Brazilian group nautical tourism in the Intracoastal Waterway – Fort Lauderdale, FL
David Kennedy, government affairs with BOATUS (Boat Owners Association of The United States) talked to Pier Chat. When we asked him about the hospitality and boating options along the 3 thousand miles or more of the Intracoastal Waterway, starting from Boston to the Gulf Coast, Brownsville, Texas he said: “There is no better way to know a city than to arrive from the water, by boat, including the preparation of the journey, the docking and the atmosphere of the surroundings”.
A paragraph of history versus the status quo in the United States
After overcoming a dramatic economic crisis in the last decade, the United States, a world display of entertainment and businesses, was left with a herculean task: to solve social crisis, domestically and with those influenced abroad, since the world today is an agonizing organism spinning around the small solar system. Within this context, in 2017, as the Republicans have taken over the responsibility to lead the country into its near future, and we talk about the Intracoastal Waterway – ICW, it is interesting to remind ourselves that the “ditch” pumps around US$8 billion yearly into the American economy. The ICW had its incipience in 1802 when the Democrats-Republicans were a single party opposing the newly-defeated Federalists, but it appeared officially in the heralds of hey days when the Democrats and Republicans in fact already co-existed as independent parties. Thus, throughout time, while facing all sorts of luck and historical accidents, the politics, society and economics, the infrastructure, services and means in the United States only improved, independent of being accelerated or slowed down from time to time, including our particular subject here - the open gates of the Intracoastal Waterway - not so well known and promoted abroad, but a ditch to whet anyone´s appetite.
Sailor Warning: Visiting USA was never so good as it is today
The IPW – International Pow Wow, the travel industry's premier international marketplace and the largest generator of travel to the U.S., a trade show per say, was in its second and third days when Pier Chat interviewed some key representatives of the boating industry of the United States, aiming for a perspective of the nautical tourism of the sector. It is worth it to recall that the expression ‘Pow Wow’ refers us back to the traditional gathering of American Indians, an expression used also in military and school circles, while its etymological embryo, the word “powwaw” means “spiritual leader” in the Algonquian language of the Narragansett people.
Speaking of language, what is most heard in business meetings around the US nowadays are about budget cuts, in the domestic programs of cultural, scientific, environmental and structural profiles. One of the most polemic issues is related to the entry gates for foreigners into the country. While this observer was compiling data and chatting for this article, he obtained a statement made by the Secretary of Commerce of the United States,
Mr. Wilbur Ross, on the third day (June 5th) of the IPW: “Without security and safety, there will be little travel. But let me make this clear: America is open for business. America is open for millions of international visitors who wish us well”.
It has never been so good and safe to travel into the US, for business or tourism, because of the structure of services and program options, the array of hospitality, from hotels to the numerous theme parks, means of transportation and entertainment; it all remains as good as it was before and is being improved, especially due to a sudden trend to retraction, so the receptivity and offers became automatically much more attractive. In short: the open gates and arms are not few, the attention to consumers (foreigners included) is much better.
The nautical tourism in the Intracoastal Waterway
What one should expect when landing in the United States is to enjoy one of the thousand destinations of this profusion of natural inlets, saltwater rivers, bays, and sounds, along 3,000 miles of the Intracoastal Waterway. To understand this fabulous universe – a dream of many Americans to cruise end to end – we called Mr. Thom Dammrich, president of the NMMA – National Marine Manufacturers Association, and also chatted with Ellen Hopkins and Sarah Salvatori, Media & Communication, and Marketing Director respectively.
The best way to summarize their interaction is as an effort to highlight the boating segment of the Market; the numbers supplied: US$36 billion in sales in 2016, the highest sales in nearly a decade. The recreational boating industry in the U.S. has an annual economic impact of more than $121.5 billion (includes direct, indirect and induced spending), supporting 650,000 direct and indirect American jobs and nearly 35,000 small businesses; and, as said before, the ICW pumps in US$8 billion, Florida being the biggest supplier of such rich oxygen, where takes place the biggest boat show of the world. And we went after the Marine Industry Association of South FloridaI, which owns the brand of the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show and Kelly Skidmore, Public Relations at MIASF, sent us the following note:
“Fort Lauderdale's enviable reputation as the yachting capital of the world and the Venice of America has been well-earned over decades of global visitors enjoying spectacular waterway vistas, access to the finest deep-water fishing and the third-largest coral barrier reef system in the world, unparalleled hospitality and first-class dining options, and the availability of superior marine industry goods and services for any boating enthusiast."
Ebullient industry indeed. While we were compiling a massive data to highlight how good it is to cruise along the ICW, the tourism, real state and boating industry altogheter felt a splash in the media (Tuesday 6th) when Jimmy Tate, the developer ahead Tate family and their partners (owners of the Bahia Mar) signed a 30 year contract with the MIASF to host the Fort Lauderdale Bota Show and Jimmy sent us an statement about the great moment:
[Photo courtesy Jimmy Tate
“Fort Lauderdale é conhecido como a Veneza da América e respeitado como a Capital Mundial da Náutica . Hence, therein lies the reason for the thriving $11 billion a year marine industry.
As an integral part of the marine industries annual success , the Marine Industry Association of South Florida has hosted the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show aka “ FLIBS “ which has been the world’s largest international boat and yachting show in the world for the past 50 years . Through a collaborative effort and partnership, the MIASF , Yacht Promotions Inc. aka “ YPI “ ( Informa , USA ) and the Bahia Mar resort and marina recently executed a new long term lease with the FLIBS and YPI to insure that it will remain the permanent home for the FLIBS for at least another 30 plus years.
