IWI ramps up advocacy to spur inland boating growth

By Robert Wielaard

DÜSSELDORF – Inland Waterways International is a voluntary organization that goes to bat for the conservation, use, development and proper management of inland waterways around the world.

Exploring Amsterdam’s canals

Climate change is one reason for IWI’s recent move to ramp up its advocacy work. Here are 2 more: support for the Grow Boating movement and to impress upon governments that waterways preservation is an economic opportunity. And not just for boaters.

At the 2020 Boot Düsseldorf, IWI staged an Inland Waterways Pavilion at which charter companies displayed a wealth of destinations. IWI is the patron of the World Canals Conference in Leipzig Sept. 20-24.

“We aim to raise public awareness of the benefits of using our waterways for a wide range of activities,” IWI President David Edwards-May told this newsletter at Boot Düsseldorf.

IWI’s members are navigation authorities, museums, companies and individuals with a commercial or recreational interest in the health of waterways in 25 nations. Care for European waterways can be a mixed bag when authorities let waterways go derelict or otherwise unused.

Inland marina of Leuven, Belgium

In Leuven, Belgium, in 2019, a low-slung traffic bridge was placed at the entrance of a marina near the city’s historic heart and its 595-year-old university. France’s Alsace region halted a canal project after having already spent €8 million on it. Books and websites record the neglect of some London waterways.

“Developing inland boating opportunities depends on the vision of local authorities,” says IWI European projects adviser Peter Linssen, a member of the family behind Linssen Yachts of the Netherlands.

He cites good examples that merit following. In Eastern Germany, for instance. And in Scotland where in recent years the government “awakened a giant” by driving annual visitor spending in sailing alone up by 45% to £145m. And it drove up the economic value of overall marine tourism to more than £450m (€535.3m).

Better infrastructure for sailors also benefits such sectors such as sea kayaking, coastal rowing, surfing and windsurfing. Tourism Scotland sailing and boating alone generates almost 2,730 jobs.