2024 Marina Tech Trends: What’s Ahead & What It Means for Investment

Boater expectations are a driving force behind marina operations. Property owners and operators must adapt and evolve to cater to today’s modern travelers to create memorable experiences, build loyalty, and drive revenue for the property. As the travel industry continues to recover and adapt, marinas find themselves not only catering to changing boater expectations but also navigating industry challenges like labor shortages, economic pressures, and shortfalls in technology.

For many marinas, the beginning of a new year brings the motivation to create new operational efficiencies – and many look to technology to make that happen. To determine where to invest, it’s essential for marinas to assess what customers want and how the property is or isn’t currently addressing this desire. With visitor expectations at the center of a strategy, marina owners and operators can begin to define a business plan, identify areas for improved efficiency, and make thoughtful technology investments.

If you’re ready to make a change but are unsure where to start, here’s a look at some of the biggest trends for 2024 and how they can impact the future of your marina business.

Rising Demand for Mobile & Digital
Today, a marina’s digital experience is just as important as its physical one. Most visitors have their first interaction with marinas online, meaning these digital channels operate as a property’s first impression with customers. In addition to having a beautifully designed website or app, how these assets function is equally important. And in today’s modern age, the digital experience has become synonymous with the mobile experience. According to Hospitality Technology’s 2023 Customer Engagement survey, 71% of guests want to book their reservations through their smartphones. In short, the more customer-facing services a marina can make mobile, the better.
For marinas that haven’t invested in a strong online presence, the time is now.

This could look like building your own mobile-responsive website or app or partnering with expert vendors that offer mobile compatibility with their services, such as cloud-based platforms. Other possible mobile operations can include contactless payment, a guest portal where visitors can manage their information, and direct messaging. Not only do these digital and mobile experiences create a smooth visitor experience, but it creates efficiencies for marina staff.

Shifting Preferences in the Booking Process
Despite being an essential function of marina operations, reservations remain a significant pain point for visitors. A recent survey of booking behaviors found that poor experience and pricing were the main reasons for guests not booking directly. At the same time, convenience was the top reported benefit of using Over-The-Air (OTA) technology. However, respondents noted that OTAs are not without drawbacks, with common complaints including too many options, complicating the booking process, too many ads, and a lack of accountability when a reservation goes wrong.

In 2024, there are simple ways to address these issues and ensure a great booking experience. To start, upgrade from legacy systems that aren’t compatible with direct booking. When researching technology partners and vendors for an online booking engine, look for features like slip customization and the ability to select add-ons. In fact, the main reason visitors indicated a preference for direct booking was that they wanted extras.

Heightened Data Privacy & Security
It’s no secret that big data is a main driver of business today. When paired with top-notch business intelligence tools, companies can deeply examine customer behavior to mine actionable insights for improving their business. However, with this increased data use, consumers are now more aware – and wary – of when and how their data is used.

A recent consumer privacy survey conducted by Cisco found that 81% of consumers consider how companies treat their personal data as a reflection of how they are treated, illustrating a growing link between data transparency as a mark of consumer trust. Since personalization has become such a large part of the hospitality experience in recent years, it’s prudent that marinas are upfront about their data policies and provide visitors with options regarding the use of their data.

An increase in technology and data use also points to a growing need for cybersecurity investment within the hospitality sector. Data breaches have grown increasingly common across all industries, and according to data from IBM, the average cost of a breach in the hospitality industry is over $2 million.

Property owners need to ensure any technology partner or vendor puts data protection at the forefront of their services. You want vendors who use trusted industry names like Microsoft and AWS to host their data, as these servers will have larger protections than self-hosting vendors. Look for companies who list specifics on their security features pages, such as restricted IP addresses, two-factor authentication, and the ability to control data access on an employment level.

Making Investments Today
As the hospitality space becomes increasingly intertwined with technology, a digital presence will be an ever more critical part of the business. Technology provides new options for marinas to improve their visitor experience, but the functionality needs to be solid first. The digital expectations of our personal lives now bleed heavily into our consumer lives. It’s up to property owners to adopt technology that balances efficient operations with visitor expectations.

Kaelyn Beckman is marketing manager at RMS North America. She can be reached at