Studying the Adriatic
Christine Roberts reports on the recent MIA study tour to marinas and boatyards on the Adriatic.
One of the more enticing offerings in the Marina Industries Association (MIA) training calendar is the annual International Marina Study Tour which extends the regular domestic offerings to more distant shores. The November 2016 tour to the marinas and boatyards of Fort Lauderdale, Florida proved an invaluable experience for the dozen-strong group of senior marina business operators with valuable insights gleaned from an intensive four-day tour visiting eight facilities. A similar tour to Florida coinciding with the Fort Lauderdale Boat show will be offered again in November 2017.
This year’s tour took on the Adriatic Coast, specifically a carefully selected smorgasbord of marinas and boatyards in the heart of historic Venice, northern Italy, tranquil Slovenia and stunning Croatia. The Study Tour participants were not disappointed. With expert commentary and generous hospitality from marina tour hosts – Robert Perocchio (President, Assomarinas); Tone Britovšek (President, IRM Ltd) and Kresimir Zic (President, Marina Punat) - each facility visited was unique in its own way and kept the delegation keen for more.
Life in Venice
The Venetian facilities bear witness to the considerable increase in and promotion of nautical tourism that is reviving the sector in this region. Healthy private investment and long term efforts from senior marina professionals and entrepreneurial businessmen are transforming the previously neglected but strategically valuable real estate.
Boating is no longer the luxurious pastime of the very wealthy. Marinas such as Marina Sant'Elena and Vento di Venezia are offering an increasing range of recreational facilities and services to tempt local Venetians as well as the growing cruising, yachting and superyacht market. With average marina berth rentals significantly lower than the ritzy boating hotspots of Monaco and Capri, for example, these peaceful Venetian marinas offer a temporary respite from the intensity of the frenetic and crowded city nearby.
State-of-the-art marina infrastructure and facilities abut generous swathes of land, ripe for anticipated development and packed with historical charm and culture. There is huge scope for the future, contingent upon a number of factors: attracting the younger demographics; successful leasing of existing berths; continuity after expiration of concessions (leases); favourable governance relating to use of recreational space; and protection and enhancement of the unique environments.
An interesting contrast to these was the Consorzio Cantieristica Minore Veneziana, originally a 3,000m2 dilapidated old shipyard reborn after considerable investment from a small family group of traditional Venetian boat artisans. The facility now encompasses 12 separate businesses to service local and foreign clientele with a unique indoor custom-built dry storage facility for 330 boats, a 150 boat capacity hardstand, refit and repair services, and a restaurant.
Day Two featured visits to spectacular facilities in the Lignano area of the northern Adriatic - family owned, expansive and well-honed to service their clientele. Here we saw Italian nautical tourism at its best, from the resort-style Marina Punta Gabbiani, where we first glimpsed the dry stand marina concept and unique thermal waters supply, to the impressive Marina Punta Faro, one of the largest marinas in the region.
The final stop offered a quieter, greener, less sophisticated Marina Uno occupying its unique location at the mouth of the Tagliamento River and servicing a niche market of Europeans keen for a more tranquil respite.
Competition from neighbouring Slovenian marinas ensures these businesses offer the best possible service, competitive prices, extensive marina, recreational and boating amenities, plus added value to maintain existing customers and attract new business.
The luxury tax imposed upon larger boats up until two years ago certainly hit the Italian marina market hard and customers were lost to neighbouring countries. Other factors including concession expirations, the need to accommodate larger vessels and in some cases replace ageing infrastructure and facilities, necessarily keeps the owners’ and managers’ hands firmly on the rudders and looking to the future.
Moving onto Day Three and Slovenia’s Marina v Izoli and Marina Portorož offered scenic vistas, friendly atmospheres with a plethora of facilities, services and amenities, protected harbours in pristine environments and value for money for their customers, primarily from Austria, Germany and Italy and more recently newer markets such as Serbia and Hungary.
With considerable land available for future redevelopment and expansion, the pressure is on to further professionalise these operations and upgrade older facilities in the face of increasing competition from Italy and Croatia and the more discerning nautical tourism market.
As we traversed into Croatia a noticeable gear-shift upwards was evident in the more sophisticated offerings of this marina-savvy country, from the luxury of Marina Nautica Novigrad with its superb marina, quality hotel and spa accommodation, food, beverage and function facilities to the renowned ACI Opatija Marina - the first to be built in Croatia and high on the list for foreign boaters and Adriatic sailing enthusiasts.
Then followed the exceptional, award- winning Marina Punat - a Five Gold Anchor marina, seven-time winner of the best Croatian marina in the last decade, and the epitome of quality, service and
innovative operations. Voted recently as one of the 10 best marinas in Europe by Cruising Sea, the marina’s myriad facilities include extensive parking, an internet cafe, comprehensive security surveillance, quality amenities, cafes, children’s playground, tennis courts, hotel, shops, and supermarket as well as extra storage for around 500 boats on dry docks.
There was certainly something for everyone on the tour to take home from this facility including images of the innovative floating amenities block and complimentary bottles of the olive oil which is grown, produced and bottled on site by marina employees!
Coming home with new ideas
The tour wrapped up with a final visit to the impressive Sant’Andrea Shipyard and Marina on the leg back into Venice which offered insight into new trends in shipyard facility development as an interesting contrast. With deep water access, 13 hectares of inland storage plus 15 hectares of inland hangar space, this was one mind-boggling, state-of-the-art yard with a comprehensive range of amenities.
Darrell Barnett CMM, marina manager of Soldiers Point Marina, commented, “The tour was very worthwhile and I believe that every marina manager should participate. If you come away with three good ideas the tour has paid for itself. I have picked up several ideas to follow through on over the next financial year to improve Soldiers Point Marina and I found the networking on the tour was excellent.”
His sentiments were echoed by other participants on the tour including Paul Darrouzet, owner of Queensland’s Abell Point Marina, who has already instigated several new initiatives at his facility.
For further details on the USA Florida tour next year, see the MIA website.
This article was first published in the December-January 2017 issue of Marine Business magazine.