3 Ways to Maximize Wet Slip Revenue

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There are three things to focus on when trying to get the most out of a facility’s wet slips or linear dock space. Fitting the largest possible boat in each of your berths. Filling tenant slips that are temporarily vacant with transient boaters. And lastly, ensuring that a new boat is ready to move into a slip the day after the current tenant permanently vacates the slip. 

Overages

Making the most out of an individual slip starts with getting the largest possible boat in a given slip. Local regulations allow almost every marina to berth boats with a portion of the boat extending beyond the length of the slip. Some regulations allow a 10% overage, some keep it to 3ft or 1m, and some allow overages based on how wide the channel is relative to slip lengths. We’ve seen a lot of places where marina operators think they’re only allowed a 3ft overage but really they’re allowed a lot more because of channel width. Sometimes one area in a marina might only allow 3ft, but other areas allow much more. It’s worth going right to the source (local regulations) and taking a ruler to the marina map to know the maximum room the marina has to play with. 

The average marina has about a 15% slip differential. That’s the difference between the length of the slip and length of the boat. Including allowable overages can result in a marina missing out on 25% of available berthing space. A marina can usually charge a premium for overages meaning some marinas miss out on a staggering amount of slip revenues.

The first step in maximizing revenue from overages is knowing local regulations and how they impact assignment options in the facility. Next is auditing slip assignments to understand slip differential and missed overages. Lastly, shuffling boats to new berths and assigning new boats to berths with creating overages as a primary goal. A modern, smart marina management software system like Swell Advantage can help the marina get a handle on slip differential, understand where the facility is missing out on overage revenue, and has smart assignment features that help the dockmaster’s assignment decisions with a focus on creating overages. 

Float Plans and Transient Boaters

Almost every marina that we talk to has a policy that allows the renting out of leased but empty slips for temporary stays. Few have the processes in place to optimize the revenue stream. We often hear that handling transient boaters isn’t worth the risk or effort. It’s a pain to keep track of what leased slips will be temporarily free. It’s a lot of paperwork for not much revenue. Transient boaters represent a security or safety risk. Communicating with someone in transit can be frustrating. Marketing to transient boaters is hard and not worth the expense. Proper processes supported by great marina management software and the use of transient boater “Hotels.com for slips” like marketplaces can mitigate a lot of these issues.

The first step in building out a process to maximize transient revenue is properly managing float plans or leave notices. Most marinas have a policy where boaters need to inform the marina when they launch and haul out a boat in seasonal locations, and when the boat will be away from its slip for more than 24 hours. Few marinas enforce the policy because boaters aren’t incentivised to submit launch, haul-out or float plans. With the right messaging, getting boaters to submit launch, haul-out and float plans can result in a better customer experience for permanent tenants and more revenue for the marina. 

The first step is communicating the float plan policy to customers focusing on it ensuring their safety and security. Marina management software like Swell Advantage should help track arrivals and departures for tenant float plans and transient boaters allowing the marina to allocate slips between the two customer groups. Including arrival and departure information in daily dock walks allows a follow-up with boaters who’s slip is empty for more than 24 hours without a float plan. In the friendly check-in call it’s worth emphasizing the marina is calling to make sure they’re safe, that the boat hasn’t been stolen and reminding them that they need to submit a float plan in the future. 

Transient booking platforms like Snag-a-Slip, Dockwa and Find Slips and listing sites like Marinas.com and Active Captain are making it a lot easier to get transient boaters into the marina. These platforms do a lot of marketing for the facility, handle the transient stay application, and the marketplaces handle payments. At the very least a transient form embedded in the marina website allows boaters to submit a temporary stay application and prominent “contact us” information gives them a way to reach staff with questions. Swell has an online transient boater application that can be accessed on the marina website, a link to the online application can be sent to boaters by e-mail or text, and forms that can be filled out on a tablet for pull-up or walk-in traffic. Swell also includes upload features for things like insurance documents and in-app digital signatures for legal and insurance compliance.

Keeping a Fresh Waitlist

Even high demand marinas operate at 90-97% occupancy due to natural turnover. It can take time to figure out who on the waitlist still wants into the marina. This process should start as soon as the existing tenant puts in their notice. We’ve noticed some marinas in very high demand areas take a deposit to make sure applicants are serious about wanting a slip. We’ve also seen that some of the best marina managers are very diligent about who they select off of the waitlist ensuring the right kinds of boats and boaters get into the marina while maximizing the revenue potential of the available slip. Understanding who should be let into the marina based on cultural fit helps reduce tenant turnover, results in less boater conflict, creates higher demand for slips and ultimately allows for higher slip fees.

At the very least paper applications should be transcribed to an excel sheet so the data can be sorted by application date, boat lengths, manufacture date, boat type and the primary boat use. A tool like Google Forms allows the imediat digitization of the tenant application process. Modern software systems like Swell Advantage should have a digital applications built into the product. With Swell we allow applications through the marina’s website, links that can be sent by text or e-mail, and even through a dedicated tablet in the office for walk-ins. 

Once a potential tenant has been identified off of the waitlist it can take a number of phone calls or emails to confirm that they still want the slip. We’ve heard some office managers can spend over a month going from one potential tenant to the next trying to fill a slip. Swell is able to compress this time and effort by automating annual or bi-annual e-mails to people on the waitlist requiring the boater to confirm they still want into the marina. Once a boater is selected off of the waitlist and assigned a berth a Swell confirmation e-mail is automated out requiring the applicant to confirm they still want the slip. The customer then pays for their slip (deposit, payment plan option, sets up automatic monthly payments, or pays for the whole season) and digitally signs off on the marina berthing contract through the self-serve online portal. If the boater does not confirm within a set period of time (usually 72 hours) the system asks for an alternative boat assignment for that slip and the boater is moved down the waitlist. 

Being diligent and proactive in getting new boaters confirmed and settled into the marina can capture otherwise missed revenue. Decreasing occupancy turnover times by half can result in over 5% new revenue for a marina. Consistently using a modern process reduces administrative headaches and simplifies an often frustrating process.

Getting the most out of the rectangle shaped pieces of real estate we call slips and docks is pretty straight forward. Extend the area of the rectangle with overages. Fill unused slips with temporary tenants. Try to make sure there’s a new tenant to move in as soon as the current tenant leaves. Fostering a culture of diligence and communication between marina staff and boaters supported by a modern marina management software system like Swell Advantage helps ensure maximized marina berthing revenue. 

If you’d like to learn more about the Swell Advantage system you can request a demo below, call our toll-free number at 1-888-908-7858 or e-mail us at info@swelladvantage.com.


Iaian Archibald