In 22 years managing one of the country's most sought-after travel destinations, Harbor master Charlie Blaire has seen a lot of change on Martha's Vineyard.
While his most well-known claim to fame may be his role as the fleet manager for the JAWS film franchise, Blaire is also getting some attention for his more recent role increasing tourist revenue in Edgartown and Martha's Vineyard by $1.5 million year over year.
For decades Edgartown Harbor operations have hummed along; as a municipality and the only game in town, there is no pressure to compete with neighboring marinas. Each day, the staff expertly monitor harbor activity, maintain their 83 moorings and 260 feet of dock space, and rescue boaters in distress. However as efficient as operations were, for two decades Blaire saw room to improve, and he continued to search for a solution to the constant phone calls.
It was in April 2015 that Blaire discovered a new Boston-based startup called Dockwa, which offers free software for marinas and yacht clubs to manage their transient slips and moorings. Charlie recognized the potential, and signed the harbor on as a beta tester.
Within one year, Edgartown Harbor's revenue increased by 25%. Streamlining this process also reduced office work, and made it more transparent for their guests. Phone lines that were once overwhelmed with requests are available for more urgent matters. Personal and financial data is now encrypted and securely stored for future reservations. The staff now communicates with guests instantly through the app/software, and can view reservation details in one central location rather than in several spreadsheets and calendars around the office.
The team is now able to respond to reservation requests within minutes. This uptick in efficiency empowered them to extend their typical season by a full month, resulting in a 20% increase in reservations.
The move to digital wasn't without complaint. With regard to the decision to end phone reservations altogether, Charlie heard push back from long-time guests. The value-add of online reservations was too great to even think about allowing for exceptions. As reported in the Vineyard Gazette:
Some say they don’t have, or don’t know how to use, a computer. The staff has adopted a humorous approach to those customers. “Go down to the elementary school, get a third grader,” Mr. Blair says.
On the other end of the feedback spectrum, one 70-year-old boater commented, "It’s a learning curve and eventually everybody will be using Dockwa."
- Charlie Blaire, Edgartown Harbor master
Another byproduct of simplifying the booking process: Edgartown Harbor now has data they can leverage to generate new bookings. They're also able to see how many boats will be in the marina on any given day, how many boats fall into a specific size groups, and seasonal trends, which helps them plan staffing, and will help them plan operations for years to come.
For the first time, Edgartown Harbor possesses data it can leverage to maximize its space – and boaters reap the rewards. Edgartown Harbor staff can pinpoint the exact number of moorings that are free, and fill each one. They haven't increased prices at all, which falls in line with Edgartown's ideals to keep Martha's Vineyard accessible.
A 2006 study, "The Economic Impact Spending by Boaters in New England," conducted by Michigan State University, found that each tourist who visits Edgartown contributes $459 a night to the local economy. When Edgartown began honing their operations to increase nights booked at their mooring field, they – and the town – saw the number of visitors increase by more than 3,200 nights, an increase in economic income of nearly $1.5 million.
If you're interested in speaking with Charlie Blaire to learn more about his experience, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.