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.
- Amazing Adventure Travel
- Dream Weaver Travel
- Fly & Sea Dive Adventures
- Kids Sea Camp
- Roatan Charter, Inc.
- Scuba Travel Ventures
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Amazing Adventure Travel
- Dream Weaver Travel
- Fly & Sea Dive Adventures
- Kids Sea Camp
- Roatan Charter, Inc.
- Scuba Travel Ventures
Welcome to the New Year. Although none of us can predict how this year will unfold, I think it’s safe to say that it probably will not be as bad as last year. But you never know. During the pandemic lockdowns of 2020, many of us in the diving industry kept busy by doing some house cleaning. Old books, old papers, old files, that sort of thing. I came across a few old directories of scuba instructors published by NAUI, LA County, Women’s Scuba Association, and of course, the Dive Industry Association. I started to think about why there are so few if any directories still published. If you are a dues paying member of an association or organization, perhaps you should be wondering too. Are they hiding your contact information or just not supporting you?
A member driven association or organization is supposed to be in the business of promoting their members to the buying public so the member can sell more products or services and increase their revenue. If your organization isn’t increasing your revenue and merely selling you stuff, why do you belong to them and pay annual dues? It seems to me that many organizations do their best to hide your contact information so their competitors won’t be able to “steal their customers” away from them. In fact, some organizations just want to keep their dues paying members to themselves so only they can sell them more products. How in God’s name is that bringing you more business?
This year, hundreds of dive businesses will go out of business. The market has shrunk and the competition for reaching paying customers is increasing. Not only are Dive Industry Professionals getting smarter about reaching potential customers, they are getting smarter about paying dues to organizations that don’t do things that increase their revenue.
The Dive Industry Association publishes its Member Directory for a number of reasons. 1) It lets the worldwide diving community know who the sellers of equipment, training, travel and lifestyle products are. 2) It shows our community which diving companies support our Global Diving Network and the local diving communities they serve. 3) It is a central sources of dive businesses that are currently in business, complete with their continually verified contact information. 4) It creates a marketplace where Buyers & Sellers can meet to do business. Our Mission as a Trade Association is to help bring you more business that puts money in your pocket, not take it out.
I’ve had a number of discussions with dive industry professionals this year about directories and their purpose. Most agree that our Trade Directory is a great idea. We list our Members by industry or category and we list our travel members by category or country. We have a cross reference directory that lists our members by the products or services they sell. These are two directories that we can send to Divers all over the world, using our digital capability. We are even putting our directory back up on its website for the worldwide diving community to see and use.
I believe that directories are useful to both buyers and sellers. If you are in business to sell your products or services, you want people to know who you are and how to contact you. I agree that not everyone wants to be listed in a directory. I don’t want to be listed in the NAUI Member locator page of their website, because I am a Sustaining Lifetime Member and no longer teach scuba diving. But if I were an active Instructor looking for students, I would want to be easily located and contacted. The same thing goes for donors and sponsors. Some may want to be listed, some may not. Give them the option.
A few colleagues of mine have suggested that some member directories are not publicly available because the organizations have a practice of selling their member list. And who would pay for a listing if it’s available to the public for free? Good point. You have to remember that a list of unknowns is almost worthless. It’s the relationship behind the name that’s important. A good reason to create a list is to let people know who you serve, and who is worthy of your service.
So here are a few of our suggestions based on some input from the industry. Don’t think of a Member Directory as a listing of your Members. Think of it as a Buyers Guide that can be used by the buying public to acquire dive equipment, training, travel, and lifestyle products. Think of it as a guide to bring your Members more business. The more of your products they sell, the more of your products they will have to buy from you. Isn’t that what we all want? As far as Dealer Locators on websites are concerned, different types of businesses require different formats. Dive Stores may be well served if listed by zip code. People rarely travel more than 25 miles to take lessons or get their tanks filled. Dive Boat Operators may attract divers from hundred of miles away, if not more. People plan their boat trips based on where they want to dive, not where they live. Manufacturers have a national appeal. If you are looking for a Sales Rep, you need one that serves your state but may not live in it. Travel destinations command global promotion. If you want divers to dive the Maldives with you, you have to find a way to get your contact information to divers from all over the world.
