Over the last year, we have been communicating regularly with marina managers and administrators throughout the UK. Like many other industries, the UK marina industry is facing various marina management challenges in times of corona. In particular, we have noticed that there is a consistency to the challenges the marinas of the UK industry are facing during the pandemic. They are as follow:
- How to keep my marina profitable?
- How to optimize inefficiencies and reduce costs?
- How to create a safe environment for boaters?
- How to stay up-to-date with and meet the legal requirements that are being created by the pandemic?
Having witnessed the uniformity of these challenges across the marina industry, we have created this article. It will provide with various creative ideas and guidelines on how to better respond to marina management challenges in times of corona.
I. GENERAL PRINCIPLES
This is a tough time for marinas, but here is a set of general principles that your marina can follow to maximize both profit and safety during the pandemic:
- Create a sense of community within your marina.
- Create an information environment in your marina that will clearly and unobtrusively communicate to your boaters: (a) what marina staff will be doing to keep your marina safe and (b) what the boaters themselves can and should do to maintain pandemic safety within your marina community.
- Digitalise your marina operations (e.g. bookkeeping and billing, payments, berth reservations) to reduce your costs and increase marina efficiency.
- Provide contactless customer experience to minimize face-to-face interactions between boaters, and between boaters and marina staff. This will decrease the possibility of transmitting the Covid-19 virus.
- Plan sailing events and other initiatives now that will take place once the pandemic is over.
- Organize and carry out charitable events to help people — both inside and outside of your marina community — who are in need of help because of the pandemic.
- Emphasize, in all of your communications with your boaters, that sailing is a safe way to enjoy themselves and get away from the pandemic with friends and family who are already inside their bubble.
II. MEET THE CHALLENGES OF THE PANDEMIC BY HARNESSING THE SENSE OF COMMUNITY WITHIN YOUR MARINA
A marina is first and foremost a community, and there are often sub-communities within a marina. There are the racers, the cruisers, the daysailers, the yacht club members, the liveaboards, the power boaters and so on. Many of your boaters will belong to more than one of these communities.
The communities are thriving sources of friendship and shared sailing adventure that matter deeply to the members of your marina.
We strongly believe that fostering and building upon this sense of community can play an important role in keeping your marina BOTH SAFE AND PROFITABLE during the pandemic. Fostering community during the pandemic will help you maximize profit by: (1) keeping your boaters involved in the life of your marina and (2) attracting new boaters. Enhancing the sense of community in your marina will also help you create an information environment that will keep both your staff and your boaters safe.
Here are some concrete suggestions for growing your marina’s sense of community during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Online presence: create a forum or a Facebook group
Establish a robust and ongoing online presence with your boaters by creating an online forum or a Facebook group. This can be helpful for your marina in a number of ways.
It can help you keep your marina safe by being the medium in which you routinely send messages to your boaters that keep them abreast of: (a) the measures your marina is taking to ensure their safety during the pandemic, (b) the measures that they themselves will have to take to ensure their own safety and the safety of the larger marina community — including marina staff and (c) the regulations that your state and local governments have established to keep Marinas safe during the pandemic.
It can also be used to discuss and create events that will keep your boaters involved in the life of the marina during the pandemic. Here are some of the suggestions:
- Encourage people to go sailing and to do so safely. Emphasize that sailing, if done properly, can be an activity that can provide a release from the stresses of the pandemic without compromising hygiene or safety
- Plan and organize post-pandemic sailing events, for example, rallies, races and a huge party to celebrate the post. You can create a survey to better understand your marina community expectations and wishes. Unexpected ideas may come up.
- Offer online boating courses which can both engage your marina community as well as help you to create extra income.
- Plan and organize charitable actions to help out people who are both members of and non-members of your marina community. For example:
- Start a food drive within your marina to collect food from your boaters and staff, and give it to your local food banks in the name of the marina.
- Create a registry for boaters who have lost their jobs during the pandemic. Then, offer to reduce or postpone their dock fee payments until they are employed again.
