Hooking new boaters
National Marina Day offers opportunity to draw more people to the water
It’s often said that getting people on the water is the key to growing boating. That’s the idea behind National Marina Day, scheduled for June 14 and now in its 13th year.
“If you get a person behind the wheel, they’re much more likely to become a boater than if they just stand there and look at a boat,” said Wendy Larimer, legislative coordinator for the Association of Marina Industries, which organizes the annual event. “To have a marina open the doors, have people come in, check out boating and see that it’s a lot of fun makes a big difference.”
For the second year in a row, AMI is working with Discover Boating’s “Welcome to the Water” campaign to increase awareness of the event. Combining the two makes a lot of sense because they have the same goals, Larimer said.
While AMI promotes the events on a national stage, each marina that wants to participate can decide on how big or small to make their local event. Local marinas can register their event on the NationalMarinaDay.org website, so it will be included in the list of national events. Events range from barbecues to test rides to safety demonstrations and more.
The website also includes several resources such as event ideas, logos, templates, sample press releases and radio spots. Marinas can also see what other marinas are planning to do as a way to generate event ideas, Larimer said.
AMI has also been working with local marine trade associations urging them to get involved and help their members with events, a strategy that has been embraced by the Northwest Marine Trade Association, based in Seattle.
“As an association our mission is to grow boating, to increase participation in boating,” said NMTA president George Harris.
Growing boating will take a fundamental focus on skills training and National Marina Day offers a perfect opportunity for that, Harris said.
“We know why people drop out of boating: it’s either cost or they have a bad experience and I think the bad experience can be fixed with skills training,” he said.
While the association has done a good job with traditional events like boat shows and promoting the industry’s legislative agenda, National Marina Day had not been a focus for it.
“We’ve always known about National Marina Day and have some marinas that have been supporting it for years here, but we really got behind it last year and ended up having 14 marinas participate,” Harris said.
To get marinas motivated to participate, the NMTA offered up to $500 to pay some of their expenses for the event. Even if it was only enough to allow them to cover the hot dogs and sodas for a barbecue, it was an important first step.
“On one hand, $500 doesn’t seem like a lot, but on the other hand the money’s got to come from somewhere,” he said. “It really got these marinas fired up.”
The association also used its Grow Boating funds to run ads in local publications promoting the day and the businesses involved and promoted it through social media. NMTA will be offering the credit and running the ads again this year.
All told, about 1,300 people attended the events put on by NMTA members and every marina that participated in 2013 plans on having a National Marina Day event this year, said Katie McPhail, NMTA’s boat show director.
“We had some very positive reports,” she said. “Even those marinas that didn’t draw as well have lots of ideas to grow the events this year.”
Marinas that partnered with other organizations and vendors seemed to have the most success, McPhail said.
She specifically cited the example of Port of Edmonds in Edmonds, Wash., which built an event filled with education, music and food. The marina invited other groups to set up booths to provide information for attendees, resulting in an event with reps from yacht clubs, non-copper paint companies, Washington State Fish and Wildlife and local hatcheries, and performances by local high school jazz musicians.