The need to respond to the causes and impacts of climate change, together with varied economic, regulatory, and societal uncertainties provides considerable challenges for marina managers. They are tasked with employing long-term vision whilst obliged to react to the needs of the current market. Duties also involve understanding and pre-empting the requirements of their stakeholders (customers, suppliers, local authorities, marina personnel, etc.).

Were this not all, there is also the day-to-day of a marina to run.

So how has the role of the marina manager changed in recent decades? Global Marina Institute (GMI), whose course content is drawn from the experience of working marina professionals, are on the cusp of updating their certification criteria to address contemporary issues such as social media marketing, customer retention and mitigating possible impacts of the use of digital platforms with improved human interaction amongst other topics.

Describing a 180º shift in orientation, GMI Director Tony Dye CMM described how 20 years ago privately managed marinas tended to exist behind walls, whereas today “the majority are actively promoting their services to the public, with attractive bars, restaurants and associated leisure facilities.” He added: “Managers have to be increasingly aware that today’s customers are more selective on what marinas have to offer apart from a berth, both in terms of services and environmental credibility.”

Member managers of TransEurope Marinas and directors contributed with their impressions:

Jean-Michel Gaigné CMM: In a nutshell, I would say that the job has become more professional.

 Managers agree that the job has become more demanding, with regulatory requirements (safety, legal rules, etc.), management protocols, risk assessment, and environmental constraints, which perhaps were perceived as guidelines a few decades ago, are now an essential requisite. Jean-Michel adds:

Procedures must be strictly enforced, and it is especially important to have a member of the marina team ensuring compliance with all requirements, because it could easily expose the personal liability of the marina manager in case of an accident.” He cites these changes as “the consequence of the increasing normative framework of the consumer society.

Customer service has of course also jumped to the top of the priority list over recent decades. Jean-Michel sees the matter in these terms:

Previously, strong demand, long waiting lists, and full marinas meant that managers weren’t incentivised to pay attention to the service quality. Nowadays, despite strong demand, competition has increased and third-party platforms offering appraisals have led managers to pay much more attention to customer satisfaction.

In the coming years, it will be indispensable to move towards smart marinas, by using new technologies to monitor data to optimise marina operations, water and electricity consumption, fine-tune costs, automate bookings, contracts, payments, ease communications with marina management, connect with services provided by other service providers and offer tailor-made solutions to every consumer. I strongly believe that all marinas will be obliged to adapt to stay attractive and visible and be able to respond to customer expectations.

Falk Morgenstern: For me, the greatest challenge in these hectic times is to draw the attention of our guests and customers to the essentials, namely nature, the environment and interpersonal relationships.

Consultant and representative of a group marinas based on the Baltic coast of Germany, Falk agrees that a marina manager now has a greater realm of responsibilities but that this can make the job more interesting:

Requirements for data protection, increased environmental regulations and other official regulations drive marina managers to expand their field of activity. Customers have an increased need to consider safety and security and are much more sensitive as regards the influence of their hobby on the environment and nature.

A far cry from simply administering berths, management duties now revolve more around responding to our guests’ needs, answering enquiries and dealing with regulatory obligations.

Ultimately, this makes marina management a much more diverse and and stimulating job.

Beyond growing environmental awareness and awareness of climate change he mentions inherited wealth, digitisation, and the impacts of COVID as factors driving change:

In Germany alone, 3.1 trillion euros will be inherited from 2016 to 2024. This availability of funds is driving growth in boat ownership. Trends indicate that boats are getting bigger and the demand for services and repairs etc. is greater.

Artificial intelligence shows us where things are heading, and it is expected that processes such as booking a berth and organising winter storage will soon be carried out by fewer people and more automated processes.

It is worth mentioning that COVID has amplified this process over the last three years and changed the mindset of many people. Individualism has also become more important, and awareness of the remaining lifetime has increased.

I believe that the focus in the future will be to meet the expectations of guests and water sports enthusiasts and the management of more and more processes in less time, whilst also conveying of environmental awareness and awareness of the vulnerability of our natural surroundings.

Renata Marevič CMM– The role of the marina manager has certainly changed over recent decades, as has the role of the marina in its wider community. I believe that empathy, service and listening to the needs and wishes of the audience – from guests, employees, members of society, the media and institutions to the local community and destination, as well as their gaining their trust and active collaboration is extremely important not just for the viability of the company, but also in terms of our sociocultural responsibility.

Each marina is different and for this reason, it is important to understand the details of an individual boating area, customer demographics and interoperability of the various tenants, service providers and other assets that contribute to the value of a marina destination ecosystem.

Renata Marevič CMM has successfully worked her way up the ladder, having now managed award-winning Marina Punat in Krk Island, Croatia for over ten years. The customer mix includes a strong charter fleet together with many private customers who are based in neighbouring countries and whose peace of mind upon leaving their boats in the marina’s care is assuaged with the use of proprietary boat sensors. She explains more about implementing strategies to increase cooperation and reduce seasonality:

We have tried to ensure that our stakeholders’ interests are recognised and served in a manner that complements rather than competes with others. An example is the reduction of seasonality for the use of vessels throughout the year, giving users of marina services the opportunity to enjoy the specific gastronomic delicacies of our climate or relax in the warm wellness of our hotel during the winter months. By cooperating with charter partners, we help them attract customers outside summer sailing season.

We have expanded the network of yacht repair and maintenance service providers, in a certain period outside the peak season of yacht maintenance work, we offer benefits to ensure enough orders and distribute these jobs more evenly throughout the year, not just during the peak season.

Multifunctionality is thus an important consideration with the recent addition of a completely new restaurant building that allows for holding various type of events and attracting cooperative partners. Digitisation already plays a decisive role in marina life:

We pay a lot of attention to the implementation of new technologies, especially IT solutions and the development of robotics, which will not replace humans, but will make their work easier by taking over automated, rudimentary tasks, thus leaving employees more time to deal with customers and their problems.

Ensuring the future generation is also key and Marina Punat extends their efforts by working with the local sailing club by contributing towards the purchase of material and conducting outreach activities to interest youngsters, helping to develop the next generation of boaters.

The work doesn’t stop there however, and like both Jean-Michel and Falk, Renata is a well-respected member of both her national and the international community, actively promoting the interests of the industry:

Beyond our own marina, I dedicate time to being active in national and international groups and networks, generating media interest in marinas and boating and assisting with lobbying efforts to improve conditions for the industry. I am actively involved in communication with competent institutions to bring them closer to the problems of our industry when creating relevant regulations and to ensure sustainability in business, for the benefit of all involved stakeholders.

In summary, there is significant proof that today’s role has evolved significantly, embracing stricter regulatory compliance, greater environmental awareness and stewardship, digital competence, joint lobbying, and far more intrinsic community-based collaboration.