Why We Use Dive Travel Wholesalers

Why it’s Better To Use A Dive Travel Wholesaler For Your Group Bookings.
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional

Arranging dive travel for individuals or groups has changed dramatically in the past year.  The covid-19 pandemic decimated the travel industry which is the number one revenue generator of the recreational scuba diving industry.   People learn to dive and buy diving equipment so they can travel to exotic dive destinations and enjoy scuba diving.  It only takes one or two dive trips to get hooked on the concept of diving beautiful and unique dive destinations around the world.  So without dive travel generating the desire and need to dive, I’m afraid the sale of diving equipment, training, and travel will suffer in the next 2-3 years without some pretty serious considerations and necessary paradigm shifts.  To combat our current challenges with dive travel, let’s look at how today’s Dive Travel Specialist books individual or group trips, compared to how they did it before the pandemic.

Becoming a Dive Travel Specialist is a natural extension for individuals who are active Dive Industry Professionals and know a lot of people who are interested in diving and dive travel.  They build a large, inner “circle of influence” by teaching diving, working in a dive store or dive operation, belonging to a club, or becoming extremely recognizable in their local diving community for their dives, photos, videos or seminars.  We call them Opinion Leaders or Diving Influencers.  For them, putting together a group of 10 people or more is an easy task.  But like making the transition from active Diver to Instructor, there is a lot to learn about making the transition from active Diver to Dive Travel Specialist.

A Dive Travel Specialist, first of all, needs to be a people person.  They have to be the type of person that other divers want to be with on a vacation.  Secondly, they need to understand the various options in the dive travel market.  Do they prefer Dive Resorts that have their own Dive Operation?  How about Resorts and Hotels that contract with local Dive Operators?  Maybe Liveaboards are more to their taste?  Either way, with just these three options there are over 1,000 Dive Destinations in our database that we are familiar with.  If you are the person putting together a trip, how do you get the scoop on which resort or liveaboard is best for you and your group?  I hope you’re not going to say that you read about them online or in a magazine article (that was really a paid advertisement).  I hope you are choosing your dive destination because of a personal relationship you have with the owners and/or managers of the destination, based on their good history and reputation.

Once you choose your dive destination, you have to be skilled at getting there.  Planes, Trains, Boats and Automobiles.  Most of the time we choose airfare.  How are airline reservations working out for you now?  Getting a group of 10 or more to a distant destination from a multitude of departure points, using different airlines, is equivalent to herding cats.  And now with covid testing requirements within 72 hours before leaving home and before departing the destination, it makes it even more complicated.

The last thing a group leader has to worry about is what do you and your group do during your vacation?  Dive, Dive, Dive?  Or do you mix in some relaxing, sight seeing, dinners away from the resort, and shopping.  Whatever your group is into, I hope you do your research on the destination and know what is available.

There is so much to learn about running a trip and having the up-to-date information on each destination you visit.  There is no logical reason why a person would want to run a trip all by themselves.  And now that we have so much uncertainty and risk involved with travel, thanks to the ongoing pandemic challenges, Group Leaders are turning to Dive Travel Wholesalers.

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People are still traveling during this pandemic.  Granted, it’s difficult to plan and you have to be flexible with last minute changes, but if you understand the market and keep current with local, national and global pandemic restrictions, it can be done.  Of course, making it your full time job to understand the entire scope of current dive travel will never be worth your time and effort if you are just running a few trips in a year’s time.  Thank God there is an easy solution.  Use a Professional Dive Travel Wholesaler.

There are so many reason to use Dive Travel Wholesalers when you are leading a group of 10 or more divers and you want a seamless vacation without any hiccups.  Believe me, if you have a multitude of problems on your first trip, no one is going to want to travel with you anymore or return to the resort you selected.  In order to run a successful group trip, regardless of your travel experience, you need to partner with dive industry professionals who have done dive travel before and learned along the way.

We asked six experienced Dive Travel Wholesaler Professionals to tell us the most important reasons why divers and group leaders should use a Dive Travel Wholesaler to help plan their trips.  We were also curious to know what the specific wholesalers did for their customers that was unique.  There was a common theme among our six wholesalers.  All of them commented that knowledge, experience, industry contacts and long-term relationship building were key elements that were common to all successful Dive Travel Wholesalers.  All of our wholesalers have years of travel education and continuing education behind them.  They know their profession and they know the travel industry.  These wholesalers each have 20-40 years experience in the dive travel business.  You tend to learn a lot and pick up a few tricks along the way in that many years.  Through personal contact, trade shows, travel shows, familiarization trips and business meetings, these Dive Travel Specialists know who the Airlines, Resort Destinations, Liveaboards and Dive Operators are.  By actually visiting their contacts, they also know who the good ones are!  By maintaining ongoing business relationships with these travel providers over the years, our Dive Travel Wholesalers have direct, first hand knowledge with the people you are about to do business with.  Maybe for your first time too.

