Last month our team visited our valuable dive centre teams & boats, in preparation for another exciting season of scuba diving at the Similan Islands, including Richelieu Rock & the Surin Islands. Although we visit several times every season, this year we chose to go down before things got busy, enabling us more time with the people with whom we work closely during season, and to give us more time & opportunity to step foot on the boats. As usual, we met with as many dive centre owners, managers & staff as possible and shared ideas & plans for the upcoming season. All in all, it was a very productive few days that we feel will greatly benefit everyone (especially our diving guests) in the coming months.
Where did we go?
We only went to Khao Lak, although we also plan to visit our Phuket liveaboard operators in the near future. Flying from Bangkok to Phuket, and transporting free t-shirts, dry bags and towels, we landed at Phuket airport on time, and found our taxi team waiting for us. The one-hour drive from Phuket to Khao Lak was smooth & comfortable in a Toyota Camry. But the first leg of the journey from the office in Bangkok to Don Meaung Airport (DMK) took much longer than expected due to heavily-congested roads, even on the tollways. Luckily, drivers of both taxis were calm, polite, safe & smooth.
When did we go?
We went to Khao Lak for three full days & nights. Unlike in past seasons when we visited Khao Lak during the diving season, this year we decided to go in September. This enabled us to spend more valuable time with the team who we work closely with for most of the year. Instead of them (and us) being busy with and distracted by our customers, we had much more time to properly discuss important topics, and to share ideas. Also, during the season most of the boats are operating out at sea, meaning that we can’t get on board to properly check everything from cabins to engines. Going in September enabled us to step on board many boats, both in the water and in dry dock at Tab Lamu Pier.
Why did we go?
We feel that it is vital for us to establish & maintain excellent relationships with all of the dive centres with whom we deal on our guests’ behalf. Although we already know them all well after many years working together, each season some new staff join or move from one operator to another. The main purpose of the trips is for business, but we also feel that it’s important to enjoy it socially as well. We met nearly all of our dive centres’ teams for dinner & some drinks. We feel that it’s important to show our appreciation for their hard work, and this has a direct & positive effect during the season. We really do feel that we are the ‘favourite agent’ for most of our teams in Khao Lak.
What did we do?
As already mentioned, we got onto as many boats as we could. We like to see how the preparations are going and what has changed. It’s a shame that many of the boats are not photogenic at this stage, because they’re being worked on. For example nearly every boat is painted, updated or undergoing annual maintenance. We were unable to get ‘nice pictures’ of cabins & communal areas, but it’s always nice for us to get a feel for what we’re selling. For sure, no other agents do what we do, especially the international online agents who advertise to be top of Google. It appears that they care about other things.
We discussed plans for the new season, including price changes, cabin changes (several boats are adding more private bathrooms, for example), and strategies for how to best serve our mutual guests.
By the end of our trip to Khao Lak’s dive centres and harbour, we had achieved more than we expected. Nearly all of the owners, managers & staff are cautiously optimistic for the upcoming season. There will be several challenges, but together we will face them head on and, as always, customer service & safety is our main priority. It’s maybe a shame that other agents don’t invest the time & money in visiting the dive centres and boats. We know that there are several agents in Khao Lak, but because they are based there they don’t make an effort like this. Also, the big agents who offer trips around the world never visit Khao Lak or the boats. Some of them don’t even come to Thailand! Therefore, we feel proud to have made this trip and we know that it has direct benefits to us, the dive centres, and most importantly to our valued guests who want to come to enjoy some of the best diving in the world!