New Leaders of the Diving Industry –
by Gene Muchanski
Editor, The Dive Industry Professional
It’s taken thirty years to return full circle to recognizing the true Leaders of the Diving Industry. Of course it took an economic meltdown caused by a worldwide pandemic to make us realize that our recreation is dependent on Dive Industry Professionals who create and maintain our market by selling dive equipment, training and travel. Like in the game, Musical Chairs, when the music stopped in our industry, the only ones that found a seat were the the Dive Industry Professionals who had developed a solid customer base over the years. Customers they kept in contact with during the lock-down. Customers that will join them again when the market opens. Customers that will keep them in business while others are going out of business. These are the true leaders of the diving industry and it’s about time we gave them the recognition they have earned. Because without them, many of our big dive companies wouldn’t exist. That goes for equipment manufacturers, training agencies and travel companies.
So who are these unsung heroes that have managed to escape our eternal gratitude and recognition? Why it’s those Scuba Instructors who teach people how to dive. Dive Store Retailers who sell dive equipment to new divers so they can go diving. And Dive Travel Specialists who take those new divers on exciting diving adventurers, both locally and worldwide. These are the people who are responsible for creating the market we have for the programs, products and services we all sell. They maintain the market for us by acquiring, retaining and recapturing customers for all of us. And it’s because of them that our market and our recreation grows.
You might ask who benefits from all of their hard work. The Training Agencies sell a ton of certifications. Dive Equipment Manufacturers sell a lot of gear. Travel wouldn’t be the multi-trillion dollar industry it is without a reason to travel. Apparel companies, service businesses and non-profit organizations all benefit from a healthy market when economic times are good. And that’s a good thing. Many of the “Opinion Leaders” that we admire so much because of their films, photos and seminars would have no outlet for their craft if not for the divers that are created by hard working industry professionals.
It’s going to take a long time for the diving industry to catch up to where it was before the pandemic. And if I remember correctly, the market has been flat or declining for almost twenty years! I know hundreds of dive businesses that are praying to get back even a small percentage of that old declining market. To do that we need to adopt a plan that will put us back to work, doing what we do, by servicing our current customers.
Forget about trying to find new divers in this market at this time. The quickest way to get back on our feet is to reach out to our current customers and get them diving again. They are already trained and if we get them diving again, they’ll buy more gear or have their gear serviced. We’ll sell more dive gear and travel. Two out of three isn’t bad, considering the alternative. The two groups of industry professionals that should have a customer database are the dive instructors and retail dive stores.
As spelled out in our DIVE LOCAL website at www.divelocal.org we drew up local dive communities by geographical regions and states. We listed the dive stores that are open to the public and are teaching diving, selling gear and conducting travel. We added the Manufacturing Sales Reps who are in constant contact with their dealers and we added the dive equipment companies they work for. This forms the basis for our recreational recovery. As the dive stores reach out to their current customers and then to their former customers, the industry should start to improve. We can shift our focus to finding new customers after we get on our feet again. That will give the training agencies a chance to recover. Right now, the priority has to be on the “acres of diamonds” in our own back yards – our current customers.
The last thing I want to mention is that things are going to be different from this point onward. There has already been a shift in priorities in the business of diving in our recreation. Many Dive Shows have been cancelled. The DEMA Show was cancelled for the year. We can’t wait a year and a half before we meet with our customers or vendors again. There may not be the need for dive shows anymore if our recreation doesn’t recover. Right now, the industry is looking for dive leaders who will get their current customers back in the water and do the things they need to do to build their business. Maybe now is the time to learn more about databases and customer contacts than it is about what level of Instructor you are? This is not the time to spend money on building your resume or wishing you could be at a party impressing people with your qualifications (the qualifications that are giving you zero income right now). It’s time to roll our sleeves up and get to work producing results for our business or our employer’s business. It’s time to be a Producer – not a Player. Our recreation’s future is counting on you. Let’s get to work.
I hope you found this article at least thought provoking. It’s actually one article that didn’t just come off the top of my head. The basis of the article came from conversations with a number of industry leaders in our field. Leaders that are still running their businesses and actually doing better than most. It also is based on a number of observations we’ve shared among our peers in the industry. While many business leaders are confused or clueless in today’s economy, there are a number of you that are seeing a very bright silver lining in the dark clouds ahead of us. I know that you will do very well by altering your course to get your company to safe harbors. I am hoping to do the same. Here’s to a safe passage.