We spoke with Steve Weaver, President of Dream Weaver Travel in Boulder, Colorado.  Not only is Steve a successful Dive Travel Wholesaler, he is a life-long dive store owner himself.   Steve relates well with his dive store customers because he has walked the walk, and talked the talk.  As a dive store owner who became a Dive Travel Wholesaler, he knows what his customers are looking for.  According to Steve, his highly experienced team of travel professionals have the expertise needed to help dive stores conduct a successful group trip.  They also have the marketing know-how their clients rely on them for.  Dream Weaver Travel prides itself on working with their retail clients on pricing issues, marketing the trip, pre-trip documentation and branding the trip thru the client store and not his travel company.  “Our goal is to make the dive store look good!”  Steve’s team has over 38 years of dive travel experience.  They can answer any questions about a destination, from the currency they use to what kind of electrical outlets they have.  They have been to each destination they represent and have personal relationships with the resort owners and operators.  When you arrive at your destination, having booked through Dream Weaver Travel, you are considered more as a friend than a customer.

Petra Hermes, President of Fly & Sea Dive Adventures, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada shared her year’s of experience in dive travel with a very detailed response.  Petra gave us a few pointers:  1) “Why should people use a travel wholesaler?  a) We are advocates for our clients with airlines, tour operators, resorts and liveaboards – before the trip, during the trip and after the trip.  b) We are a one-stop shop, from airfare (group air or everyone coming from a different gateway) to enroute hotels, insurance to dive operators, resorts, liveaboard and possible sightseeing add-ons.  c) Experience – this is what we do all day long, and have been doing for over 20 years.  d) Connections – we have great relationships with the vendors we represent.  2) What is one thing we do for our clients?  a) Detailed digital itineraries that include the latest travel updates and requirements. b) We also offer to do all the booking management, including payments from the individuals and collecting all their details.  c) We schedule, un-schedule, re-schedule, un-schedule, re-schedule… all your travel details as necessary.

We spoke with Olivia Rapisand, Operations Manager for Kids Sea Camp and Family Dive Adventures, Columbia SC and she was spot on with her reasons for using a Dive Travel Wholesaler.  Olivia says that Dive Travel Wholesalers keep up to date with health and travel regulations.  They maintain professional relationships with resorts, liveaboards and dive operators.  They are versed and updated on new travel protocols and new ways of traveling.  They excel at building  relationships and have the experience (in her company’s case, 30 years) to back them up.

Tom Peyton, Vice President of Family Dive Adventures, Columbia, SC followed up with a detailed answer as to why a group leader would use a Dive Travel Wholesaler.  Tom wrote, “One of the main reasons to use a travel wholesaler is the boots on the ground nature of a true travel expert.  The questions every client should ask before using a wholesaler are: 1) Will the wholesaler have a company representative be on the island with us?  2) Have you been to the destination you are selling?  3) How long have you been working with the resort?  4) Do you know the Owner, General Manager or the dive shop?

Tom and his company believe group leaders should be able to rely on the expertise of the group travel wholesaler to solve daily problems with the resort or dive shop from start to finish.  As a corporation, his company does not sell anything they have not experienced.  Their connections have many benefits for their clients.  Because of their strong B2B relationships with their Resorts, Liveaboards and Dive Operators, Family Dive Adventures Clients are going to be treated better and enjoy an excellent long-term quality client experience during the entire booking process and the actual adventure.  In the end, relationships matter.  From the client to the wholesaler.  From the wholesaler to the resort.  It really is as simple as that.

We spoke with Debbie Helms, President of Roatan Charter, in San Antonio, Florida.  Roatan Charter has the knowledge, experience, and the connections to tailor the vacation that is perfect for you.  For over 30 years, Debbie has arranged dive trips for individuals and groups to destinations in Roatan & Honduras, the Caribbean & Mexico, Central America, and throughout Asia, Indonesia, and the South Pacific.  Your Roatan Charter Travel Adviser is there to make all the right things happen.

Debbie and her staff at Roatan Charter are in high demand because of her knowledge and experience in the travel industry and her relentless, detailed service before the trip, during the trip and immediately afterward.  Roatan Charter teaches their Retail Group Organizers how to create a long-term travel plan to minimize travel costs and maximize excellent travel results for you and your group.  Debbie is always keeping abreast of covid testing and  vaccination protocols and requirements.  She is a master at air carrier knowledge and the current ins and outs of air travel reservations.  Speaking from personal experience, I can say that Debbie is a Wizard at re-booking trips and obtaining refunds for her clients.  Debbie is the type of person you can call at 5 am when your return flight home is cancelled and you are on the other side of the planet.

Teresa Cabading, President of Scuba Travel Ventures near San Diego, California summed it all up very well.  Teresa quoted,  “Why book with a wholesaler?  Vacation planning is fun, but most people find that booking flights, arranging transportation, and scheduling excursions can be very stressful and tedious, especially when you’re going abroad. We can handle all those little details for you so your whole trip is leisurely, from planning to execution.  You can spend 20 hours doing research on your own, or you can spend 20 minutes chatting with us, at no additional cost.”

For more information on becoming a Dive Travel Specialist or Group Travel Leader, contact Gene Muchanski at Dive Industry Association.  Phone: 321-914-3778.  email: gene@diveindustry.net

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About Gene Muchanski

Executive Director at Dive Industry Association. Board Member at Dive Industry Foundation. Marketing Consultant to the Diving Industry. I have been a certified Scuba Diver since I was 15 years old and have been a passionate waterman for as long as I can remember.
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