Earlier this month a group of NAUI Headquarters staff, NAUI Business Institute (NBI) participants and NAUI affiliates convened in the Florida Keys for a long weekend filled with diving, business development and fun.
Organized by NBI faculty, the Familiarization (FAM) Trip to the Florida Keys was developed to reinforce the NBI core course and webinar curriculum participants had been learning for the past several months. Another aim was to promote networking and business development among NAUI members and affiliates, including professional educators and dive destinations.
‘When NAUI members support NAUI businesses, it’s a win-win. We have a vibrant and growing NAUI network in the Keys and we wanted to highlight and support those businesses,’ said NAUI Director of Communications, Operations and Marketing Derik Crotts who is also an NBI faculty member.
The weekend began with a tour of the History of Diving Museum in Islamorada. The NBI group was greeted by the museum’s Executive Director Lisa Mongelia who shared the unique and treasured collection that draws over 16,000 annual visitors.
The museum is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational institution with the majority of its artifacts being provided through the generous support of its founders, Drs. Joe and Sally Bauer, who hold one of the largest collections of historic diving equipment and research documents in the world. The exhibits present the history of diving from a global perspective, but also highlight the special role that South Florida and the Florida Keys have played.
To show NAUI’s support of the museum, NAUI Executive Director Dallas Edmiston and Board of Directors Chair Dave Ochs presented Mongelia and her team with a $1,000 Iron Mike Sponsorship. With the sponsorship NAUI members and divers receive 25% off museum admission and NAUI is the official sponsor of two monthly ‘Immerse Yourself’ seminars hosted by the museum. To find out more about visiting or contributing to the History of Diving Museum, go to divingmuseum.org or call 305-664-9737.
After leaving the museum, it was time head a little farther down the Overseas Highway to meet up with new NAUI Affiliate Sun Sports Charter and Scuba for a two-tank dive, departing from Islamorada. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate, but Capt. Mike Major and his crew treated us to a picnic-style lunch and excellent hospitality nonetheless. If you’re in the area, definitely look into booking your next dives in the Upper Keys with Sun Sports Charters, visit sunsportscharter.com/ or call (305) 906-1206 and ask for Mike.
The next stop on the FAM tour was the Courtyard Marriott in Marathon, Florida. The convenient location, waterfront views, pool and amenities, as well as the service, did not disappoint. The handful of frequent Keys visitors in the group agreed that the accommodations were some of the best in the Keys – not to mention the reasonable group rate that was negotiated. In fact, as a result of the trip and business development opportunities presented, NAUI Worldwide is now working with Courtyard Marriott in Marathon to develop a special year-around NAUI Worldwide member rate. Stay tuned for more on this exciting new benefit of NAUI membership.
Afterwards, the group headed to a new and unique attraction called Aquarium Encounters, which is creating quite the buzz in the Florida Keys for divers and non-divers alike. Aquarium Encounters is all about getting up close and personal with marine life in a fun and meaningful way. The staff are also working hard to grow and diversify their visitor encounters options to include Try/Passport Scuba and increase the level of training for their dive leaders on staff, which include NAUI members. You can find out more at floridakeysaquariumencounters.com/.
After a nice dinner and good night’s sleep, the FAM team took a short drive up the road to Hall’s Diving Center and Career Institute. After reminiscing with some old friends and getting all squared away on gear in the Hall’s store, it was time to board their vessel for a two-tank dive on the nearby reefs, including Sombrero Reef which is part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Check out the extensive training and diving options offered by Hall’s at hallsdiving.com/.
NBI participants and staff wrapped up the afternoon with an informative and constructive discussion about organizing FAM trips and using dive travel to grow your business. This topic is just one of the many presented to NBI participants via webinar throughout the year. This discussion and others like it occurred throughout the weekend and added even more value to the overall experience.
The next morning, the team was up early and headed down Highway 1 to Key West for a two-tank dive on the Vandenberg wreck with NAUI Affiliate Captain’s Corner Dive Center. The Captain’s Corner crew was engaging and professional, the vessel was comfortable, and the diving was memorable. After returning to the dock, the options were endless for a well-deserved lunch. Some of the group then walked around downtown enjoying the quintessential sites of Key West. For more information or to book your dives, go to captainscorner.com/.
As the NBI group discovered, options for diving – especially on reefs and wrecks – are plentiful in the Florida Keys, as are non-diving excursions and tours that make the Keys a top destination for a variety of travelers. More memorable than the dives and tours and restaurants, however, were the opportunities for collaborating, learning, developing partnerships, supporting the Association, and nurturing a sense of community essential to NAUI’s continued growth and success.
Don’t miss out on your chance to join our NBI team for the next Core Course scheduled prior to DEMA Show 2017 on October 30 & 31 in Orlando, Florida. Find out more at naui.org/events/naui-business-institute-nbi-core-course/.