With the acquisition of five marinas in the Netherlands, French marina group Port Adhoc is on its way to become a large operator of marinas in Europe. The new Managing Director Netherlands Jorin Bijl shares his plans and looks ahead to creating future proof marinas.
‘Quality marina service is a joint effort’
Port Adhoc managing director adverts co-operative development
“A strong connection with guests, employees and businesses around, attracting not only boating enthusiasts, but all kinds of groups to spend leisure time, will define future proof marinas,” Jorin Bijl speaks his vision. As Managing Director of the Dutch brand of marina group Port Adhoc, he is aware of the changing demands of leisure spenders. “For our guests to have a positive overall experience, a number of services need to be added to the core marina business and those services need to be of high quality. Clever co-operation is vital for the success of each entrepreneur at the marina, as well as the marina as a whole.”
French group of marinas Port Adhoc recently acquired the Dutch group ‘Thuishavens’, a network of five marinas. The Port Adhoc portfolio now comprises of a quite diverse variety of marinas, with dry stack marinas in France, but also large marinas with berths along wider waters along the French Mediterranean shore and the larger inland lakes in The Netherlands. A majority of the yachts docked there are sailing yachts in the range from 25 up to 60 foot. In total, the group has 12 marinas in France and The Netherlands. At their website, Port Adhoc states to now be the second largest network of marinas in Europe. “Our goal is to become the largest,” Bijl puts forward the group ambitions. “Being part of a large scale corporation provides all of the marinas the opportunity of investment. A large group will be more robust in times of market fluctuations. This is also beneficial for our guests, since they can rely on a stable host. Operating on a large scale can also provide benefits in acquiring marina necessities. For our employees, we want to provide a safe place to work, with prospects and reduced risk of suffering under economic fluctuations. Happy and confident employees can provide the hospitality we want to welcome our guests with. It may sound as a contradiction, but I see that being part of a large scale marina group provides more flexibility.”
Bijl takes Marina Muiderzand, the location of the interview, as an example to show his vision on future proof marinas. “This marina is closely connected to the new part of the city of Almere, Almere Duin. A number of people that live in this neighbourhood have chosen this location because of the vincinity of the marina. We want to welcome them. Because they do not have their own yacht in the marina, does not mean they can not come in the harbour. We want to engage and connect businesses with our activities. For instance: we have put up signs directing to the bakery in the neighbourhood. We made a time lapse video that shows the way from the marina to the bakery, that also has some tables for breakfast and lunch. “Getting to the best breakfast in town in a two and a half minute walk – it helps the bakery, but also provides added value for our guests. In regard of the entrepeneurs at the marina itself, we are very much aware that we need each other to make the whole marina experience a success. So we keep in close contact with them. What would the yacht service need to be successful? What does the yachting equipment store need? As Port Adhoc, we want to offer the businesses on our marinas realistic contracts, allowing them to invest and give them a fair chance to start up if they are new on the marina. What can we do to make the visit to the marina pleasant for all groups? We do notice that the population of boat owners is ageing. Their children do not automatically take up their hobby of sailing or boating. Often, the boat owners are grandparents who really enjoy welcoming their grandchildren on the boat. So we install a playground or organise a bouncy castle. Also, we have the catamaran beach nearby, where flyboards can be rented. We promote these possibilities to our guests, so youth visiting the harbour can have a great day as well.”
“We investigate the opinions of our guests. Recently, we had a survey about safety in the harbour. Luckily, most guests were satisfied. But one can always learn of some things that need attention or action for improvement. Yacht owners that have a permanent berth in the marina are always price conscious. We need to be aware of the fine balance of attractive pricing and keeping up a competitive level of services.”
Looking ahead a few decades into the future, Bijl expects the changes that have been defining the boating market before the pandemic, to manifest again. “Luckily, a lot of people that have discovered boating during the period of travel restrictions and lockdowns, stay with boating. For now, the harbour is filled with permanently rented berths. Maintenance is not very complicated or costly, so if we have a viable business model this way, we can keep prices reasonable. Yet, it is expected that in a few decades, a lot less berths will be occupied for the season by boat owners. Maybe the new generation will be less materialistic as they do not value the ownership of of yachts. Marinas will need to evolve their business model accordingly and add new commercial activities, like boat rental. Consumers do not want to own boats, they just want to enjoy them for a short period of holiday time.
For a marina to be an attractive place, the division of the premises and the hinterland will have to diminish. This requires thinking out of the box: a marina can be an attractive location for meetings or events. Even weddings can be quite nice in the nautical surroundings with all of the parking facilities, outdoor space and hospitality services in one spot.”
In the near future, Bijl wants to focus more on responsible environmental behaviour. “People do not like to be told what they may not do. So we put up signs explaining about local wildlife, the unique birds, fish and other animals in the surroundings of our marinas. We would like to work together with government and independent environmental organisations to promote wildlife consciousness and responsible behaviour to protect our waters.”
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