This seems like a really silly article to write, but after going through this with MANY couples over the past few years during negotiations for selling a dive business, I thought I’d get it down in an article for the world to reference and see.
The #1 thing to remember when talking about owning a Scuba Dive Business in the tropics is the PRIMARY reason we all do it:
To live a tropical lifestyle on an island and dive whenever we want to
The success of a scuba business and the real profit comes in the high quality and ease of the lifestyle of its owners.
That is why 99% of all scuba business owners in tropical destinations are there. They want to live the lifestyle on the island and dive whenever they want to. If we all keep this in mind, it makes things a lot easier in selling/buying these businesses.
Let me list through the reasons why I, and my friends, have made the decision to live and own a scuba dive business in the islands.
Here are the PRO’S
Owning your own business, managing it properly and having the right staff is fully achievable to let you work on your own terms. I have friends who can actually afford to close all their dive operations on every Sunday and spend it kite surfing, or at the local cafe drinking coffee and wine with friends. Business is that good, and this is the way they run it.
Being your own boss; yes something we all relish. This has many advantages in the day to day, but even more than that, psychologically it makes us all feel great. Being a master of our own destiny and success (and possible failure of course) is a fabulous place to be for those willing to take the responsibility.
Responsibility? Yes indeed, this can be a big weight on some people. If the business thrives or if it dwindles, this lands firmly on our own shoulders.
You can try to blame anyone or anything else (the Global Financial Crisis has been the favorite to blame in the past few years…), but in reality, it’s our ship to steer. Either into clear waters and blue skies, or onto the rocks. Weather will come and go, but YOU are still the Captain. You command where and how the ship sails.
The friends we have made out here in the tropics are one of the major benefits of the lifestyle. They have a great open frame of mind , just by being among the group of people willing to “Throw off bowlines” and live somewhere very new.
High Standard of living
This section, in my opinion, is a MAJOR high point of owning a scuba diving business in the tropics. Don’t belittle it until you’ve tried it!
With living in mostly a developing nation the cost of labour is lower. A housekeeper is no longer as luxury, but a normal part of life. I can’t remember the last time I touched a vacuum cleaner or washed dishes!
Same goes for laundry as housekeeping. I drop them in the basket and “as if by magic” they are clean, ironed, and folded back in my wardrobe! Even friends with 3 kids don;t ever touch the washing machine or fold clothes and put them away. That’s a huge recapture of hours of your life…
Now I have no kids (disclosure) but ALL my friends do, and one of the primary reasons they are living a life here is that they can have a full-time nanny for the kids. Once more this frees up life immensely.
Now not to say they don’t see their kids, quite the opposite. e.g. we’d all take an afternoon off to go to the beach, Alice would call her nanny at home and have her get all 3 kids ready for the beach, by the time WE get to the house 15mins later, all kids, beach-ready’! All we do is pick ’em up, go play at the beach!
Do NOT underestimate how much fun/play time you can have with your kids when you have Nanny-support! And all at a cost that we can all afford here…
All the kids I know here in the tropics are going to the best international school in the country. This is affordable in the developing nations. Add to this the international nature of the school attendance and the education is wonderful.
And don’t worry about the academic levels, 2 kids from one of the schools here in Fiji just went to Oxford University in UK this year!
I know it sounds silly, but having a weekly fully washed and detailed car is something I love here. My car is always sparkling, even with all the scuba gear i lurch into and out of the back of it!
I love gardening, let, me start with that point. However the requirement to cut grass every 10-14 days (this is the tropics and everything DOES grow bloody fast!) does wear you down. So ALL of us have gardeners who do all the boring grunt and hard work in the garden (unless I get an urge). This frees me to play with the gardening I want to do.
Cheap Cost of Living
Cost of Living
The overall cost of living in the island nations is ultimately affordable.
Fresh fruit and veg and local delicacies are available and cheap to say the least on many islands. And the fruit tastes real because it hasn’t spent 2 weeks in a polystyrene box in a refrigerate ship! Nothing like fruit from the market, and pawpaws off the tree in the garden, where we just can’t stop them growing, lol!
