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Interview with Javier Ibran, CEO of Dressel Divers

It feels like it was just yesterday when Javier Ibran opened Dressel Divers’ first dive center in Bavaro (Dominican Republic). But it wasn’t yesterday, it was a whopping 30 years ago.

We were very curious to learn more about the beginnings of the company. That’s why we sat down with Javier to hear about how Dressel Divers started, how he and his wife embarked on this adventure, and ultimately, to hear about the best and worst moments of a lifetime dedicated to diving.

From being a police officer in Spain to becoming an entrepreneur, Javier Ibrán is a self-made man. He is a pioneer in the Caribbean diving industry who, alongside his wife Marisa, left everything behind, packed their bags, and landed in Punta Cana to fulfill a dream: to build a brand that stands for safe and high-quality diving.

Dressel Divers Javier interview

The boss arrives on time. “Good morning!” he says loudly while greeting each member of the office staff one by one. He knows them by name. Finally, it’s my turn. “How are you, Teresa?” He asks me. He’s tanned but looks tired. “I arrived from Mexico last night. You have to stay vigilant to ensure everything is in order and functioning properly!” He exclaims and bursts into a hearty laugh as he sits down.

CHAPTER 1 Before Dressel Divers

QUESTION: Dressel Divers is celebrating its 30th anniversary. What did Javier Ibrán do before Dressel Divers to make a living?

ANSWER: I was in the Civil Guard, a branch of the Army responsible for police tasks. I joined when I was 17 years old and was considered the “kid.” I still have very good friends in it. I don’t think there are any active members from my time, but I keep in touch with the current ones, and I consider them among my best friends, which says a lot since it’s not easy to find good friends.

Q: Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?

A: Yes, but as I mentioned, I was very young when I joined the Civil Guard. I was aware that I needed to do something productive while figuring out what I wanted to do in life.

Q: How did the opportunity or idea to create Dressel Divers come about?

A: I was introduced to Mr. Pujol, who at that time was the General Manager of Iberostar Hotels. They were opening their first hotel outside of Spain, in the Dominican Republic, specifically in Bavaro, and he offered me the opportunity: “Would you dare to establish the diving activities for our hotel?” he said. They wanted to offer diving to their guests, but they wanted to do it right. They were genuinely concerned about ensuring the safety of their guests in such activities. It turns out they approached me because the Mallorcan businessman who introduced us and knew me well, confirmed that I am a very trustworthy man.

Q: Why do you think they trusted you to start this business? What did they see in you?

A: They saw my “seriousness.” That’s what we say in Spain about people you can trust and are honest. This is something I learned from my father: honesty. Additionally, they knew I was in the Civil Guard. I suppose that gave them a lot of confidence.

Regarding me, I promised them safety in the activities. They would have quality diving in their hotels, and if I promise something, I deliver always, no matter what it takes.

By doing things right and providing exceptional service, all the Iberostar executives saw that they could trust Dressel Divers. They didn’t hesitate to offer the new hotels they were inaugurating. We must have been doing something right, don’t you think?

Dressel Divers first boat
Dressel Divers first boat

CHAPTER 2: The Idea of Dressel Divers Emerges

Q: What were your values? How did you want your company to be?

A: I never really thought it would grow and create more Dive Centers. The ones I knew were in Spain. At that time, they usually had only one base, and it was rare to see anyone with more than one Dive Center.

I sought advice from some owners in Majorca, researched, and asked for quotes, and invoices, and truthfully, they were very honest and encouraged me with the project.

Then, the reality of the Caribbean came, and Iberostar was growing and counting on me to collaborate. I wanted the Iberostar brand to be identified with Dressel Divers and safe, high-quality scuba diving. I believe we have achieved that goal.

Q: How was the gestation period of Dressel Divers?

A: It was an adventure. Keep in mind that I was in the military, and due to my job, I couldn’t even fly to go see the place. I trusted all those who advised me to take the risk.

I explained it to Marisa, my wife. By the way, she had a much better and higher-paying job than mine, but she also got excited about the idea. Without her support, I wouldn’t have even considered it.

So, we sold the car, and some furniture, and set off with $20,000 in our pockets, not a dollar more. I took a leave of absence from the Civil Guard, and together, we embarked on a blind journey.

