IGY Marinas Employee Spotlight: Gili Wojnowich – VP Operations & Yacht Services

17 Jul 2023

What was it like growing up in Savannah, Georgia, and when did you discover a love of the water?

Savannah is an amazing place and my early years there were fantastic! It is deeply rooted in history, is culturally diverse, and the food and art scene are some of the best in the nation. One aspect of life in the south that I continue to appreciate, and at times miss, is the slower pace of life and genuinely kind people.

I was particularly fortunate to have had access to Savannah’s endless miles of waterways, salt marshes, and unique barrier islands. Boating, fishing, and water sports were a major part of my upbringing and certainly shaped my lifelong affinity for all the great experiences one can have on the water.

At university you studied for a Bachelor of Business Administration (Finance) and a Bachelor of Arts (Spanish) – how well did that prepare you for your future career?

My parents taught me the importance of being well-rounded in all facets of life including education and general skillset. For example, my father, brother, and sister, are all physicians but each of them took a rather unorthodox approach in their medical school journey choosing to also focus on other areas of study including film, international affairs, and marine biology.

While I obviously decided that practicing medicine was not the right fit for me, I still knew that it was important to fortify my understanding of the ‘real world’ with a foundation in both general business and the arts (linguistics). My business school studies have certainly helped me with many aspects of my management and operations career while fluency in Spanish has been very useful for both personal travel and the many partners and colleagues I engage with throughout the world.

What was your first role with IGY Marinas and how did that come about?

I’m lucky to have started my career with IGY in the best possible position, as a dock hand on the front-line! I was 22 years old, a few months out of college, and had just completed my captain’s course in south Florida. I was actively networking around Fort Lauderdale and day-working on board yachts with the intention of trying life at sea for a few years.

Rewind a few years to early 2009 during the global financial recession. My older brother was completing medical school in New York and was shadowing a physician whose husband turned out to be Tom Mukamal! I spent the next 12 months begging Tom for an internship and even ambushed him and a few other IGY team members at the boat shows in Florida.

Understandably, it was a very challenging time for IGY and the whole industry but I remained hopeful and persistent. Finally, my opportunity came around in the form of an offer to pack my bags and spend three months as a seasonal dock attendant for IGY’s flagship marina, Yacht Haven Grande, in St. Thomas. Three months on a small island in the Caribbean turned out to be the most incredible and rewarding four years of my young professional career where I was able to absorb and learn from so many colleagues and prepare myself for future growth opportunities with the company.

IGY Marinas has achieved incredible growth and expansion over the past 23 years – to what do you attribute this success?

That’s easy! The key ingredient for our success has been our team members and a company culture that encourages collaboration, forward thinking, and general support for each other. From our front-line employees to our upper management team, there has been a core group of us that have been together now for 10 to 15 years or more. People don’t generally stick around with a company for that long unless they are genuinely happy and passionate about the work they are doing.

I also believe our incredible customers have undoubtedly played a key role in helping us grow the network and learn how to better serve tomorrow’s boat and yacht owner. With IGY’s recent acquisition by MarineMax and the expansion of its yacht services business, I’m very excited and confident in IGY’s trajectory and for the many positive developments ahead for both our team and customers.

What does your current position involve day to day – what are your greatest challenges and what do you most enjoy?

I often answer this question by saying that it depends on what day it is! But truthfully, that’s what I have enjoyed about my time with IGY. Every day is a little different and I have never felt bored or monotonous in my responsibilities. My role from an operations standpoint, is to support the teams who are really putting in the hard work running our facilities.

In addition to this, my core focus as of late has been to manage and grow our industry’s first ever yacht owner’s membership program, the IGY Trident Club. This is one of the more entrepreneurial projects that I have been involved with and I’m enjoying the challenge. It has also created numerous opportunities to collaborate with our new sister companies, Northrop & Johnson and Fraser, and we have only scratched the surface on what the future holds as a combined force.

IGY’s Trident program is ambitious and an industry first – what prompted the idea and which elements are most compelling for yacht owners? 

IGY’s business, like so many other yachting companies, greatly relies on its customers enjoying their yacht and the lifestyle that this remarkable asset affords them. With the recent expansion of IGY’s network in the Mediterranean and beyond, we knew that we had a great opportunity to create a program aimed at simplifying and streamlining the yacht ownership experience.

Trident, for the very first time, offers a yacht owner and its crew the greatest level of access to IGY’s global network along with unmatched discounts and invitations to curated events for yacht owners. Being a member of this program puts both the owner and crew at a clear advantage over the rest of the fleet. To round off the program, we have a comprehensive collection of global support companies offering exclusive services and benefits to Trident members ensuring that their yachting experience is fully optimized.

What trends are you seeing in the marina space and what changes do you foresee over the next 5-10 years?

The changes we are seeing are both exciting and challenging! The infrastructure demands have been gradually increasing. Tomorrow’s vessels require more shore power, faster fuel flow rates, larger berths, and blazing fast internet connections. Ten years ago, amenities like fitness centers, swimming pools, and transportation were competitive advantages and service differentiators. Today, those are all largely expected of higher caliber marinas which means we must think harder about programming new features that add to the guest experience and enjoyment.

In addition, I think many of our locations will continue to be challenged by the sheer volume of larger yachts that are launching every week. It’s obviously a great problem for someone in our position but I do think it will mean that captains and owners will need to plan their travel far in advance or risk not finding an available berth. Trident members do not need to be concerned about this as they are prioritized at our marinas.

On a personal level, what are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the positive impact I have made on the careers and lives of my team. I’m also proud to play a role in ensuring our guests have great experiences when visiting any of our marina destinations. Their success is my success!

If you had access to any yacht in the world for two weeks, where would you go and what would you do?

I would take the family and go somewhere in the northern hemisphere with dramatic landscapes like the fjords of Norway.

What’s a lesser known fact about Gili Wojnowich that would surprise your colleagues?

One of my favorite land-based activities is to go on long-range motorcycle trips. I have done several weeklong trips in recent years with my father and father-in-law riding across the United States experiencing the most amazing terrain and scenery. It’s a great way to unplug!

Gili Wojnowich Bio
Gili Wojnowich is the Vice President of Operations and Yacht Services for IGY Marinas. Gili joined IGY in 2010 at the company’s flagship superyacht marina in St. Thomas, USVI, Yacht Haven Grande. Since then, Gili has remained involved in overseeing facility operations across IGY’s growing network throughout the United States, Caribbean, and Latin America. Gili also provides support for IGY’s Development and M&A teams in managing capital expenditure projects, implementing standardized operating procedures, reviewing vertically integrated business opportunities, and analyzing new marina asset projects.

In his current role, Gili is responsible for the overall promotion and growth of IGY’s Trident membership program, the world’s first and only superyacht benefits and services platform aimed at enhancing, simplifying, and optimizing the yachting experience for both owner and crew.

In addition, Gili leads the effort in developing and managing synergistic opportunities and operational efficiencies across multiple affiliated companies who collectively provide comprehensive yachting services that greatly benefit IGY’s customer base.

Gili was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia and graduated as a dual major from Emory University with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree (Finance) and a Bachelor of Arts degree (Spanish). Gili currently resides in south Florida with his wife and two young children where they enjoy an active water lifestyle and are engaged with the local community and various industry organizations.