Local restaurants are good (choose your country wisely… I once knew someone who bought a dive center in Mexico but who hated Mexican food; destined to fail!) and totally affordable. We eat out half the time!
Most of the diving destinations worldwide are in developing nations. The developed nations dollars (and Euros, GBP, etc etc) are very strong compared to any developing nation local currency. This gives us a lot more buying power locally…
Buying a House
Buying a house locally is very doable for most business owners. And I’m not talking about a small flat or apartment on 3rd floor. Most of us after a few years have nice size houses.
And don’t rule out spacious decks, and swimming pools. All remarkably affordable as a scuba business owner in the tropics. Remember the costs in the developing nations tend to be a lot more manageable than in developed nations.
Ah yes, normally the first thing that got us into this business in the first place. And yes, we all still do this. The ones who don’t? Well they won’t be in the business much longer. You have to maintain the magic and love of diving to make this lifestyle worthwhile!
Teach PADI when you want
Maybe you’ve just started to teach and are still REALLY eager to get into the pool every day with DSD’s. Hell I still love to jump in the pool with DSD’s and introduce the ‘magic’; of breathing underwater to whole new set of wanna-be divers.
However on a cold rainy grey morning… well…. not so much. This is the boss’s privilege of course!
Teach your own thing
So you love the techie side and wanna get more people into it? Great, then ALL rebreather courses are taught by you!
How about photo/video? Now here is a great multiple benefit deal for you…
#1 you get to hang out with some GREAT photographers who want to come to YOUR dive centre to take pics, so you get some great tips and pointer all the time.
#2 at the dive shows etc, you’ll get to meet all these names you know from the magazines, well you’ll be drinking in the bar with them at night…
#3 good deals on gear is inevitable with all the dive shows and friends you make with the toy makers (oops, sorry I mean the equipment manufacturers)
Dive with other operators
After you’ve been in a country for a while, you’ll find you meet the other operators at shows, association meetings and tourism meetings. Great perk is that we are (mostly, lol!) friends. We all go to each others operations for time off, and dive on their dives. Sometime FOC, but I can say hands down ALWAYS at a great discount rate.
Travel to other destinations
After a year or so of attending the Dive Shows and Trade Shows, you’ll pick up friends from all over the world in the dive industry. We are a tight-knit lot let me tell you. Before long you’ll be thinking of a vacation somewhere else, Galapagos, Indonesia, where-ever. remember that guy you met at the show last year, where IS his business card.
Just like your local dive operator friends, we do give each other great deals!
Most of us travel 8-10 times a year internationally for work to go to dive shows and the likes. These are major marketing events, but into the bargain they are also social highlights of the year for professional divers.
Some of the shows are ONLY for professionals (DEMA/WTM)
Professional Associations PADI/SSI/etc
By owning a dive centre affiliated to one of the large teaching agencies, you get an inside line to the news and info from the business.
Normally tropical destinations are developing and quite small. You will find quite quickly that the national associations are constantly starving for new blood. Where-as at “home” these are always dominated by MBA/business types, young driven scuba professionals are given a chance to shine.
By definition of living on an island, probably miles from anywhere, mean that travel is inevitable. Most of us get a very good deal on Business Club membership and enjoy the luxuries of traveling through the lounges and the likes every time we travel.
We clock a LOT of these up with living so far from the “real world”, meaning we end up with many ‘free’ flights within a year. Not to mention the complimentary business class upgrades!
I have lived and worked in the scuba diving industry now for 20 years, starting as a Divemaster employee in St Maarten in Caribbean in 1992. I have seen many successes, and failures, in the scuba diving industry in my time.
I live my life well, and believe I have found a good balance in the tropics.
You too could join us if you’re willing to JUMP and you never know, you could be living this life running a scuba dive business of some kind, be it liveaboard, dive centre or dive resort.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
– Mark Twain