What contact information should you include in a directory? Business name, city, state, country, phone number and website url. A contact name would be very helpful. I would avoid street addresses and email addresses. That information is only useful to people who are interested in list farming. Besides, complete contact information is usually listed on everyone’s website under “contact us.” The point is to create a list that is easily used and easy to update. It’s to help potential buyers find products and services from available sellers. In your case, the sellers should be your members and/or partners.
Is your business listed in our Directory? It should be. Contact Gene Muchanski at email@example.com or call 321-914-3778 for more details.
Dive Industry Association has been reorganizing the International Diving Community into Local Diving Communities for the past four years to establish industry norms and create a pathway for dive industry professionals who want to start, grow and succeed in their watersports businesses. Working regionally with Dive Industry Professionals is a much better way to meet the needs of local diving businesses and return the industry emphasis to smaller, targeted geographical areas. I believe this paradigm shift from national corporate marketing to local small business support will be the key to restarting this recreation in a very positive way. A re-birth of our recreation, so to speak.
As I said, we have been reconstructing the way we look at the diving community and have been sharing our written plan, as we develop it, with Dive Industry Professionals in the Global Diving Community. It is refreshing to see a plan come together as we write it down for public scrutiny, although we do take criticism from time to time for incomplete information and questionable data. But here is the real exciting thing that has been happening. Dive Industry Professionals are starting to come out of the woodwork to help us iron out our concepts and tweak our imperfect data. The result is that our vision of the future diving industry is getting clearer and clearer all the time. Another benefit of laying out our research for the industry to see is that we are seeing holes in the current business paradigm. Let me tell you about a very important concept we overlooked.
For the past twenty years our Goal has been to Build a Better Industry. Our Mission has been to bring Buyer & Sellers together for mutual benefit. Our efforts have been to Focus on the sales of Diving Equipment, Training and Travel and our Message to the public has been 1) Learn to Dive 2) Buy Your Gear 3) Go Diving 4) Stay Active.
Looking at our new presentations in light of the COVID-19 experience, something seemed to be missing. Our Goal and Mission was spot on but something in our focus and message didn’t synch. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. The one focus point we forgot to include was the sales of LifeStyle Products. Of course. This has always been the strong point of the Surfing Industry, the Boating Industry, the Fishing Industry, the Apparel Industry, and also every recreational industry except scuba diving.
There are three factors we have to keep in mind about adding the focus of selling Lifestyle products in the diving market. 1) Selling Lifestyle products can eventually exceed the total revenue of diving equipment, training and travel. 2) Selling Lifestyle products is perfect for keeping your business alive during the pandemic. People are not diving as much, they are not taking a lot of classes and few are traveling. But consumers are still buying jewelry, apparel, marine art, and everything that reminds them that they are Divers, Ocean Ambassadors, and Guardians of the Environment. And as an added bonus, it’s the Holiday Shopping Season now!
Selling Lifestyle is big business in the Surfing Industry. Bathing suits, apparel, beach products, health products, books, magazines, etc. Same thing with the Fishing and Boating Industries. Once you buy a boat, do you really think your purchasing has ended? Not hardly. It’s just beginning. This could be Scuba Diving’s big shot in the arm.
At a time when we needed it the most.
So our Industry Paradigm has shifted. Our Goal is still to Build a Better Industry. Our Mission is still to bring Buyers & Sellers together. Our Message to the public is still learn to dive, buy your gear, go diving and stay active. But now our Business Advice to Dive Industry Professionals is to Focus on the sales of Diving Equipment, Training, Travel and Lifestyle products.
For more information contact Gene Muchanski at firstname.lastname@example.org
The following Dive Industry Association Members are exhibiting at the Virtual DEMA Show Online, November 17-20, 2020 . Make it a point to visit our DIA Members for Great Show Specials.
