Turn your marina into a venue

When it comes to running a successful marina, Jim Frye, vice president of Westrec Marinas, says it takes more than just storing boats.

“Profitable marinas don’t store boats, profitable marinas play host to the boating experience,” he said at the 2011 Marina Dealer Conference & Expo in Orlando, Fla.

As a marina operator, part of being a good host is providing events for customers as well as the general public. The former is key in developing customer retention, while the latter is a great way to attract new customers, according to Frye.

That translates into at least one customer appreciation day each year, which typically only requires turning on the barbecue and rolling out refreshments.

“These special events are a great way to tell your customers that you appreciate them, and it gives them a chance to interact,” Frye said.

Flea markets, fishing derbies, outdoor movies and events attractive to children can be pivotal in keeping your customers, according to Larry Halgren of Halgren & Associates.

Marinas can also benefit from holding events outside the boating realm that attract the general public, such as art festivals or citywide cook-offs, working with local community and civic planners to encourage use of the marina as a venue.

“Especially in times like these, you want to meet a lot of new friends,” Frye said. “One of the ways you meet these new people that would otherwise never get there would be hosting an event that isn’t boating-centric.”

National Marina Day, a nationwide event in which marinas open their doors to the community, introducing them to the fun and benefits of boating, is one way to get started. On its website (NationalMarinaDay.org), marina operators can download templates for press releases, radio spots, invitations, as well as ideas for the event, which takes place June 9.

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