$1 million proposed for dive promotion in 2015-16

Efforts to lure more divers to Florida Keys reefs and wrecks could get a $300,000 boost under a draft spending plan reaching the Monroe County Tourist Development Council on Tuesday.

A tentative $1 million budget has been proposed for the TDC's Dive Umbrella spending in the 2015-16 fiscal year, said Harold Wheeler, TDC executive director. About $900,000 of that is earmarked for various advertising and media efforts, Wheeler said Monday. 

"The Dive Umbrella promotes all the Keys as one diving destination," Wheeler said.

Unlike the TDC's Cultural Umbrella and Fishing Umbrella groups, the Dive Umbrella does not sponsor specific events in the Keys or allocate money according to the county's five regional districts.

Two of the Dive Umbrella's programs -- called the Wreck Trek and Reef Explorer -- encourage divers to visit spots in each of the districts from Key Largo to Key West, said Cece Roycroft, chair of the Dive Umbrella group.

"The dive industry does a lot more cooperative advertising" with support from local operators and hotels, Roycroft said. "That lets us spread our reach much further than the other [umbrella] groups."

The remaining $100,000 in the proposed TDC diving-specific budget goes toward Keys appearances at major domestic and international dive-travel shows, supplemented with booths by Keys dive operations.

Those include the Beneath the Sea show in New Jersey and the Our World Underwater show in Chicago, along with a United Kingdom dive show in Birmingham. "The Keys typically have about three to six booths per show," Roycroft said.

The 2015-16 TDC Media Plan that identifies specific promotional spending on advertising is still being written.

In the current 2014-2015 year, the Dive Umbrella spent about $625,000 on various advertising campaigns.

"We're looking at more TV, digital and mobile, as well as the various dive magazines," Roycroft said.

The Keys Association of Dive Operators nominates members of the Dive Umbrella.

A $1 million budget has been allocated for the Fishing Umbrella, with $1.2 million for the Cultural Umbrella.

The draft umbrella-group budgets will be reviewed at a 10 a.m. Tuesday meeting at the Pier House Resort on Lower Duval Street in Key West, during a look at the TDC's overall spending plan for the new year.

The Monroe County Commission has the final say on the TDC budget.