- Big Blue Aquatic Gifts by Roland St John – www.bigbluedive.com
- Dive Flag Jewelry – www.diveflagjewelry.com
- Innovative Scuba Concepts – www.innovativescuba.com
- Stream2Sea – www.Stream2Sea.com
- Submersible Systems, Inc. – www.spareair.com
- Tektite Industries – www.tek-tite.com
Travel Businesses, Destinations, Resorts, & Dive Operators
- AlamBatu Beach Bungalow Resort – http://alam-batu.com
- Anse Chastanet Resort & Scuba St Lucia – www.ansechastanet.com
- Beqa Lagoon Resort (Fiji) – www.beqalagoonresort.com
- Bilikiki Cruises Ltd – www.bilikiki.com
- Buddy Dive Resort (Bonaire) – www.BuddyDive.com
- Cane Bay Dive Shop (St Croix) – www.canebayscuba.com
- Cayman Brac Beach Resort – Booth – www.clearlycayman.com
- Clearly Cayman Dive Resorts – www.ClearlyCayman.com
- Colbalt Coast Resort Grand Cayman – www.ClearlyCayman.com
- Dive Paradise / Hotel Cozumel – www.diveparadise.com
- Divi Flamingo Beach Resort (Bonaire) – www.diviresorts.com
- Dream Weaver Travel – www.diveDWT.com
- Little Cayman Beach Resort – www.clearlycayman.com
- Mayan Princess Beach & Dive Resort – www.mayanprincess.com
- Pindito – www.pindito.com
- PT Meridian Capital Marine Tourism Enterprises – https://dive.meridianadventure.com
- Salaya Beach Houses – www.salayabeachhouses.com
- Scuba St Lucia – www.ansechastanet.com
- Splash Dive Center (Belize) – www.SplashBelize.com
- Diveheart – www.diveheart.org
Dive Industry Association is a true Global Business Network in the Recreational Diving Community. We designed it 20 years ago to unite the industry to a common purpose. The common purpose has always been to bring Buyers & Sellers together to grow the recreation. Industries don’t grow if working Industry Professionals are not engaged in active commerce and operating their businesses professionally, productively and profitably.
I look back on the diving industry’s history and I can see that our recreational industry started to grow in the 1960’s. We made major gains in the 1970’s and I believe our decade of explosive growth was in the 1980’s. You may remember that our industry started to decline in the 1990’s and in the past 20 years has been a mixture of growth, decline, consolidation, acquisition and outright confusion and fragmentation. The recent economic turmoil in the world’s economy was the breaking point in the recreational diving industry as we know it. The pandemic is causing serious after-effects on the way we do business in our recreation. I believe that we are being forced to look at the way we currently do business and change our business models and paradigms accordingly.
Recreational diving businesses are seeing the value in belonging to a global business network like ours, in order to link up with like-minded businesses that share the same goals, aspirations and challenges. Our Global Network brings Dive Industry Professionals together as a group to unify their focus and sharpen their skills as Sellers of diving equipment, training and travel products. As an active marketing network association we are actually focusing our marketing programs on bringing qualified buyers to our selling members.
The big difference between our association and others is that our annual fee is used to acquire and master modern marketing tools to bring our members more business. We are not a vendor who charges you an annual fee just to sell you more products and services. We understand that you will never succeed by only buying more products from your vendors. You will only succeed by selling more products and services to your customers. Our mission in this industry is to expose and refer you to the people who will become your customers. What is a referral worth to you?
Let me quickly explain the logic of our Mission Focus before my life gets threatened as an enemy of the major vendors. The success of the Recreational Diving Industry comes from the sales of diving equipment, training programs and travel products. As a Global Networking Association, our Mission is to bring Buyers and Sellers together. We take that mission very seriously and we make it all inclusive from product conception to product consumption. I have worked for equipment manufacturers, training agencies and travel companies. I fully understand their agendas, priorities and current sales focus. I was also a dive store employee, manager and owner for ten years. I know the importance of working with professional vendors who treat you like a sales partner instead of those who treat you like a mere customer with a big check book. As a Dive Store Retailer I always sought out vendors who not only helped me buy sellable products but helped me to resell them to my customers. The more I sold, the more I bought. Not, vice versa. That’s what makes retail stores successful.
