SPLASH DIVE CENTER LTD
Splash Dive Center Ltd (Splash) was founded as a sole proprietorship in the year 2000 by Patty Ramirez. Patty’s goal was to be the best and to achieve that, she invested in herself becoming one of only two Belizean Course Directors (the highest PADI level) and by re-investing as much as the revenue as possible in the business. Patty continues to invest in herself through continuing education and continues to re-invest to grow Splash. Ralph Capeling joined Patty as an investor in the year 2009 and strongly supports Patty’s original goal which is now the Mission Statement for Splash: Splash intends to be the premier dive center and adventure tour operator of choice in Belize.
Splash is focused on quality of service, from our attractive and welcoming dive center, our pickup service, our five custom dive boats, our crews’ attention to customers, and our well maintained equipment to the little extras after returning from a dive trip like serving cookies and juice while the crews rinse guest’s dive gear.
Marketing is a vital and multi-faceted part of Splash’s business and includes attendance at trade shows, working closely with BTB, BTIA and BHA by personally taking care of approximately 150 journalists, camera crews, and bloggers. Splash took every opportunity to reach out to travel agents, travel writers and travel professionals and to invest in magazine and website advertisements, electronic media, professional signage and the good old fashioned method of meeting everyone with a welcoming smile.
In 2012, Splash attended nine trade shows (The Ultimate Travel Show in Toronto, Our World Underwater in Chicago, The Outdoor Adventure Show in Toronto, Beneath the Sea in New Jersey, BETEX in Belize City, the BTIA San Pedro City Mall marketing weekend, CATM in San Pedro Sula, Scuba Swap in Toronto and DEMA in Las Vegas). In all of these, Splash markets Belize, then Placencia and then finally we market Splash Dive Center Ltd and our sister company Quest For Adventure In Belize With Splash Ltd. We established Quest due to the clear and positive response from non-divers to marketing Belize first and our properties second. Splash is also a participant in the BHA Global Initiative.
Splash cooperates with BTB and also independently seeks out opportunities to work with travel writers and bloggers. Splash has put a great deal of effort into working with bloggers to advertise Belize and Placencia. This keeps Splash in the news in a very effective non-advertising way. Appendix I lists 45 blogs and articles resulting from this proactive approach.
Establishing effective Working relationships with travel agents and travel professionals is another important aspect of Splash’s active approach to marketing. In addition to establishing relationships based on trust through meeting at trade shows and from visits to our facilities, Splash has always volunteered to participate in post CATM and BETEX trade show tours. This has resulted in dozens of Placencia exclusive (and often Belize exclusive) listings on travel agents websites. Appendix II does not include travel agent website that list Splash along with other Placencia area diving tour operators.
Splash also advertises in magazines, newspapers and websites. We advertise continuously in Sport Diver, Scuba Diver, Undersea Journal, The Canadian Travel Magazine, Destination Belize, Tropic Air magazine and the Placencia Breeze. We also advertise from time to time in magazines such as City Central Magazine in Mississauga, Ontario. Important components of our electronic advertising include banners on ScubaBoard and PADI’s website and Google and Bing Ad campaigns.
Social media is another very important component of Splash’s international marketing efforts. We spend at least two hours every day to update and correspond on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Patty Ramirez has two Facebook pages, Patricia Ramirez where she has over 3000 followers where she can create meaningful and personal relationships with clients and potential clients. She invites divers to join her Splash Dive Shop Facebook page where she has over 1000 followers and posts Splash news, photos and blogs. On Twitter Splash Belize posts every day Patty participates in the Live Chats about Belize, usually donating a giveaway. She promotes daily tours in Placencia What’s Happening and on TrekCATS (posting about diving in Belize). In addition to posting on the PADI Facebook, BTB, Scuba Diving Girl and Book Your Dive, Splash posts on Bookbag Santa (a NGO from Virginia that Splash supports as they bring groups to Belize every year to distribute at least a ton of school suppliers to schools in Stann Creek District). Splash monitors and is active on ScubaBoard (where we also advertise) and Trip Advisor on the Belize Pages.
In addition to our website, www.splashbelize.com, our Splash blogs and newsletters are also an important part of our marketing program.
