Marina survey finds a changing climate

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The news from the field was mixed - some marinas doing better, some worse - in an Association of Marina Industries survey of 124 marina professionals.

"Not everyone is on the way down. Some are on the way up," association president Jim Frye said as he and Kirby Scheimann, an International Marina Institute instructor, released the survey results Jan. 28 at the International Marina and Boatyard Conference in Fort Lauderdale.

The survey's purpose was to take a look at changes that marinas have made during the recession, understand the economic climate better and provide a baseline of information about marinas.

Frye says a little more than 40 percent of respondents reported an increase in revenue from wet slip storage from 2009 to 2010. The rest reported a decrease, and 48 percent say they saw an increase in drystack revenue, while 52 percent saw a decline. The percentage of respondents reporting increases in other revenue streams was: 55 percent for winter storage; 42 percent for service and repair; 50 percent for transient slips; 47 percent for ship store; 30 percent for boat dealership; and 60 percent for restaurant.

"People are coming to the marina [to eat]," Scheimann says.

Sixty percent of those surveyed also reported more fuel revenue, although it was unclear whether that was attributable to more fuel pumped, higher prices or both.

A little more than half say they made capital improvements in 2010 (average dollar amount, $381,739). Forty-two respondents increased their capital expenditures 67.5 percent from 2009 to 2010; 21 decreased their expenditures by that percentage.

More than 60 percent invested in staff training in 2010 (average $4,056). More than 50 percent froze salaries; nearly 70 percent reduced travel. A little more than 35 percent laid off employees. More than 60 percent instituted a hiring freeze. A little more than 25 percent let contract employees go or terminated third-party work agreements. Fewer than 20 percent reduced health care contributions or eliminated 401(k) options.

Scheimann says marinas generally held the line on slip rates. Just 28 percent lowered their wet slip rates; fewer than 20 percent lowered their dry slip rates. He says 2 to 3 percent increased slip rates. A little more than 10 percent reduced winter storage rates and about the same percentage reduced service and repair rates. Almost 40 percent offered new-member discounts.

In discussions after the presentation, marina operators in regions where the home foreclosure crisis is most severe said marinas are going into receivership because they've lost business.

Banks that have taken over the management of these marinas are reducing slip rates to boost occupancy and offset their costs, which is putting pressure on other nearby marinas to reduce their rates and putting all marinas under severe financial pressure.

Others reported service business, slip occupancy, and even boat sales starting to trend upward as the Dow Jones Industrial Average topped the 12,000 mark - its highest point since the onset of the recession.

"Business is up," Frye agrees.

He says winter slip contracts in the Southeast - so-called "snowbird" contracts named for retirees who flock south from New England and the Midwest in the winter - seem to be linked to the Dow and the performance of their stocks.

This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue.

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