It seemed crazy, but I could always go back and continue working. We didn’t think too much about it. Let’s just say that Marisa and I loved the challenge. So, Marisa at the counter, attending to the customers, and me taking on the roles of Divemaster, Instructor, Handyman, and Tank-filler, we made a perfect team.

By the way, we brought “Milú,” our Fox Terrier. That was a condition I put to Iberostar if they wanted me to go. They told me that as long as he didn’t leave the Dive Center, it was allowed.


I wanted Iberostar to be identified with Dressel Divers and safe, high-quality scuba diving and we achieved that goal


Q: Did you have to do anything particularly creative to obtain the necessary resources?

A: Definitely. $20,000 doesn’t go a long way, but since only a portion of the hotel was operational, we rented boats and made do with a few equipment sets. Those $20,000 stretched quite a bit.

Then, the different phases started opening gradually, and we did what was necessary to serve all those guests. Of course, we were already generating revenue from day one, and absolutely everything, when I say everything, I mean everything, went into investment. That’s how it was for almost 17 years. Not a single dollar in our pockets, everything in the dive centers.

Q: Why did you name your company Dressel Divers?

A: LOL… Good question! I’ve been asked that hundreds of times.

Well, you see, I was leaving the office of the Lieutenant Colonel, whom I went to say goodbye to and start my leave of absence. I remember seeing a poster there. It displayed different amphorae, identified by name. Among all of them, certain amphorae in particular caught my attention: they were called Dressel. I thought that name fits well with Divers, and that’s how it stayed: Dressel Divers.

The truth is, Dressel is the surname of the German archaeologist Heinrich Dressel, who, during his excavations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, gave names to different types of amphoras. The Dressel amphoras came from ancient Hispania, now Spain.

Marisa and I liked both the character’s story and his name. Plus, it had a connection to us. We are Spanish, and I was actively involved in protecting underwater shipwrecks in the GEAS, which is the public safety diving unit of the Civil Guard. We had the task of protecting underwater archaeology from looting in Spanish waters, among many other responsibilities. The name seemed logical and catchy to us.

Years later, a German client told me that in Germany, Dressel is a very common surname, like “Garcia” in Spain. I didn’t know that, and it caught my attention. In fact, we’ve had many “Dressels” of German ancestry or native Germans as clients…

Dressel Divers 1st Dive Center and Milu
Dressel Divers 1st Dive Center and Milu

CHAPTER 3: Dressel Divers Was Born

Q: Where was the first dive center you opened?

A: Bavaro (Punta Cana), in three phases, as Iberostar opened their hotels.

Q: How were the early moments at Dressel Divers?

A: They were tough, very tough, both for Marisa and me.

I was in great shape, coming from a military unit of specialists where physical training was intense, so I could handle it all. In the first year, I did nearly 1,000 dives. I was the only instructor at the base, and we didn’t hire anyone until six months later. After finishing diving in the afternoon, if there was no night dive, I had to maintenance a compressor or inspect regulators. Marisa was in charge of PR and assisting with equipment. Sometimes, we didn’t even get four hours of sleep. Marisa insisted on helping me even during long nights. We remember it all with great affection, and without her, this project wouldn’t have been the same.

I should mention that every evening, we had to go look for the Fox Terrier, who would escape because he didn’t want to sleep at the Dive Center. Over time, I made a deal with the “guachimanes” (that’s what they call the hotel security guards there) to find him and leave him inside the Dive Center. They knew there was a guaranteed tip…

Once I had to search for him in the restaurant of the neighboring hotel, where he was having breakfast with the guests. You couldn’t miss him; he always showed up. All the hotels knew him; he was very friendly and an attraction for the guests. During the day, he wouldn’t leave the counter, but as soon as he sensed that we were about to close, he would disappear, and I had to ride a motorcycle to find him on the beach. I would honk, and he would get super excited. He would come running because he loved riding on the motorcycle, although it didn’t always work. The little motorcycle didn’t need to be moved more than 100 meters; He could hear it and would come back. He loved motorcycles since he was little; I always took him on the motorcycle with me. We also had a jet ski for the water sports, and there was no way to get him off of it. He could stay on it for hours, whether it was stationary or cruising, it didn’t matter.

Q: Did you ever consider giving up?