- Take non-sailing members of the public sailing to give them a release from the stresses of the pandemic. Create goodwill by publicizing the effort, and make sure that all of the people involved have a recent negative test for Covid-19.
Online presence: start small with email newsletters
If you feel like maintaining a forum or a Facebook group can be too much of a commitment for you, start small with regular email newsletters to your marina community or simply phone messages:
- Use email newsletters to regularly inform your community about the recent news at your marina, upcoming events or changing pandemic requirements. You can also create and share surveys within this medium to collect your community’s opinion on various matters.
- Use phone messages for upselling or making the announcements about changing pandemic regulations, weather conditions, tides, etc.
III. DIGITALISE YOUR MARINA OPERATIONS TO REDUCE COSTS
Nowadays, it would be hard to find a business which couldn’t reap the benefits from the latest technologies and digitalisation. Leisure sailing industry is not an exception. More and more marinas are taking their first step from using Excel sheets to manage their marina operations and data to something more advanced – marina management software.
Marina management software is a software that is specifically designed for marinas taking into consideration marina specific operations and needs. It lets marinas automate various tedious tasks, thus to save time and money.
Digitalising your marina operations can not only reduce your costs but also:
- Reduce time spent on data entry
- Reduce human errors and paperwork
- Give a better overview of your marina’s operations
- Provide more advanced analytics and insights
- Increase safety with contactless payments
- Create better marina guest experience
- Allow contributing to greener marina environment
There are various tasks in modern marina which can be and which are already being digitalised. To name only a few of them it would be:
- Accounting and billing
- Berth administration
- Sales & marketing
- Communication with marina guests
- Collecting payments
- Electricity administration
- Customer relationship management
- Operations & maintenance
- Services & bookings
- Access control
Now is a great time to start looking for marina management software. Among all the above-mentioned benefits, most importantly, it will assist your marina to respond to marina management challenges in times of corona. There is marina software available on the market that will: (1) let you send automated invoices and reminders to your marina guests and club members; (2) allow your marina guests make payments for berths and other marina services via the app, online or through self-service payment terminals creating a safer contactless environment; (3) allow you to send targeted emails and messages to inform about the most important changes as well as the available services at your marina.
It’s easy to start using the system once you have found the one that is right for you. Here are 6 factors to consider before choosing your marina management system.
IV. CREATE AN INFORMATION AND WORKING ENVIRONMENT IN YOUR MARINA THAT WILL MAXIMIZE SAFETY
Look for ways to streamline your communication processes – now they are more important than ever before:
- Sit down with your marina staff and discuss the ways you could all contribute to better communication both with your marina guests as well as among the marina staff itself.
- Evaluate if you can design and print large signs at your marina informing boaters about the safety requirements. This is visually an effective way, however, have in mind that the situation may change quickly meaning that you will have to change the signs experiencing extra costs.
- Utilize the communication and community measures outlined in Section II to keep your boaters informed about how to stay safe in their marina.
V. MAINTAIN LEGAL REQUIREMENTS RELATED TO THE PANDEMIC
- Subscribe to email newsletters from authoritative sources like TYHA or the British Marine to constantly stay up-to-date with the recent changes and requirements.
- Try out Google Alerts to be notified about anything coronavirus related. You can enter your preferred keywords and get email notifications with related articles on a daily basis.
- Stay in touch with other fellow marinas. This may be a great way to discuss the recent changes and look for solutions to better comply with them.
- Make a plan of how you will communicate the requirements to your marina guests in advance and make sure that everybody at your marina is aware of the plan.
- Make a plan of how you will react and act in case your marina guests violate any of the requirements. It is always better to think and prepare before anything bad happens.
We have outlined here a number of measures that your marina can take to maintain both the profitability and safety of your marina as you go through the pandemic. The upcoming sailing season will take place under the shadow of the pandemic. However, if you follow the simple suggestions that we made above, we are certain that you will find the best respone to your marina management challenges in times of corona. Please get in touch with us at Harba if we can be of any assistance. Good luck to all of you in these challenging times.
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