Building A Local Diving Community –
by Gene Muchanski
Editor, The Dive Industry Professional
A local diving community consists of all Recreational Divers and Dive Industry Professionals in a given geographic territory. At the center of every local diving community is a group of Retail Dive Centers. Retailers serve the industry as the market creators, market ambassadors, and market maintainers. The front line ambassadors of a local market are dive instructors, dive stores, dive travel specialists and dive clubs. Their purpose is to create a market for the industry, maintain that market and grow the recreation. Every Dive Industry Professional should know that the number one mission of the diving industry should be to: 1) Teach people to dive 2) Sell them diving equipment 3) Take them diving and 4) Keep them active in the recreation. Dive instructors create the market by teaching people how to dive. Retail Dive Centers sell diving equipment to get people in the water. Tour Operators and Dive Travel Specialists take people diving, both locally and internationally. Dive Clubs, Event Producers and Media companies keep people active in the recreation. So to build an active local diving community, it requires that every dive industry professional do their part in the creating, maintaining and growing their own community or market.
What was lacking in the 20th Century Plan to grow our recreation was a logical reason why we were building a local diving community in the first place. As early scuba diving enthusiasts we wanted to share our love of the recreation with our family, friends and neighbors. We were all caught up in the short term gratification of getting people to try scuba diving. There was never a long term plan to get people to become scuba divers. Somehow the faulty logic that scuba diving was cool but it was so expensive got into our industry DNA. We believed it and passed it on to our students, who became scuba instructors and passed it on to their students. We still hear that illogical argument today. Today – in a world where there are more million dollar boats than scuba instructors. Stores that sell more $100,000 Automobiles, $30,000 Motorcycles, $15,000 Watches, $10,000 Computers, and $500 Sneakers than we sell scuba diving equipment! Enough with the minimum wage mentality. Scuba Diving, like any other recreation, has a certain cost to it. People today are smart enough to understand the cost – benefit – value of any recreational option. Let’s help our customers reach a personal purchasing decision that is right for them and give them a sufficient number of buying options to help them become the divers they want to be.
In the 21st Century we need to focus on teaching people to dive, selling them the diving equipment they need, want and can afford, taking them diving and keeping them active. We need to think about creating a local diving community around us like we did in the last century but this time we also need to think of it as building a market for the things we sell. Things that help people become scuba divers, go scuba diving and stay active as scuba divers. We also need to remind ourselves that after we build a market for our programs, products and services that we don’t lose or not follow-up on that market.
The economic engine for growth in our industry is centered around the sales of diving equipment, training and travel. The Retail Dive Center is the heartbeat of the industry because they specialize in the sale of these three categories and they do all four things necessary to create, grow and succeed in the market. In doing that, each store builds a circle of influence around them that perpetuates the recreation. If they are as enthusiastic about sharing diving with others as they are about diving itself, their store becomes the glue that holds their local diving community together. That is the sole reason we start with local dive stores when we attempt to build and support a local diving community.
Dive Industry Association has a plan. As a Trade Association that focuses on the business of diving issues for the industry, our mission is to create a sustainable diving industry by bringing buyers and sellers together. Our first step is to create Local Diving Communities Worldwide. We created a strategic plan, a manifesto so-to-speak, that covers the scope of the project as well as the breakdown of actionable items that will help us achieve our desired outcomes in a logical and organized manner.
We started by verifying all of the Retail Dive Centers in the United States that we have contact information for. Over 1,800 postcards were mailed to these stores at the beginning of April. As we receive notification of bad addresses and change of addresses, we follow up with a phone call to the store or by checking out their websites. Either way, at the end of the campaign we should have a good base of stores to begin with. Each week we will be following-up with all the dive stores in one state. We’ll ask the current retailers to look at our list of stores in their state to see if they can verify their fellow retailers. We are also looking to add any contact information we currently don’t have, like store owners and managers, phone numbers and email addresses. When each state is finished, we will have a core group of dive stores in each state to begin building a Regional Dive Community. A map of our proposed Regional Diving Communities are listed on our website at www.divelocal.org In the United States we have active diving communities in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Bahamas & Caribbean, North Central, South Central, Northwest, Southwest and Pacific. States that are included in these regions are listed on the website.
Our first state to follow-up on after our mailing is Alaska. The State of Alaska is part of the Northwest Region of the United States. We currently have 17 dive stores in the state that accounts for 1% of the 1804 dive stores in the US. The Northwest Region has 127 dive stores, accounting for 7% of the total dive stores in the US. Our follow-up of the Alaska Dive Stores will include speaking to manufacturing sales reps in the region and dive equipment companies who have these stores as their Dealers. Since our mission is to bring Buyers & Sellers together in the diving industry, it should be a very positive issue with the local Dive Stores, Sales Reps and Manufacturers to have a complete and accurate contact information listing of all the dive stores in the area. As you can see by the postcard text, the Dive Industry Association is inviting each Retail Dive Center to become a member of the Dive Industry Retail Association, which is a part of the Dive Industry Association. The purpose, focus and mission of the Retail Association is to create a local market for our member stores and work to maintain and grow these markets.
In the coming months we will add all of the other Dive Industry Professionals to their respective local diving community. In an orderly fashion, we will next add Training Agencies and their Regional Sales Reps. After that will be the dive travel sector with their Local Dive Operators, Liveaboards, and Dive Travel Specialists. There are many other Dive Industry Professional Groups we have plans for, but we can discuss that at a later time. The ultimate goal is to add certified divers to each regional dive community to complete the process. At that point we will have created a local diving community of buyers and sellers who have learned to dive, bought their equipment, gone diving and stayed active in the recreation.
If you think we are on the right track with this DIVE LOCAL program, please contact Gene Muchanski to offer your assistance and support.
Dive Industry Association, Inc.
Gene Muchanski, Executive Director