“In Support of Local Diving”
No other topic in the diving community has received as much lip service as “Local Diving” in the past thirty years. I think it all started when the great baby-boom generation graduated from college and got full time jobs. We had more money to spend on diving but yet less time to actually go diving. Weekends were now reserved for mowing the lawn and raising a family. The local quarry, river or lake was no match for the allure of exotic tropical diving resorts that we read about in Skin Diver Magazine. For those of us who continued to teach diving, we became numb with fifteen foot check-out dives at the same local beach, week after week after exhausting week. So when it came time for our well deserved annual vacation we headed straight for Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, Palau and Truck Lagoon instead of the local quarry or beach.
Fast forward thirty years and we are still talking about the decline of local diving and the advancing age of the diving population. But here is something we never considered – all diving is local diving, and we take it for granted. When I lived in California, my Naval Reserve Diving Unit flew to Hawaii every year for our annual active duty. I can tell you from personal experience how frustrating it was trying to get my fellow Navy Divers stationed in Hawaii to go diving with us on the weekend. They had been in the water five days a week and were looking for something else to do on the weekend. We Californians couldn’t think of a better place to be on Saturday and Sunday then in that clear, warm Hawaiian Waters.
Aside from the fact that there is amazing diving all around the world, local diving is what gets us into diving and keeps us diving. Part of the problem, of course, is that the travel industry spends a ton of money advertising their businesses. They have sophisticated marketing budgets designed to capture your one week annual vacation. And with the baby-boomers retiring, 52 weeks if they could afford it! That’s a lot of discretionary income. The other problem we have is the exact opposite of one sector spending a ton of money on advertising. The businesses that have the most to gain from local diving are not spending anything on advertising! Dive Equipment Manufacturers, Dive Boat Operators, Dive Centers, Dive Clubs, Scuba Instructors and Certification Agencies all have the potential for financial gain by promoting local diving. In fact, how well we promote local diving in the next ten years will determine if the industry will survive or fail.
What we’ve learned: I’ve been a certified Diver for 48 years and have worked full time in the industry for 34 years now. As an industry, we’ve learned a number of things about the diving community. It’s a tightly knit group of adventurous, outgoing and independent people. The majority of us got involved in the recreation and then the industry early in our career inspired by Sea Hunt, Jacques Cousteau or one of our close friends who was a diver. Before Jacques Cousteau and Skin Diver Magazine there was no Dive Travel Industry to speak of. Everything was about local diving – the shops, the clubs, the dive sites. NAUI had a local Branch System that created and maintained a local diving community that has never since been equaled. Diving Instructors were strong opinion leaders in the community and made excellent Ambassadors for the recreation.
The birth of the “National Diving Industry” in the 1960’s and has given us more opportunities for expansion and recognition while at the same time eroding our roots and humble beginnings. It has taken the spotlight off of local diving (our strength and origin) in search of something more exotic and meaningful. The good news is that the pendulum is swinging back to our local roots. In the age of Social Media, which is anything but social, we are noticing that the strength of our industry is still deeply rooted in our local divers. Our Retail Dive Centers are still the epicenter of activity in our diving communities. Local Scuba Instructors are still the respected Opinion Leaders of our Industry. Hundreds, maybe thousands of Dive Operators are the relentless guides to our weekend dives. We dive more when prompted by these Opinion Leaders.
What has changed in the mix is the emergence of new Local Diving Champions. At the top of my list is Industry Influencer Rick Stratton, Editor and Publisher of Scuba & H2O Adventure. Through his company, the Dive News Network, Rick was the first person in the industry to report national diving news by regions. Starting with Northwest Dive News and then Northeast Dive News, Rick continued with Midwest Dive News, Southeast Dive News and Southwest Dive News. The transition of the regional magazine concept continued until the publication recently became Scuba & H2O Adventure; a national publication divided into regional sections.
The Solution: The Dive Industry Foundation, The Dive Industry Association and the Dive News Network have agreed to partner on a campaign to promote Local Diving. We call it OPERATION: DIVE LOCAL. The scope of the campaign focuses on Local Diving promoted by Local Ambassadors. The heart of the promotion will be the formation of Local Chapters consisting of Ambassadors, Volunteers, Sponsors, Donors, Advertisers and “Friends of the Industry.” The promotion of activities will center around local chapters that are part of a Regional Territory. Regions in and around the United States are defined as Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest, Midwest, South Central, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean.
Partnerships: Regional Summit Conferences are being planned to coincide with Regional Dive Shows such as Beneath The Sea, Our World-Underwater and the Scuba & H2O Adventure Show in Seattle, WA, to name a few.
Promotion: OPERATION: DIVE LOCAL is looking for Industry & Media Partners to promote local diving activity. Dive News Network has already offered its support. Regional News will be carried by Scuba & H2O Adventure Magazine and its Social Media Outlets. The Dive Industry Foundation is giving OPERATION: DIVE LOCAL space on its blog web site at www.diveindustry.org
Funding: Sponsorship and Donation arrangements may be made with Dive Industry Foundation on their web site at ww.diveindustry.org/donate via PayPal or Square.
For more information contact:
Gene Muchanski, Executive Director, Dive Industry Foundation