In this post-covid time frame, the Dive Industry Association is reaching out to Buyers and Sellers worldwide to offer you membership in our Global Business Network. Let us help you identify quality vendors who will work with you to complete the sales of diving equipment, training and travel goods and services. Let’s work together to identify and reach qualified buyers for you. Let us help you to rebuild your businesses and restart this wonderful recreational business community.
For more information about Membership in the Dive Industry Association, go to www.diveindustry.net
For more information about this article, contact Gene Muchanski at email@example.com
Most of the larger companies in the diving industry have established a reputation for being knowledgeable in their main product or service category. When they focus on products and services they are good at producing, it’s called their “core competencies.” Successful companies market their mastery of their core competencies because that is what they derive the majority of their revenue from and that is what their brand is built on.
The diving industry is based on the sales of diving equipment, training certifications and dive travel. I have been fortunate enough in my career to have worked as a Product Manager and Sales Manager for two major dive equipment manufactures, a Marketing Director for one of the largest certification agencies and a Travel Advisor for a number of dive travel companies. Let me share a little inside information with you about why these sectors should stick to their own core competencies.
Diving equipment manufacturers are recognized for their quality diving and life support equipment. Their Sales Agents are taught to know everything about their equipment line. How it’s made, how it functions on a dive and how it’s maintained or repaired. When I have a question about a piece of diving equipment I go to a number of dive equipment sales reps or employees of the companies themselves. I trust the manufacturing section to be Masters on all Diving Equipment Issues.
As a former Executive of a major certification agency, I know that our Training Agencies are all about Mastering the educational process that goes into developing training courses for divers. Their Sales Agents are trained in the development, necessity, teaching, selling and follow-up of all of their courses their agency produces and sells. They are education experts and are the Masters of teaching diving course.
Travel company employees are Masters of the hospitality and tourism industries in addition to being Masters of Recreational Diving. Training and preparation in this industry is extensive, exhausting, and on-going. When I became a licensed Travel Advisor I was overwhelmed with the amount of training and professional development that was involved. I know where I go when I need to learn something about the travel industry.
Now let me tell you about the need to be a Master of the Business of Diving issues ! Even after receiving a degree in Marketing from the University of Connecticut and working as the Marketing Director for a major certification agency, I got the most hands on, practical business experience working in my dive store for ten more years. And that was just the beginning of my education. My equipment sales reps and training agency reps were no help at all when it came to questions about how to run a dive business. My equipment reps didn’t share business advice for fear of making a store owner angry at them and losing his orders. They just told me to buy more equipment. Same thing with the training reps. They weren’t in the business of offering free business advice so they just told me to teach more classes.
Where it all came together for me was in the eight years I spent with the University of Houston as a Senior Advisor and Business Consultant for the Small Business Development Centers. My clients came from all industries, not just diving. The Professional Development I needed to complete annually involved learning about business hardware, computer software programs, business technology, planning and operation programs, banking, insurance, law, accounting, marketing, etc. The list goes on and on. I attended semi-annual SBA Banking Conferences. I participated in annual Professional Development Conferences for Consultants, both at the State level and the National level. I can’t count the number of seminars, luncheons and dinners I attended to meet business leaders from the U.S. Government, Microsoft, Intuit, Apple, Palo Alto Software and so many other hardware and software developers. All with great tools for running businesses more professionally, productively, and profitably.
We started the Dive industry Association 20 years ago to provide the industry with an organization that would focus on helping diving entrepreneurs start, grow and succeed in the Business of Diving. Over 1,600 small businesses have taken advantage of our business consulting and market advice. In 2002 we conducted a survey of the Dive Retail sector and was surprised to learn that while 100% of the stores had an equipment sales rep and 100% of the stores had a training rep, only 23% used a Business Consultant. Unfortunately, we did not identify the source of their business consultants. I guarantee, we will now. Our 2020 Surveys are ready to go. I just hope we can convince the industry to participate.
