By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Bahamas could see a 'record 2018' in boating tourism, according to Association of Bahamas Marinas (ABM) president Stephen Kappeler.
Mr Kappeler, general manager of the Treasure Cay Resort, Marina and Golf Club told Tribune Business that based on the level of interest in The Bahamas at the recent Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show the Bahamas could be set for a very strong boating season in 2018.
Mr Kappeler said most local marina operators had reported a strong summer, with the boating business suffering very little due to recent storms. "In meeting with the Board and the different marina operators at the recent Fort Lauderdale Boat Show everyone had a phenomenal summer," he said.
"It's difficult to do much improvement in September and October but the Bahamas was largely untouched although there was some hurricane damage in the southern Bahamas. We were very fortunate the storms didn't bother much business in the Bahamas, in fact it probably drove some business our way.
"Our prospects for 2018 are huge. I think we will have a record 2018. We just did the Florida boat show and the level of traffic of interest there was amazing. If that is the sign of how things are going to be we can count on a very strong boating season in 2018."
Mr Kappeler noted much of the investment in the second home market in the Bahamas has been driven by the boating sector.
"Much of the investments in second homes in the Bahamas are of the boating niche. Boating is the fuel that helps drives second home purchases and jobs to the Bahamas because you have to maintain them and prepare for guests when they come. The amount of money these folks spend per capita versus your average visitor is significant. Boating drives investment and interest in the country."
The Association of Bahamas Marinas recently launched a website which features a booking engine and call centre links. The website contains multiple on-line services and products designed to separate this nation from its boating competitors. Supported by Dockwa, a boater-facing online service that allows boaters to find marinas and make reservations 24 hours a day, the booking engine is intended to mirror the online travel agencies that have revolutionised stopover travel and hotel accommodation.
Dockwa's reservation management system will allows users of the ABM website marinas to track all their reservations, and collect payment, with a user-friendly software interface.
For the ABM's 29 member marinas, Dockwa's management software will streamline the reservation process. The partnership with Dockwa aims to expand a marina's marketing reach and improve customer experience, while also increasing operational efficiency and freeing up time for marina staff. Dockwa also recently acquired Marinas.com which has more than eight million unique visitors, and a very large boat owner database and social media reach.