Notwithstanding the above, the Tate family and their partners (owners of the Bahia Mar) have embarked on a transformative redevelopment effort which will create a world class resort and marina village which will incorporate a first class venue that uniquely differentiate the Bahia Mar from any other waterfront community in the world”.
It is not a momentary effervescence, as the adjustments and new country´s government directions, discussed lately, could suggest, where each sector of the economy argues to maintain its share in the budget; it is about a matrix of consumer options built up through decades and in plain operational mode, available with the highest standards, if not the best class in the world.
It is important to note that the tourism industry is the largest industry in the world, outbidding the petroleum, housing and automobile sectors altogether – we are talking about the segments of hospitality, gastronomy, beverages, transportation, cultural & entertainment, gifts, and boating, among many others.
Time off, says the government
It is about a Project for Americans, but the logic is good for foreigners too, traveling to the US to enjoy the ICW, for instance. Researchers advised the government to launch an incentive program called Time Off Project. The goal is to warm up the leisure and tourism industry and to help the well-being of individuals. In other words, mitigate the demand for state health assistance. More leisure, better quality of life. Twenty years ago the average of time off in the Unites States was 26 days a year. In recent years, it fell down to less than 15 days. An obvious sign of the speed trend fed by disruptive technologies and an “appetite” of the so-called Y and Z (millenial?) generation to make the first million dollars at any price and/or to reach for status. Remotely, but still an exemplifier, a parallel can be made with the Stockholm syndrome, where the kidnapped acquire admiration for the kidnappers.
But the incentive is only possible because there is in place such a wealth infrastructure, from the transportation modals to the hospitality array and, in the case of the ICW, an offer of marinas and access to the water – Halt! some say, the ditch must be dredged here and there, with over a US$50 million yearly budget for a permanent demand project – with a standard of sophistication and comfort not found anywhere else in the world. Down to the numbers again: while in Brazil, for example, there are less than 100 thousand registered boats, in the United States they number above 13 million, excluding the personal watercrafts (boats below 12 feet and kayaks, jet ski and alike).
Now, let´s put in perspective the number of sailing schools in the US, 225 sailling schools, being Florida on top with 45, according with the ASA – American Sailing Association https://asa.com/find-sailing-school/us-schools-by-state/ . David Kennedy told us that the number of private powerboats school are unknown but the BOATUS senses it about time to develop a course on how to drive a powerboat. On another venue, the wooden boat schools are prolific as well and while it still a boating activity it goes even further, promoting the heritage and maintenance of traditional maritime and seamanship.
The Marina da Glória in Rio de Janeiro and the marinas of the ICW
To take a time off in the United States and “go to the water”, it is not only safe but also filled with so many offers of products and services available. There are official mechanisms in place impacting society as a whole.
One example is the number of cents of a dollar paid in tax for each gallon of fuel for boats as well as specific taxes for fishing tackle and accessories, funding that goes straight into the boating segment, through programs such as the BIG - Boating Infrastructure Grant Program, dedicated to improve marinas, boat yards and access to the water. One of the implementations of infrastructure provided by such mechanisms and programs, are law and regulation enforcement, attention to environmental issues like the mandatory pump outs (waste), true fiction in Brazil. It’s a best practice adopted by the boating community with sympathy.
Simply placed on one line is one thing that we don´t have in the most nautical city of the country, Rio de Janeiro:
“a public marina with free access to the water, self-sustainable incentives and environmental infrastructure”.
In fact, we don’t have pump outs in any of the 5570 cities of the federation. But the good news is that nautical tourism is an economy reality (wealth generator) all over the world. This could inspire Brazil, into the development of projects of marinas combined with resorts and condos and shopping centers like in Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, India, Indonesia, Croatia, and Spain, to name few countries.
Abreast in this fertile environment for boating, not for profit organizations, as the BOATUS Foundation, related to the BOATUS – Boat Owners Association of The United States in partnership with Insurance companies and towing services business, offer a number of free courses about safety at sea, environment, yachting, and others. Different from Brazil, in the Unites States, there is no license for recreational boating, there is instead a demand from the Coast Guard that the conductor of a vessel has passed a free (also available online) course on safety and environment. David Kennedy reminded us about this sound practice extended to visitors as well.
Doing business in the nautical tourism segment
The charter industry enjoys this solid boating theater, including the fishing segment, a world itself almost apart. We had a chat with Jackie Baumgarten, the co-founder of BoatSetter (last valuation estimate US$86.7 million by FunderBeam) based in San Francisco and Florida, with the best face as leader of the Market, after a merger in 2015
with Cruzin. It’s gathering people of the trade on a day-to-day basis, boaters per say; the other co-founder Andrew Sturner, who among other enterprises founded the Aqua Marine Partners LLC, a proprietorship and management enterprise with a portfolio of hundreds of marinas in the US.
In such a market scope of more than 13 million boats, with Florida one of the three top biggest boating arenas in the US, along with California and Michigan, the quality of services is a critical factor. The Sunshine State host one million registered vessels, and as the national average of usage of boats per year does not surpass 15 days, to select good units to offer to occasional boaters or guests for rental is not an easy task. Boatsetter excels in that parameter following its own unique model of charter business, quoting the friendly Jackie: “we have thousands of boats listed in our platform available for charter, but we are constantly updating it and even removing some of them; each boat goes through a previous check, according to the Insurance company policy; each rental implies to insure the boat, the customer and the skipper, in our case a true Capt with commercial license by the Coast Guard”.
No more talking, to sell nautical tourism in the United States is not a weekend business or a speculation of a trend. You must have your able hands on. The rest is to have a whetted appetite.
After all, “life with a boat is better”