Fancy Buying a Dive Business? it’s not for the faint-hearted!
With kids growing up and leaving home, it’s a time to re-evaluate your life and maybe do the thing you’re always denied yourself in the past. It’s a time when some middle-aged men buy big motorcycles and some ladies take up tennis! We divers usually take this as an opportunity to book all those dive trips we promised ourselves and some of us even go one stage further.
Some change their lives by doing a PADI (or other) instructor course. Others want to be their own boss. What would it be like to own your own dive centre somewhere exotic, where the sun always shines and everyone is intent on having a good time?
Last year, a young Australian man, 26-year-old Josh Ptassznyk, won such a Pacific island dive resort at Kosrae in a raffle. It only cost him a US$50 ticket! Most of us would need to invest a lot more, but with property prices in most cities booming, it may be tempting to sell up and make a life-changing move.
So what’s available and what would it cost? We caution any would-be buyer that besides the capital investment there’s also the initial running costs to consider so you’d need a cash cushion to see you through the early days. Many sellers offer a hand-over period when they stay on (normally for around three months) to see you safely past any pitfalls waiting for the unwary or inexperienced dive resort or centre owner.
At the same time, many such businesses are up for sale because of the ill-health or old-age of the incumbent owner, so it’s not something that would be suitable for the aged or infirm to buy.
Once we started to investigate, we came across a plethora of business opportunities, varying from some that were close by civilisation and others that were very remote indeed.
Have You Linguistic Skills?
Do you speak French? How about a centre in Tikehau, an island in the Tua Motos of French Polynesia? It has some of the best shark diving in the world but i’s a very long way from medical help should you need it. The Philippines might be more appealing. There’s a PADI 5-star center up for grabs in northern Palawan. Either will set you back around a quarter of a million dollars. Can you speak Spanish? For less than half that price, there’s a dive centre in Taganga, Santa Marta, Colombia for sale.
If you’re not ready to go the whole hog, you could investigate a partnership before you find yourself in deep water. For a mere 60 grand, someone is looking for a partner for their growing Discover Scuba Diving business at Koh Samui in Thailand. Of course, partnerships can be fraught with difficulties so it’s worth consulting a local lawyer first.
For half-a-million dollars there’s a lot of choice. What about a set up on a small remote island in North Suluwesi, Indonesia? It’s a Bangka resort with seven rooms but the potential to expand. Life is full of unplanned surprises and the current owners have got a new family and want to move their family back to the UK for the sake of their education. Their baby is still young so they won’t be disappearing too quickly. They’ll probably be around for a couple of years to hold your hand while you take over the reins of the business. For around the same amount of money, a boutique dive hotel in the Maldives is looking for an investor who will get involved in the day-to-day running of the business.
Fancy a small liveaboard that takes six passengers? Norwegian Freddy Storheil, a pioneer of diving in the Red Sea and later Thailand and the Mergui archipelago, has decided to retire at long last and his steel ketch Colona II, now laid up in the Philippines, is up for sale for US$180,000. It’s a vessel familiar to many European divers and you could even sail around the world in her. (Freddy has!) If you were looking for something bigger, there’s a diving ship available in Croatia for a mere one-and-a-half million dollars. It takes up to 22 divers. The present owners are Swedish and in the three years it took to make everything legal, they’ve changed their minds about the activities they want to pursue and are concentrating instead on their hotel and restaurant on the Croatian island of Brac.
Be aware that is some countries you need a local as a business partner to operate legally. Evidently not so on the island of Niue in the South Pacific. Here there’s a dive business complete with a house to live in, for sale at half-a-million dollars and the deal includes five boats and four cars. The seller cites health concerns as a reason for selling up.
If you’ve already read that new novel by KL Smith, Tropical Ice, you might be tempted to spend $650,000 on a dive business at Ambergris Caye, Belize, or for $395,000 there’s dive centre on Roatan, Honduras. It’s on offer, with up to one year as a hand-over period from the previous owner. For the same sort of money, there’s a dive business for sale in Honiara, in the Solomon Islands. Again, the present owner is retiring.
If you wanted somewhere closer to home, there’s a start-up dive business for sale in Baja California for only $40,000. You should be aware it’s only been in operation for a year and the season lasts only eight months of the year.
Everyone needs to go home eventually. $180,000 will buy you a thriving PADI/SSI business in Playa Herradura and Playa Jaco in Costa Rica. The owner says he’s getting old and wants to return to Italy where he has another dive centre that needs some time dedicated to it.
Failing health is a common reason for owners to sell their businesses abroad. It’s the case with a dive centre in Utila, Honduras. The Deep Blue Resort is accommodates up to 20 guests with three ocean front buildings and a weather-safe dock for its dive boat. It’s available for $1.2 million. (That’s less than the price of an average house in London.)
Somewhere Closer to Home?
Europeans readers might find a European dive centre more appealing because you’re still in range of EU health-cover – something that’s important as you get older – although the warm weather might only lasts for five months of the year. How about an established sea-front PADI 5-star IDC centre in Gran Canaria for €195,000? Or something similar on Spain’s Costa Brava for €240,000? Half that amount will buy you a dive centre on Portugal’s Madeira and half of that again will see you picking up the keys to a dive centre on the Spanish mainland at Cala Honda, Granada.
Some Sage Advice
A word of caution from someone who had his own dive centre once: Retirement is an important aspect to consider. Operating a dive centre can be hard work. It’s not for the faint-hearted. Out in the boat, while the customers are enjoying the ride, the owner has one eye on the weather. While those same customers are enjoying a riotous evening, the dive centre owner might be hard at work stripping down the compressor. It’s not a business for someone wants to take it easy. It certainly isn’t something to do when you retire and remember if you want to make a small fortune from diving, it’s best to start with a large one! You’ll find more information at www.divecenterforsale.com/listings