Marinas Move into New Age: Christophe Saune, Poralu Marine
Christophe Saune says marinas need to adapt, evolve and think ahead to reflect ongoing changes in yacht designs, boat owners and environmental awareness.
The marina industry is facing a size challenge. The sizes of boats have evolved a lot in recent years, with an increasing demand for both longer and wider yachts. In some ways, catamarans also tend to modify the way harbours and marinas should be designed and built.
Harbour authorities are facing increasing demand to moor superyachts, but don’t always have the infrastructure or space. As such, there’s an urgent need for adaptive, flexible and high-performance marina designs. Managers should be able to adjust in real time, depending on the demand.
In parallel, the marina industry is also being challenged by demographics. On the one hand, there are ageing traditional boat owners who require extremely sophisticated services for their yacht and crew.
Then there’s the arrival on the boating market of millennials, whose needs and desires are different. They consume boating the same way they would consume products. They want a customisable and connected customer experience, high convenience and functionality, but less responsibility.
This has evolved into a growing market for boat rental and also sharing by maybe two to three owners, as opposed to the classic ownership model. We even see some Airbnb boating experiences, allowing guests to stay for several nights on board a yacht, even though marinas are not equipped for a flow of people comparable to hotels.
These new customers are also more conscious of the impact of their leisure activities, so demand more sustainable infrastructure. For marina managers, managing greener marina solutions cannot be mere greenwashing anymore but has to become a strong, accountable practice.
This is becoming an essential condition to be well accepted by the local community and attract new customers. As always, there’s a challenge finding a balance between economic development and environmental sustainability.
The challenge is to preserve the balance between commercial activity and the beauty that attracts boaters and visitors. Water-based recreation and tourism generally need impeccable water quality to attract visitors and ensure users keep coming back.
To preserve the local environment while seizing opportunities, marinas could consider partnerships with local NGOs, active communication on proactive activities such as recording the volume and nature of floating rubbish collected with Seabins, for example, or helping educate local people from a young age about the marine environment and its challenges.
On the commercial side, a marina is a source of economic opportunities for a local community because it creates business and employment. I believe marinas have to be involved with and integrated within the local community rather than being a protective bubble for the rich, and that customers value a strong green engagement from their marina.
This wasn’t the case when many of the existing marinas in Asia were built, but awareness and beliefs are changing fast, and marinas need to be able to move with the times.
Another trend we’ve identified is the need for high-end products that are both highly customisable and aesthetically pleasing in order to stand out from the competition. At a time when everything has a ranking and sharing is a daily routine, excellence is a must.
Marinas also need better integration of new technologies. This doesn’t only mean access to Wi-Fi but also live information on the weather conditions, availability of boats for rental, the activities and destinations in the area, plus portals and networks for sharing, rating and chatting.
And for the marina manager? AI, big data, predictive analytics and wearable technologies are among other things to consider. Boaters want more services directly in the marina, from pump-out services and washing facilities to nice restaurants and shops.
So, in order to not be left behind or driven out of business, it’s necessary to think about the marina of tomorrow, not simply copying what has been done before.
Christophe Saune began his career in the automotive industry, working in both the public and private sector, and was based in Shanghai from 2010. In 2014, Saune joined Poralu Marine, a global leader in marina design and construction, and headed up the company’s Asia operations before his remit expanded to Asia-Pacific. Due to Poralu Marine’s diversity of projects, Saune has experience of marinas, integrated waterfront developments, watersports facilities, and fishing and military installations, and is ultimately focused on developing floating infrastructure solutions.