The Business of Diving – Post COVID19 –
by Gene Muchanski
Editor, The Dive Industry Professional
We all start out in diving for different reasons; recreation, hobby, job related requirement, collateral duty in the military, or professional career. This article narrows the focus to the recreational side of diving. The Global Recreational Diving Community is made up of Recreational Divers and Dive Industry Professionals. Recreational Divers, also known as sport divers, dive for the fun of it. They get certified, buy or rent their gear and go diving. Many stay active but many drop out shortly after their initial training with just a few dives under their belt. In order to grow the recreational diving industry, we need to make scuba diving more appealing so that more people will want to learn to dive, buy their gear, go diving and stay active in the recreational for a long time. In the post COVID-19 business model, I think it’s time to focus on creating more recreational divers and not necessarily more Dive Industry Professionals. Let me explain why.
When I started diving in 1967 there were not many divers around and fewer instructors. As a 15 year old high school student I think there were 2 divers in my high school of 1,200 students. So we started a scuba club and I got certified after a long search to find a scuba instructor to take lessons from. Now there were 3 divers in our High School and then I found out that the other two divers were never certified. They just bought their gear and started diving. As a certified diver I joined the City Civil Defense Dive Team and started to teach other people how to dive. I even got a chance to dive with the local Police Department and the local ATF Office. Not bad for a 15 year old.
After three years of teaching my friends to dive I tried to sign up for a NAUI Instructor Course because that was the next level of certification after Basic Scuba. The closest Instructor Course was in Massachusetts, run by Fred Calhoun, who unfortunately told me I was too young and to come back in 3 more years. It seemed that more people wanted to dive then there were Instructors to teach them. It didn’t take the certification agencies long to realize they needed to increase the number of instructor courses they offered.
As the number of scuba instructors grew, so did the number of certification agencies. Each agency designed and developed more types of diving courses their instructors could teach. Before you knew it, our recreational community had tens of thousands of Divemasters, Assistant Instructors and Instructors who achieved their level of diver education with little or no intention of becoming a Dive Industry Professional. That is not a bad thing.
In the Post COVID-19 era of our recreation, I believe we need to distinguish the difference between a well educated and experienced sport diver who dives for enjoyment and a sport diver who becomes a part time or full time Dive Industry Business Professional. Not every dive instructor ever certified currently teaches diving or trades their skills for compensation. There is nothing wrong with becoming an Instructor and then not monetizing that level of expertise. Although I believe that becoming an Instructor is no longer the required “ticket to punch” to get a job in the diving industry. Teaching yes but diving business no. What we need to do in this new normal economy is to promote the diving instructors who are actively teaching classes and want the general public to know they are ready and willing to teach scuba diving classes.
I want to reiterate that our focus is not on the word “professional”, it’s on the word “business.” Regardless of your level of diving skill achieved, only diving instructors who are working part time or full time need to advertise and market their intentions. The Diving Industry’s business community needs to help working instructors teach dive classes. This can be in the form of student acquisition, classroom and pool access, scuba equipment rental or access, open water and referral assistance and dive resort travel compensation. The goal is to help them find, teach and certify new divers.
Another thing the diving industry needs to be doing better is treating divers who have achieved high levels of certification like the professionals they are, even if they are not monetizing their skills. Many of them are active divers, opinion leaders and industry influencers. If they are actively getting divers to go diving or stay active in the recreation, they should be courted. Not for their influence but for their ability to convert influence into sales for you.
So how do you identify who is actively teaching classes, selling gear, taking people diving and keeping them active in the recreation? You become part of a network group that specializes in data acquisition, customer relationships, database management and marketing communication. You aline yourself with an organization that excels in bringing Buyers & Sellers together because that is how you get more referrals, more business opportunities and more sales. You need to become part of a network that takes the business of diving seriously.
For more information, contact Gene Muchanski, Dive Industry Association, at firstname.lastname@example.org