A: Never. I gave my word that I would make it work. Marisa and I have never regretted it.

Dressel Divers First Team
Dressel Divers' First Team

CHAPTER 4: Dressel Divers Grows

Q: How did the expansion of Dressel Divers begin?

A: We had been open for about a year when Iberostar, a Spanish hotel chain, held a management convention in Bavaro. As I mentioned, it was their first international experience, and they wanted to see how things were going.

The hotel’s Director asked me to organize a trip to Saona Island for them, and that’s exactly what I did. I treated them the same way I treated our regular clients. Everything went so smoothly that everyone was delighted.

Among the executives was Mr. Jose Antonio González, who was the Director of the Iberostar Cala Barca in Mallorca at the time. He was so impressed with the service I provided that he said to me, “Javier, I want you at my hotel in Mallorca.” And just like that, it became our second base.

As fate would have it, Mr. Gonzalez later became the General Manager of Iberostar for all of America, where they expanded year after year with new hotels. He welcomed me as part of his trusted team. Whenever they considered a new destination, he would ask for my opinion on creating a Water Sports Department there. That’s how we negotiated the setup of the new Dive Center.

I consider him a good friend now, but only since he retired from active duty at Iberostar, LOL!!. Before that, he was a tough nut to crack, although he always appreciated my honesty and commitment.

I also knew the owners, Don Miguel Fluxá and his daughters, who would dive with me when they came to America. They were teenagers back then. They always treated me very well, and they had a lot of affection for Marisa, who was the laid-back part of Dressel Divers. It’s hard not to fall in love with her, to be honest. So, everyone held her in high regard. Every time a family member, cousins, siblings, came, they had complete trust in me to personally take them scuba diving.

I have to thank all of them for trusting Dressel Divers and supporting us 110% without a single doubt for these past 30 years. I’m referring to both the Fluxá family and the Jose Antonio González family, as well as many other past and current executives whom I can’t name because it’s difficult to remember each and every one of them. Although I also maintain a personal friendship with many of them.

The truth is, with their trust and support, we opened more dive centers, and our little family of dive centers expanded in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Jamaica.


Looking back, all Dressel’s moments seem good due to the stories behind them

Enric & Antonio
Enric & Antonio

Q: It’s been 30 years, what has been the worst moment for Dressel?

A: The worst moment, without a doubt, was the Covid-19 pandemic. We had to make many sacrifices and protect jobs at all costs. If you’re serious, the first priority should be the people who work with you hand in hand.

I had never been in debt before (I’ve never liked it). Thanks to that, we were able to obtain financing, and Dressel Divers survived the pandemic. Even today, in 2023, we are still paying off the loans.

Yes, those were very tough times, but we dealt with them honestly, both with our employees and our clients. I’m very proud of how we managed to overcome it.

Q: What has been the best moment for Dressel Divers?

A: Dressel doesn’t have best moments for me. Today, looking back, all of them seem like good moments because there’s a story behind them.

It’s not just the story of Javier Ibrán. It’s the story of a team of people who have been with me for many years. They have been there, supported me, advised me, and helped me: Jochen, Steven, Jacobo, Víctor, Paul, Edouard, Marta (the longest-serving along with Steven); the Country Directors, the Base Managers… Those who are still here and others who are no longer with us, but who have built this with me. Looking back, there are many, and I can’t name them all, but as I remember them, I know that Dressel Divers is not just mine.

In addition to the very good friends at Iberostar. Their friendship is also part of those best moments.

I can’t forget the partners I had to call along the way when I needed financing. I’m referring to Paco Izquierdo and Carmen Pérez. Paco lent me my first wetsuit when I was 16 years old, about to join the Guardia Civil.

I believe, I have fulfilled my promises to all of them, and that’s also a best moment, having fulfilled them.

From day one until today, many things have happened, and I’m worried that I may have forgotten someone in this account, but Dressel Divers exists thanks to the contribution, work, and effort of many people. From here, I want to acknowledge them and thank them.

Guys, here’s to another 30 years! Ha ha ha ha… (The boss laughs heartily)

Q: What plans do you have for Dressel Divers?

A: We have some projects in mind, but they’re a secret. You’ll have to stay tuned to Dressel Divers’ emails and social media. When we can share, I promise I will let you know