Posted: 29th July 2019 | Written by: Gemma Fottles
From design to construction, from charter to ownership, the world of yachting is undoubtedly one of the most unique, rewarding and highest net-worth industries in the world. Yachting, however, also comes hand in hand with an uncomfortable paradox. Some of the best yachting hot spots lack the resources to advance important community initiatives. Many in the business are looking to address this, leveraging the privilege that comes with the yacht life to instigate real change in the world.
IGY Marinas - one of the world’s largest marina operators - is doing just that. Launching their philanthropic initiative ‘Inspire Giving Through You’ in 2016, the whole company lives and breathes an ethos of contributing to, developing and supporting the communities in which their marinas lie – currently 17 countries throughout the Americas, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.
“Tom Mukamal, our Chief Executive Officer, championed the Inspire Giving through You initiative,” explains Bert Fowles, IGY Marinas’ VP of Marketing. “His motivation was to really embrace the communities that we work within, embrace the people and the culture and drive a lot of good in these areas. Everyone recognizes that we have a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that we contribute to the communities we serve within.”
Extraordinary Minds - special needs school in Turks and Caicos
So far the initiative has worked with over 40 charities since launching, hosting two community outreach programs per year in several locations. The aim is to encourage yacht crew, captains, yacht owners and marina staff to get off their yachts and out of the marina to get involved in the local community.
The idea is simple: by connecting the yachting with the local community, the yachting paradox is addressed and challenged. When we take more responsibility for those around us, it dramatically improves quality of life and gives locations a real chance to develop a destination economy - a win-win for everyone.
With the trend for green washing, however, some are skeptical when it comes to a big brand being vocal about doing good. Every company in the world wants to be associated with acts of charity but, beyond the hype, any change can be minimal… perhaps because the intention was all wrong in the first place.
Ivanna Eudora Kean High School
Concluding its fourth consecutive year of community outreach programs in June, IGY’s Inspire Giving through You has made a clear impact. The two events in February and June 2019 brought together 700 volunteers from all over the world to help with initiatives in 15 locations, ranging from environmental cleanups to supporting food banks and developing orphanages and schools in need of help. To date over 2,200 volunteers have helped with these programs, alongside 50 different charities.
Speaking with Fowles, it’s immediately apparent that IGY Marinas are not satisfied just to pump money into the community, and are building on their work year after year for exponential success.
Fowles said, “This is who we are as a company - it’s not a marketing stunt, we are doing this to help. Of course, it’s also imperative that we throw resources and money at some of these problems, but it’s a directive that we all had to participate in from the bottom to the very top for it to truly work and make a difference."
"That was crystal clear to us from the beginning. We needed to go to the community and understand where the money was being spent. Everything we do is locally driven. Our local employees drive each event, and they tell us what is important so we can focus on what is needed as opposed to what we assume people need and even want."
“I’ve personally been involved in a lot of this community work, working with our marina staff, yacht crew and yacht owners all over the Caribbean and North America,” Fowles continues. “I’ve learned more about St Maarten from spending a day working with the local orphanage than I ever have by just spending time by our marina. It gives me a deeper understanding of what we’re doing here.”
Giving Back: From Yacht Crew to Yacht Owner
One question worth asking is whether or not crew and owners are interested in investing their free time into initiatives like this. After all, working on a superyacht is an extremely demanding profession. And for an owner with a hectic work life, it could be assumed that on their rare vacation days, they might just want to switch off from the rest of the world completely. So what inspires them to dedicate their free time to this?
Fowles says: “We’ve found that a lot of the crew members who get involved with Inspire Giving through You find our outreach programs as a form of relaxation. I’ve worked alongside captains and crew of some of the largest vessels in the world, and they have fully embraced these programs. In fact, one vessel changed their entire itinerary to participate in one of our community outreach days!”
“It’s a great team building exercise for the crew and, at the end of the day, we have a lot of fun with it. Owners smile because they feel so positive about using their yacht for something like this. A lot of owners didn’t know that yachts could be used in this way. And it doesn’t stop there, I’ve worked side-by-side with some of the most prestigious yacht owners in the world, painting schools or cleaning up polluted areas; many are extremely positive about using their time in this way.”
“Everyone has taken getting involved seriously, and that’s incredible to see. We’ve built a lot of momentum over the past four years; it’s not just water on a hot road, it’s a river.”
St Maarten Orphanage
IGY Marinas’ Caribbean outreach programs were especially important following the hurricanes of 2016 and 2018 which caused significant damage to a number of islands on the list of yachting hotspots. Volunteers from Yacht Club at Isle de Sol and Simpson Bay Marina in St. Maarten worked together to assist in the cleanup of Simpson Bay Lagoon and Beach. In St. Thomas, staff and volunteers worked with local charities to clean up and repair classrooms at the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School.
With IGY’s Inspire Giving through You, it’s more than just talk. It’s essential for the longevity of the yachting industry to be part of these local communities, to look after the people and the environment that make it all possible.
For more information on how to participate, contact the Inspire Giving through You team at InspireGiving@IGYMarinas.com. For more information on IGY Marinas and its marina destinations around the world, visit www.IGYMarinas.com.