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2021 November December Marina World

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The magazine for the marina industry


IWMC: DUBAI Marinas empowering tourism and economies The ICOMIA World Marinas Conference (IWMC) took place at the Address Dubai Marina, Dubai 12 th -14 th October. Despite the current COVID-19 travel restrictions, the event was truly global – attracting over 200 delegates from 24 countries. Oscar Siches* reports Everybody involved was nervous. All of the international members of the organising committee felt a heavy responsibility on their shoulders having decided to move forward and take the calculated risk to make the conference happen – live. The last month (September) was nervewracking as people in certain parts of the world were still banned from travel, much needed sponsors failed to show up, registered delegates were too few, and previously confirmed speakers apologised for cancelling their participation. I have never known of more work behind the scenes for an IWMC event since my baptism at IWMC Oostende in 2008. But it was a tacit shared certainty that only persistence and team work could make it happen – if it happened. Three industry bodies were involved and responsible for the feat – ICOMIA, P&O Marinas and the Leisure Marine Association MENA; the new local marina association that planted seeds in 2008 and worked solidly and admirably for years so as to become official in 2020. Ready for action We all arrived in Dubai. The science fiction-style buildings surrounding us increased the feeling that we were dwarves about to be sacrificed. But, suddenly, we were doing some PR while the credentials were handed out Moderator, Sally Robertson, kept all in timely order and didn’t let the pace of the debates slow for “one single second”. to delegates and speakers, and the perspective of those rectangular tags aligned on the table was the first real sign that IWMC 2021 was happening. There were eight stands in the hall, spacious and with excellent visibility, and the usual set-up of tables for the coffee breaks and lunches. The conference venue was very comfortable, with dressed seat rows separated enough to walk between, a generous stage, and excellent audio visual quality, including for the remote participations. On the stage, a large lounge-type seating arrangement was ready for the interactive debates after the sessions. “…the perspective of those rectangular tags aligned on the table was the first real sign that IWMC 2021 was happening.” 36 – November/December 2021

IWMC: DUBAI Eagerly awaiting the start of conference proceedings in a generously sized and comfortable environment. Sally Robinson of Olympic fame was engaged as presenter/moderator for the whole three days of the conference; a first for IWMC. And suddenly, IWMC “Marinas Empowering Tourism and Economies” was a reality. First conference day We started the programme, all eager to share and to listen. Welcome remarks were given by the local authorities and key operators. In alignment with the topic of the conference, Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Tourism, stressed the importance of the nautical industry in empowering tourism and lifestyle and confirmed the full commitment of the Dubai Government in the implementation of a long-term strategy, which envisages the promotion of Dubai as a boating and yachting destination. Hamza Mustafa, COO of P&O Marinas, lead sponsor of the conference, confirmed the importance of supporting conferences that aim to discuss and develop the recreational marine industry, and to facilitate its growth. The first session, with its key focus on sustainability, drew plenty of attention because its three pronged focus on social, economic and environmental is relevant to everybody. The World Tourism Organisation’s Alessandra Priante zoomed in to give a magnificent speech on how post-pandemic sustainability must be the central role that marinas play in maritime tourism destinations. She was followed by Holly Manvell, a young sailor who gave us a snapshot of yacht harbours through young people’s eyes. It was daring and refreshing, and transmitted the message of how much the industry and users can do to make nautical activity a sustainable hobby and sport with little compromise. Patricia Casewell, a very experienced superyacht captain, gave her perspective on how superyacht facilities should become a more commanding segment of the market, accommodating both owners and crew. The business opportunity of investing in a marina was the central subject of session number two. Fadi Shaher El Borno highlighted the importance of having a property/real estate project as a central profit centre of a marina in his presentation on property-based marina development. But marinas can also be a great way of rehabilitating, transforming and creating new centres of attraction in old commercial ports that are no longer in use. Hamza Mustafa showed us great examples of how new leisure destinations can be created out of these transformations. After these two fantastic presentations, we engaged in a talk about handling the expectations of various stakeholders, such as investors, authorities, users and the public, and being inclusive of their interests and demands. Alberto Sonino shared how an investor decides to go ahead with his dream and Billy Canellas focused on how to transform the waterfront into spaces of value-added recreation while managing investment certainty and attraction, and delivering within reasonable timeframes and expectations. The discussions also highlighted the potential strain the marina industry is facing with boat manufacturing at capacity and how to engage new boaters and increase berthing demands. The last session of the day also centred on the main topic of the conference. Industry leaders from established destinations talked about successful ways to develop marinas in the Mediterranean (Roberto Perocchio), Australia (Farrokh Golchin) and Saudi Arabia (Richard Haws). This was followed by a speech from Daniel Schaffer about sustainable marine tourism. He encourages a comprehensive approach towards climate change, protecting biodiversity and reducing pollution while simultaneously engaging with local communities and helping to positively shape the image of the industry. The session ended with an insightful presentation by sailing enthusiast Andrew Pindar, who explained how yacht clubs and watersports can drive lifestyle and tourism in marinas. Welcomes from the host industry associations l to r: Sara Anghel, president ICOMIA; Martinho Fortunato, chair ICOMIA Marinas Group (IMG); and John Paul, chair Leisure Marine Association MENA. – November/December 2021 37

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