The COVID-19 pandemic is still with us but thankfully, people are starting to travel again. I’m participating in a FAM Trip to Curacao in May and I’m all excited about getting back in the water. Ask Debbie Helms, at Roatan Charter about the Curacao FAM Trip. We are in the process of contacting Qualified Travel Buyers from our database of current Dive Stores and the ones that we kept in touch with during the pandemic will be the first ones on our list to contact. What about the others? Well, they didn’t keep in touch with us and I have no idea if they are still in business. Out of sight – Out of mind. Maybe even Out of Business! One of our Members has a FAM Trip going to the Maldives in September. We’ll do our best to contact active Dive Travel Buyers, but the same situation applies. Which ones are open for business? Which ones are booking trips again? It’s time to focus on the dive businesses that have stayed active during the pandemic and have kept in touch with their customers along the way. When you are advertising a FAM Trip to the Maldives that is so spectacular, you want to make sure you are offering it to the best of the best Dive Travel Specialists. Contact Mark Potter at www.massdiving.com for information about the Maldives FAM Trip.
The same concept applies for Dive Resorts and Liveaboards. Which ones are we booking and which ones are we doing FAM Trips for? You got it. The ones we’ve kept in contact with all along and have kept in contact with us. Now, I don’t want to sound harsh or vindictive. It’s human nature to do business with people that you know. People you like. And people you have a good working relationship with. When you are in the business of bringing Buyers and Sellers together, you owe it to both parties to hook up the best buyers to the best sellers. That’s the business we are in.
As you are easing back into the recreational dive business, we have some pointers that we’ve picked up from our Members. Let’s look at the sellers of Dive Equipment, Training and Travel.
Dive Equipment Manufacturers: Above all, know your vendors. Do you see any changes in their selling approach? Do they still adhere to the traditional “Channels of Distribution?” i.e. Manufacturer – Sales Rep – Retailer – Customer. Do they still support you or are they thinking about by-passing you and going directly to the final consumer? If they are still your supply channel partner, do they have sufficient inventory and adequate service and training? It’s time to renew your relationship with them and get your inventory up to speed.
Training Agency: How many Training Agencies are you paying dues to? It’s not about offering every certification from all 50+ Training Agencies anymore. It’s about offering your customers the best program that’s out there and cutting back on your expenses and marketing efforts. You can’t be all things to all people anymore. You have to choose what is best for you, your business and your customers. Look at your certification history and your training programs. Who do you need to do business with and who can you cut? Offer the best training that suites your needs and the needs of your customers and promote that.
Travel: Do you have a travel program? Remember that travel is a top motivator for people to learn to dive and buy their gear. As I said, my FAM Trip is 60 days away but I already sent our regulators in for service. I need two new full wetsuits and two wetsuit shorties. (I think I’ll try the new Hendersons). I need two new video lights and I think I’ll get a new hand held light for night dives. Would I have done that if I didn’t have a dive trip planned? Of course not. This trip is going to cost me more in new gear than in the FAM Trip costs.
If you are a Qualified Dive Travel Specialist, do you have a history and a good working relationship with any Dive Resorts or Liveaboards? Are you using a Dive Travel Wholesaler? Do you participate in FAM Trips to experience new Dive Resorts and Liveaboards or do you go back to the same old place, over and over again? Have you tied in your Equipment Sales and Specialty Training to your Dive Trips?
During the pandemic, have you kept in touch with your Dive Travel Wholesaler? How about your favorite Dive Resorts and Liveaboards? Have you contacted the Tourism Bureau for your favorite Islands or Dive Destinations? We always ask our Dive Operators if they let any of their staff go during the pandemic and what changes they might have made to their operation. We also like to know how “back to normal” they are. As you are planning your dive trips, please remember that resorts may have made changes to their resort, restaurant, and dive operation. Check it out before you plan another dive trip there. And if I haven’t said it enough, Use a Dive Travel Wholesaler. We have a list of them at www.diveindustrynews.net/dive-directory/
Post Pandemic Reconstruction: Dive Industry Association is here to help you get back in the game. We are recreating Local Diving Communities across the globe. We are putting the pieces back together to strengthen our Industry’s “Channels of Distribution.” We are bringing Buyers & Sellers together to help each other meet their needs. And most of all, we are keeping in touch with Dive Industry Professionals to help get them back into the water again and get them back into operating their business again.
For the average diver it’s all about learning to dive, buying their gear, going diving and staying active. Can you help them with that?