Phuket Business: Dive center targets ‘no niche’

PHUKET: THE international appeal of Phuket’s dive industry has seen many dive shops and dive centers on the island honing in on specific niche markets, usually centered around a specific country or nationality.

Backed with their well-equipped dive boat and brand new training facilities, Andaman Ocean Safaris’ business model takes niche marketing a step further, by targeting agents, rather than any one market of divers.

Managing Director David Minnaar spoke with the Phuket Gazette, revealing his company’s core features.

David established Andaman Ocean Safaris in August 2010, starting with the 12 million baht renovation of the Chok Somboon (complete luck), a three-deck, 68-person capacity dive boat.

The spacious, 23-meter vessel is one of very few in Asia, he says, to utilize top quality, Bauer “pure air” compressors.

“You can have 45 to 50 people on board and wouldn’t even notice it. You don’t feel cramped at all,” Mr Mannaar said.

After a successful first season, Andaman Ocean Safaris expanded this month by opening a full-service dive center in Chalong.

The new center allows the company to provide full dive services to divers and agents, starting from classroom and pool training, to “pure air” and ocean dives.

The center’s modern and stylish facilities feature classrooms, trip-booking offices, a pro shop, restaurant, bar and one of the only saltwater pools in Phuket.

“We are geared toward companies that don’t have their own dive boats, pool facilities, gear or even their own cylinders,” Mr Minnaar explains.

The company, which strategically aligns itself with Patong-based All4Diving, is the only dive center to offer free pickup service anywhere on the island, David notes.

Agents take the industry norm of 30% for their marketing expenses. Most days Andaman Ocean Safaris has only 5 to 10 % of their own clients on board.

Mr Minnaar added that services include pickups, equipment management, meals (freshly prepared daily on the boat’s “hotel quality” kitchen), dives and drop-offs.

David went on to emphasize that he and his family want to play an important role in the community and are thinking of the long term impacts of their business in Phuket.

The company is looking to finalize a deal with the British International School to provide extra curricular diving course work for the students.

“Come low season we also want to talk to the local Chalong schools and offer this opportunity to the children for free,” David said.

For a select few students that are serious about diving, Andaman Ocean Safaris is looking to get them PADI certified for free.

“In the future those might be the PADI Dive Masters and PADI Instructors of tomorrow – it would be nice for them to come through us,” he said.

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