Build it, they’re coming

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The recent Club Marine/MIA “Health of the Australian Marina Industry Survey” shows some good data on our preparedness to handle super yachts.

The survey of Australian marinas builds on previous data released in 2009, 2011 and 2013. The research is a result of a unique long term research partnership between the Recreational Marine Research Centre (RMRC) at Michigan State University and the MIA with the active participation of many Australian marinas.

The Survey provides extensive data and analysis based on a robust 40% sample of Australia’s 346 marinas. From the considerable industry input, it’s evident there is a rising demand for storage spaces and customer services.

This is important data for infrastructure companies as well, whose business and employees rely on marinas for their livelihoods. The survey tracks capital investment as an indicator of major projects and gives us the ability to undertake strategic planning.

And while there are strong figures for direct and indirect employment around marinas, continued demand for diversifying services, and plenty of opportunity for growth, there is a need to ascertain if we have enough berths in the correct places for super yachts.

According to the Survey, nearly a third (31.5%) of Australian marinas participating in the survey that had berths/pens were able to accommodate super yachts during 2014-2015 financial year, and half of such marinas can accommodate four or more superyachts at the same time. 40% of these marinas were also able to accommodate superyachts anywhere outside the berths/pens over 24m long. Moreover, about 13% of marinas that were able to accommodate superyachts during the 2014-2015 financial year anticipate they will build/prepare additional storage spaces (eg. berths/pens) specifically for superyachts in 2015-2016.

About two-thirds of marinas currently do not have superyacht-sized (24.1 m +) berths or have such large spaces but currently are not able to actually accommodate superyachts. However, about 19% of them are able to accommodate superyachts elsewhere (eg. at tie-ups) and nearly 9% anticipate to build/prepare additional storage spaces (eg. berths/pens) specifically for superyachts in 2015-2016.

As the marketing momentum builds, positioning our region as the ideal “third cruising ground” after the Med and Caribbean, industry stats show we are nowhere near ready for any increase in superyacht visitation.

AIMEX/Superyacht Australia hosted the 2016 ASMEX conference, at which arose the details of the South Pacific Superyachting strategy. Captains, charter brokers and AIMEX-SA stated there is a concerted effort to attract a small portion of the world’s superyacht fleet to Asia and the South Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand, generating interest via regular presentations at key superyacht and charter shows such as Monaco, Singapore and Genoa.

Superyachts and charter guests are being lured to Australia with messages about pristine coastlines, unique experiences and events, from Tasmania to the Kimberley Coast. In fact, there are three superyachts berthed now at Abell Point Marina, gateway to the Whitsundays.

Paul Darrouzet and the team at Abell Point have been extremely proactive in the quest to attract superyachts downunder, even flying in charter experts from Florida to show them the majesty of the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef so they may influence superyacht Captains and Owners into bringing their vessels to Australia on the northern hemisphere off-season for several weeks charter work, as well as refits and repairs – thus ensuring revenue to the local industry, considered some of the best in the world.

The report indicates, however, a need to study the preparedness for this trend.  Cairns has long been a stop off point, but how many berths on the voyage south down the east coast allow for this anticipated growth?

What the stats say is that for the 346 marinas: 

  • 40% or  138 marinas can accept a SY over 24m in a berth with the mean taking 3.5 vessels at once
  • 13% of this number are planning on adding SY berths  or 18 projects
  • 65.7% of marinas (227) cannot accommodate 100ft SY and of that number 8.9% (20)are considering adding berths.
  • 9% can hardstand a vessel over 100ft.

This shows a steady progression that may not meet demand in the not too distant future, especially once the location of these berths has been pin pointed close to the demand..  The “build it and they will come” philosophy seems to require more confidence yet in the marketplace.

This type of information is valuable, and we are now looking to build on it, seeking local Universities to collaborate on this project using this information to determine wider trends that identify opportunity.  This will initially include a benchmarking exercise to other recreational industries.  Then the demand for non-berthing applications at marinas can be demonstrated to show the social, environmental and destination protection opportunities that remain untapped in the industry.

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Value-adds keep and attract marina clients

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The major trend among successful marinas is to exceed customer expectations with value-added services such as complimentary coffee, the morning paper, reading lounge and other personalised touches.

In Fiji, Denarau Marina has introduced a fully-refurbished Sea Otter. Superseded as a tug, the vessel has been completely restored and refit by Nigel Skeggs and his team and is now working with a purpose-built winch adaption that now works through an A-frame to lift and service moorings.

At Abell Point Marina, Airlie Beach, North Queensland, the team has brought on a well-branded, dual-purpose boat that works as a Start Boat for Abell Point Yacht Club events, and as a Welcome vessel to meet boats and guide them to their berths.

That’s not all: visitors to Abell Point can expect the full VIP treatment which includes the option of chopper transfers from Proserpine and Hamilton Island airports to the marina’s helipad, or trips to the Islands. There’s an Abell Point courtesy car to pick up guests, provisions, or pop into the town of Airlie Beach. Marina clients can also organise provisions through the marina’s full-time dockhand.

“We are the local central agent for clients to discover the Hidden Gems of the Whitsunday Coast,” says Luke McCaul, Marketing and Business Development Manager. “We can connect them to everything, from medical services to the best restaurants, walks, points of interest, day trips to the Reef.”

Coming soon to Abell Point Marina, a 5-star restaurant that takes full advantage of the panoramic water views and is destined to become another major reason to visit.

Heli Taxi Robinson R66_Resize Abell Point Marina

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Whitsunday Promotions

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This week I have been in the Whitsundays and living on board while participating in some of the events that are focused around boating.  This region of Australia is doing a great job in promoting the boating lifestyle and this activity can be seen in the improving infrastructure that has happened already as well as more planned.
The Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, #AHIRW is a major example of a winning promotion with a 30 year tradition that brings sailors from all over the world.  The weather was perfect, the national parks course scenery is stunning, the humpback whales majestic and everyone has a great time.  There are even visiting Superyachts such as Vava II in attendance such is the reach these days.  The marina is full to overflowing and this is a healthy sign for the industry.
Of course this week was preceded by Airlie Beach race week which is the prefect build up event and this saw the Abel Point Marina equally busy along with a bustling tourist trade.  The marina is under new management and has a healthy capitals works plan already started with new facilities including a tavern on the site which will be one of the best spots in the Whitsundays.
On the weekend of the 26th the Shag Island Cruising Yacht Club held their rendezvous which had hundreds of attendees to this fun event which raises money for charity from a totally volunteer organisation.  The music played into the night in the most perfect surroundings.
Coming back to work today I feel a little sad to be leaving these pristine waters, however I am also proud of this area where I had grown up.  These world class events are putting the area on the map and allowing thousands of people to experience nature up close.  A local told us when we moored to an environmentally friendly buoy with no anchors on the coral reef around Blue Pearl Bay that this was the best spot to see it all in the Whitsundays.  Then he said “don’t forget to say G’day to the resident Maori Wras Gus”.  Isn’t this better than the days when all we wanted to do was to eat Gus?
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