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What Makes a Marina Successful?

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What makes a marina appealing? What makes the difference between success and failure?  At MooringSpot we are often confronted by these questions, which concern marina developers and investors as well as yacht owners choosing a base for their yacht and leisure time. A better understanding of marina marketing is relevant to all stakeholders in the yachting world.



Marketing involves the processes and actions an entity may use to reach and influence the perceptions and behaviour of potential customers. Marina marketing is no different but first you need to understand your market and what they want.

Know your Product, Know your Market

The ‘4Ps’ defined by McCarthy in 1960, is one way to define what a marina offers:

Product: What does the marina offer? What facilities does it have? What solution does it offer for clients?

Promotion: What are the key points to communicate? Which media are the best fit to raise awareness and differentiate your marina?

Price: What are the costs/ benefits to the client?

Place: Where is the marina? Is it accessible by road and by air? Coastline and local attractions?

We can also use the ‘7Ps’ popular in the marketing of luxury services and products (Booms & Bitner, 1982).

This takes into account:

People: Who are your clients? Who is interacting with clients? Who can influence or recommend your marina?

Process: How is the service delivered? How efficient is it?

Physical Evidence:  No matter how abstract it is, a service needs a degree of tangibility, via branding, websites, stationary and clarity of services and contracts.

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Factors that Define a Marina’s Success

According to MDL Marinas, Europe’s largest owner and marina developer, the choice of marinas is key to success. Over the years, the company has devised a method to assessing the potential of marinas by quantifying the factors and assets which contribute to a marina’s overall success:


Location is critical to success. To achieve and sustain full occupancy a marina needs to become a destination in its own right and ideally it should be within reach of other interesting destinations. It also has to be accessible by air and by road.


Naturally wifi is of paramount importance these days. Most boat owners also need shore-power and water supplied on their berths. A fuel dock or easy access for fuel trucks is also vital, or there must be fuelling facilities at a marina close-by. Shower-rooms and lavatories may also be important for owners of smaller boats, and should be in reasonable walking distance of the quays. Repair facilities and dry storage also give an advantage.


Yachting is ultimately a leisure activity and, beside the physical needs of the boat, marinas need to cater for the yachting lifestyle. If people do not need to leave the harbour to have a good time, the vibrant atmosphere will attract locals and visitors to the area and boosts the fortunes of  local businesses.


The yacht owner is usually the final decision maker although they may be influenced by their family and friends as well as their Captain and crew. Yacht management companies and charter brokers can also play a role, and the importance of B2B marketing should not be overlooked.

Yacht Owners

A successful marina has to cater for long and short term stays, as well as a range of different owners each with different needs and expectations. We can identify four main profiles, although owners will fall into several categories and marinas need to cater to all:

Family Oriented

For this owner, family and children define priorities, including play areas, activities and family dining. The atmosphere and quality of a marina’s facilities is therefore a vital part of the boating experience.


The ‘Competitor’ is an experienced racer where the focus is on sport and performance. Facilities dedicated to maintaining and enhancing the yacht are high on the priority list: shipyards, ship chandlers and supplier of specialist equipment. The aim is to have fun and to socialise, so the availability of bars, restaurants and a yacht club are appreciated.


The ‘Jet-Setter’ is how we could define the typical yacht owner. Luxury and comfort are paramount in the enjoyment of a marina as well as on board. The marina must deliver the quality amenities and flawless service that one would expect of an exclusive hotel or resort.


‘Enthusiasts’ are the least demanding of all. Their budget may be more limited and they enjoy the hands-on experience of repairing and maintaining their own boats. The marina’s purpose is merely to provide somewhere safe and affordable to keep the boat and have fun on board. As long as the harbour serves its purpose at the best possible price, additional facilities are less important.


Make or Break

Some marinas succeed against the odds and a prime example is Saint Tropez, one of the most coveted moorings in the Mediterranean. It’s a small harbour with a picturesque town but poor infrastructure and limited facilities compared to neighbouring marinas. There is a total lack of service from port staff, and in high season you cannot reserve a berth in advance of arrival. Regardless, there will always be more demand than supply, simply because it’s St Tropez, made famous the world over by the jet-set and celebrities who go there.

At the other end of the spectrum, despite good infrastructure and facilities, some marinas are doomed to fail. Sometimes it’s local pollution, the proximity of industrial sites or airport runways. Even if pollution and noise levels are in fact relatively low, it can be a problem of perception. Sometimes it’s a matter of poor PR or a lack of awareness, but these are easier to fix.

Ultimately it’s important to understand the different types of owner, what they need and what they hope to experience during their stay.  A marina is a buffer between the life they live on shore and the time spent at sea, and a marina’s success depends on its ability to offer the best of both.

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About Peter ...

I am Scottish and Corsican and was fortunate enough to be born on one of the most beautiful shores of the Mediterranean, in Monaco. My father hand built my first boat on our balcony when I was four years old (it was an Optimist named "Henry"), and since then I have enjoyed sailing along the beautiful Côte d'Azur on various boats as well as in Devon and on the Solway Firth in Scotland.

I began working in yacht sales, charter and yacht management in 2005, under the wing of senior broker James Munn, in what was to become Ocean Independence. I had had several experiences where my Clients would not buy the yachts they wanted due to the impossibility of finding a "home" for them. It was frustrating for them and for me. Using my local knowledge of the area, I dug into the problem to solve the issue and realised how complex it was for everyone.

In 2007, I joined Inwards Marine, one of the leading "berth brokerage" companies, and specialised in this field to the extent that some gave me the nickname of "Mr. Berth". After years of successful business in this sector, I realised that the lack of transparency and efficiency, as well as unethical practices made possible in this market, was a limiting factor for the overall growth of the industry. We needed more efficient tools to buy or to sell berths with greater transparency.

In mid-2012, my answer was to start creating which is an online database of ports and berths which yacht owners and yacht brokers can use to buy, sell or rent berths for long periods, so that yachts may more easily find a homeport in the Mediterranean.

For broader information about a specific marina, please also visit the port and marina directory at Onboard Online

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