New Marina Association Formed

Marina operators from around The Bahamas gathered at the Old Bahama Bay Resort yesterday to officially launch the Association of Marina Operators of The Bahamas (MOB) by ratifying the Articles of Association and electing an executive board.

The Association emerged from an initial meeting held last February when the operators decided that an organized body was necessary to effectively represent and advance their needs and interests.

John Bethell of the Lighthouse Marina in Abaco was elected president of the Association, while Peter Watson of Old Bahama Bay and Troy Cornea of the Harbourview Marina in Abaco were elected vice president and treasurer, respectively.

During the day-long forum, a Business Work Plan for the 2009/2010 year was also established.

Bethell explained that the newly elected board hopes to get straight to work.

"We hope starting tomorrow to get going on marketing and research and public awareness and just making the Bahamian public and also the tourists aware that there is an Association down here and we're going to make our marinas the best there are," he said.

Among the first projects the Association hopes to work on is the creation of a Web site.

"Something that we've been discussing is the setup of a proper Web site so that when people are visiting The Bahamas in their boats they have a source of reference on what they have to do and where they can go and where the fishing is best and that sort of stuff."

The site could target U.S. boaters more than the general Tourism portal, which has been criticized for not better showcasing Family Island marinas.

In attendance at the forum was the Ministry of Tourism's deputy director general David Johnson, who pointed out that the marina industry is the number two generator of income after the hotel sector.

"They are huge in terms of their impact on our economy and when we go to some of our islands, like Abaco for instance, the value of the marina industry exceeds that of the contribution of the hotel sector," he said.

"They generate tremendous value and can be highly profitable because once the infrastructure of the marina exists, the revenue that comes in generates a much higher profit than operating a hotel room. So the health of our marina industry is so important because it then subsidizes the entire resort and makes it more profitable."

The impact the Association can have on the regularization of the marina industry is huge, Johnson noted.

It is very important, particularly from a customer service perspective, that marinas around the island have the same high standards of quality and that the Association works to ensure that best practices are understood and adopted by all of its members, he added.

"One of the things that the Association has focused on in their Articles is training for the members, so I think that's very important so that wherever the customer comes, their marina experience is just top notch, very customer friendly, very can-do as opposed to cannot-do."

Another advantage of the Association for its members is that of collective promotion.

"They see the need to work together to get a larger share of the business throughout The Bahamas, as opposed to focusing on getting more business than the guy next door and by doing that there's a much bigger slice of business to divvy among us," he said.

"We understand that a sustainable industry requires strong advocacy, strong lobbying, but it also needs to be supported by various strong public awareness programs, so that the public can understand the importance of their business.

"So I think they're on the right track in having formed the Association and I think we'll see good things from this reflected in the growth and stability of our industry."

Source: The Nassau Guardian
Monday, June 22, 2009