What does it take to own a five star Padi Dive Resort in Roatan?

Following my annual mountain bike race in Costa Rica and after spending a few adventurous weeks at both sides of Lake Nicaragua, I finally made it to Roatan (Bay Islands, Honduras).

As soon as I reached the island and got my stuff sorted out, I grabbed my Suunto D9 and Cobra 3 and rushed into the Dive Center, which five months earlier, have accepted my application to begin a PADI Dive Master course.

I was surprised when I found out that the Dive Center was part of a much bigger structure from a Resort called Bananarama.

It's been three weeks since I got here already. I have had the fortune to spend several hours with wonderful people at the resort, when I am not diving! Some of those people are two buddies who no matter how early I get to the resort, are already up and working hard. Despite the fact that they are always busy, greeting the resort staff and visitors seems to be one of their main priorities.

Guy St. Louis and Philip Clark who are managing partners at Bananarama, never look like they might run out of energy! So one afternoon, as the sun was setting after a cool diving day, I decided to learn a little bit more about them and their thinking behind a Diving Resort. This is a summary of our friendly discussion:

Guy and Phil, please tell me a bit more about Bananarama's past?

GUY:Five years ago, the Caribbean cruise where my family and I were spending holidays, made a stop in Roatan. I kind of felt claustrophobic with so many people around in the cruise, so we jumped into a taxi and ended up relaxing the entire day at West Bay, where Bananarama is located. My sun Louis spent some time with the owner at the time. Back at home, and about eight months after we first touched down Roatan, Louis persuaded me to 'own a business at the Caribbean'. We were lucky, and after gathering friends and family as investors and partners, we put an offer for Bananarama by the end of 2006.

After expanding our facilities by also purchasing the Vintage Pearl resort, we have now grown into a large family resort which can offer full services. We count with three bars, two restaurants, accommodation in apartments and villas, and a five star Padi Diving Center.

How important are the diving activities within the resort services?

GUY: Although we define ourselves as a diving resort, we provide a full service circle. Our customers can enjoy an entire living experience at the resort, from snorkeling, diving and kayaking, to night entertainment and comfortable accommodation.

Put it this way, as a customer in Bananarama, you will experience an evolution of what happens above and below the water while you stay in Roatan!

We have learned from recent surveys that at least sixty percent of our diving customers are recurrent customers who have either used some or all of our services in the past.

If diving services are such an important link in your business, how do you guys cooperate with Roatan Marine Park to protect and preserve the reefs?

PHIL: Our cooperation with the Marine Park is very good. We know we will be out of business if the reefs weren't there.

One of the first thing we did after buying Bananarama, was to re-do the entire sewage pipe system. The old one used to damp everything into the reef! We also purified the water and have installed rain water collectors.

Looking towards the future of our business, we want to become an Eco-friendly resort and promote those practices towards other resorts in West Bay. We estimate that the number of visitors arriving to Roatan will be four times bigger in ten years time. Therefore, you need to handle your business well if you want to be able to also handle the environment preservation.

Neither us nor our customers should feel that we are spending time in this beautiful place while we are screwing up the island.

In 15 days I will be back with Roatan underwater pictures, more Suunto news and an interview with Malcolm Forrest, Bananarama's dive centre manager. For more info, check
See you guys!!

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