses. And as we’ve said before, long-term leases are looked upon as an added bonus to potential marina buyers.
The change in the marina business has come from the worthy goal of not just attracting boaters, but keeping them coming back, ensuring the marine industry thrives well into the future. If catering to boaters’ every need, keeps them boating, it’s worth the effort and added expense. After all, amenities don’t come free of charge so the more that can be offered, the more a boater will be willing to pay to keep his boat at an ideal location.
Quite simply, adding amenities will make your current boaters happy, attract new and visiting boaters, and, if you’re selling, help bring top dollar from potential buyers.