Splash has recently begun to post on YouTube with the intent to do more of this in future. With encouragement from Splash, some of our guests have begun to post videos on the internet that feature diving and snorkeling with Splash (often using cameras rented from Splash).
For any business to survive and thrive over the long term, it must contribute to the wellbeing of the community in which it operates. This contribution needs to be social and environmental as well as economic. Splash has adhered to this principle since the early days of a simple dive shop on the beach.
One of the first and very important programs that Patty Ramirez initiated was the Splash Junior Diving Club where Belizean kids can learn to dive for free. She uses the opportunity to teach them the importance of protecting our environment and introduce them to the marvels of the Belizean barrier reef that our guests are privileged to scuba dive on, but that local families and children cannot afford. Splash has issued 150 certifications from PADI junior open water to junior master scuba diver and dive master since 2006. In 2012, three “children” have reached the first professional level, Dive Master, and two of them are now working for Splash. The third "graduate" of the Splash Junior Dive Club used his qualification to move to the USA and join the United States Navy. Splash intends to continue the program to develop more young Belizeans into ambassadors for the sea and to become PADI professionals. As dive masters and scuba diving Instructors, Belizean kids can have the opportunity to develop careers in the dive industry and create more of a commitment within the local community to protecting our reef and environment. The biggest difference we can make as scuba divers, to the future health of our corals reefs, is to educate the next generation.
In 2012, Patty invited the first international student who arrived with her parents and progressed through to junior master scuba diver, the highest non-professional level in the PADI system. Her parents also became divers! We hope we can continue to attract families to bring their kids to Belize so that the whole family can learn to be scuba divers. We hope that these families could become ambassadors for Belize in their home counties to help market Belize, Placencia and Belize.
Splash is very committed to the protection and preservation of the reef environment in Belize. Patricia Ramirez is an active member of Placencia Mooring Masters, an organization that uses funds that it raises to install mooring buoys at the popular dive sites to protect our reef from anchor damage. The first one that Splash Dive Center sponsored is at Laughing Bird Caye (National Park and World Heritage Site) on the very popular and appealing dive site known as Coral Gardens. While Patty no longer has to time to go out to personally clean the barnacles from the buoy and the anchor line, she is still very committed to the objectives of PMM. Splash has provided the funds for a second buoy which is awaiting installation as soon as other buoy and buoy materials are in place. Splash Dive Center will continue to contribute to additional mooring buoys at popular dive sites in the Placencia area by providing funds, dive boat time, scuba tanks and manpower.
For many years Splash has organized a cleanup of Laughing Bird Caye National Park and has strongly participated in Placencia’s Whale Shark Day. These are now combined and again, Splash has taken the lead with the strong support of Southern Environmental Association to do the annual clean-up of Laughing Bird Caye. The words of Justino Mendez, SEA Outreach Officer express it well:
“Every year the Southern Environmental Association (SEA) in collaboration with SPLASH Dive Center host and coordinate an “Earth Day” event. This year under the theme “Mobilize the Earth: Living Green” “Sea-Splash” once again mobilized students from three community schools namely St. John’s Memorial Primary – Placencia, Independence High School – Independence and Nuestra Senora Primary School – Sagitun, who gave their all in making this event a success. Laughing Bird Caye National Park – World Heritage Site, co-managed by the Southern Environmental Association along with the Forest Department, was given an early mothers’ day gift, as 70 plus participants picked up a total of 45 drum size garbage bags of litter that was washed up on the beach. In plain sight, no one could have imagined that all that garbage was there, but as you dug deeper, the garbage emerged.
“Sea-Splash” ensured that students not only worked in picking up garbage, but also made it a learning experience for them, as Marco Suampul – gave them a presentation on “Marine Sea Turtles, Annelise on “Lion Fish” and Justino Mendez on “Coral Ecology” which made their visit to Laughing Bird Caye exciting and memorable. An excellent briefing was also done by head ranger Mr. Adolphos Molina Sr., which caught the attention of all participants.”
In addition to protecting the environment and reef, programs like this benefit the community and the attitude of the community to support sustainable tourism so that future generations will be able to enjoy the beauty of Placencia and environs.
In early 2011, a group of friends and Placencia business owners initiated a new organization called the Placencia Tourism Business Organization (PTBO), designed to help Belizean owned businesses and native sons survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive environment on the Placencia peninsula. While Ralph and Patty are not native sons, they were invited to participate as “founding fathers” of this new organization. Ralph and Patty were happy to support this initiative as these are the very people that give this peninsula its special character and charm. Some local businesses are doing well, many are just hanging on and the rate of unemployment and under-employment is high. New businesses that have easier access to capital and modern business techniques are moving into the peninsula. While investment and development are welcome, Belizeans from Placencia are concerned that this should not be at the expense of businesses that have been here for a long time or at the expense of native sons who are trying to establish viable businesses or provide services. Ralph and Patty helped by participating in the discussions and preparing the draft Articles and Memorandum of Association for regularization by a lawyer and paying for the legal fees to get this new organization registered. Splash also provided an office for the group and paid the power and water bill up to the end of 2012. The Placencia Tourism Business Organization (PTBO) mission/vision is to protect, promote and preserve the native business in Placencia Village by working hand in hand with native business to enhance their business, and promoting local tourism. Splash encourages its customers to use locally owned businesses.
To be the best and to provide superior service requires excellent employees. Splash continues to stress the importance of high quality service to our employees with regular informal performance reviews aimed at steadily increasing the performance standard. Feedback from customers both oral and by written questionnaires, on-line reviews, personal attendance on dive trips and “secret customer” reports all contribute to making this a meaningful and effective process. In addition, Splash provides in-house training to its employees. Besides providing on the job training on scuba equipment inspection and maintenance, our senior boat captain is charged with improving the standard of operations by our boat captains with the result that three of our boat captains achieved higher level licenses during 2012 and the standard for operating the boats has been raised. By the end of 2012, four employees had nearly completed the dive master program (with two of them not having had any prior scuba qualifications), six employees had completed two or more scuba speciality courses and three employees were working on becoming licenced tour guides. During 2013, we expect that four employees will complete their dive master training and along with five of our current dive masters, will take the PADI scuba diver instructor course (this will be taught in house as Patty is a PADI course director so is one of two Belizeans qualified to teach at this level). Splash wishes all of its dive masters to reach the instructor level as personnel at this level have a greater understanding of the scuba diving business and tend to be more professional. During 2013 we will also provide formal sales training to our employees, both office staff and dive crews. We will also conduct formal risk management courses for our dive crews based on PADI materials and experience – this is extremely important not only from a risk management point of view but it is a vital tool to ensure customer safety.
Splash has made considerable and strategic investments in our dive center, our “downtown” Placencia booking office, boats, air conditioned vehicles, rental scuba equipment and air fill station operation. Our dive center is spacious and welcoming with an appealing retail display with the full range of scuba and snorkel equipment, comfortable reception section, spacious waiting areas alongside the dock or under one of the cozy palapas. Splash boats are either new or refurbished and well maintained projecting a very professional image. They are fully equipped with all the required safety equipment including VHS radios, first aid and oxygen kits, clean life jackets, and compass and GPS systems. It should be noted that Splash made major strategic investments in boats, facilities, store inventory, employee training, and vehicles as well as in marketing even through the recent downturn in the economy so as to be well positioned for the economic recovery.
Splash has been recognized by peer organizations in the diving and tourism businesses.
In 2012, Scuba Diver Magazine named Patricia Ramirez as a Sea Hero. Her interview can be found in Appendix III or at http://www.scubadiving.com/article/news/sea-heroes-patricia-ramirez-june-2012.
Patty has been recognized on two occasions by PADI, the premier organization in scuba diving, receiving Certificates of Recognition for Outstanding Customer Service & Scuba Instruction.
The Belize Hotel Association named Splash Dive Center as the best Associate Member of the BHA in 2011.
In 2010 Continental Airlines included Splash Dive Center in Belize as one of five recommended dive destinations in the world.
Splash wants to teach the world about the beauty of Belize and the need to protect and preserve this special place on Planet Earth. We and our employees will encourage our customers to become ambassadors for Belize and to share their enthusiasm with all.