After the great economic paradigm shift of 2020, we will once again survey the 1,525 Retail Dive Stores in the U.S. to see how much the retail industry has grown, shrunk or changed in the past 18 years. We will also run our Annual survey for Sales Reps, to the 123 Reps we have on our database. One thing is for sure. The Dive Industry Association and our Global Business Network will continue to focus on partnering with business leaders and bring modern business technologies to as many diving entrepreneurs in our international diving community that are interested. Are you one of them?
There is one thing for certain in life – things will always change. Change can be a good thing or a bad thing. It all depends on how you respond or react to it. Our businesses are in a continual state of change also. As intelligent business people we need to keep ahead of things that may change and be prepared for whatever happens. When major changes occur in our way of doing business, we call it a paradigm shift. Well, thanks to a number of major changes to the world economy this year, we have entered into a paradigm shift like never before. The way we do business has changed for both the buyers and the sellers.
Now I don’t want to sound like change is a bad thing. In fact, there are a few things that are changing for the better in the recreational diving industry. It’s too early to tell how much of the industry has or will change but as change occurs, it’s up to us to change with it. Adapt, so to speak.
One major change so far is something that is very close to my heart. It’s Trade Shows. In 2020, dive shows died. Our World Underwater, Beneath the Sea, Scuba Show, Shark Con, Surf Expo and DEMA Show did not hold their live events this year. Attempts to conduct virtual trade shows has had mixed success so far. Probably because they are boring, time consuming for the public, not done right, or too expensive for a profitable return on investment. Another major problem with virtual shows is that the producers have little or no experience at designing and conducting them. There are so many flaws with the way virtual trade shows are being conducted, I have a hard time getting excited about them or even recommending them for the diving industry. However, I do think there may be something new and exciting on the horizon.
Going back four years or so, I started asking shows & event producers to let us combine digital online programs with our exhibit booths at their trade shows. Wifi access at that time was either blocked, limited, or very expensive. So the answer was no. Just buy a booth from us and forget your online stuff. Well, I heard that things may be changing soon. I heard about Hybrid Trade Shows and I think I know where they are going. This may turn out to be a way back for Shows & Events in our industry.
Another thing that has changed is the size of events. Having a multi-day show for 10,000 attendees, at a location 1,000 miles away from home is a thing of the past. Venues are too expensive, travel is limited and unpredictable, hotels and lodging may not be available, large crowds are not recommended anymore, and having to compete for the limited time of the attendees is not cost productive anymore. One of the main reasons so many of us went to these events was for the social interaction. Now, that’s gone and so is the way we conduct these “old” shows.
We now see that professional development seminars can be done online. We also see that large attendances actually work against us in a multi-day event. We recognize the difference between a buying show for dealers and a show & tell show for industry professionals. They are different and can be conducted separately. Exhibitors no longer have to bear the cost of an expensive venue so that we can conduct a less expensive professional development conference.
Faced with a declining market and limited business opportunities, we must adjust our business models to remain focused on what is important to our industry and the businesses that are in it. The whole purpose of an industry is to create and maintain marketplaces where buyers and sellers come together to do business. The business our recreation is in, is the selling of diving equipment, training and travel. The front line workers in our industry are the diving instructors, dive store owners, dive operators and dive resort staff. I am confident they know diving well enough to survive in the future. I am not so sure they are prepared or trained for the change in the business of diving technology. The market has changed and so has the business tools and techniques we need to run our businesses.
The market is changing. Our business tools are changing. Are you?
Be on the cutting edge of change by becoming a member of the Dive Industry Association, the Global Dive Business Network dedicated to bringing Buyers & Sellers together. For more information, contact Gene Muchanski at firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s a certain rhythm to the business seasons in the diving industry. If you’ve been in the business for any length of time, you may have wondered why events seem to have an ebb and flow to them. Historically, and naturally perhaps, September marks the beginning of the new diving season every year, regardless of the timing of the DEMA Show. Here’s a couple of reasons why September is so important.
Scuba Diving is a recreation and recreations have a seasonality curve to them. Seasonality curves have a lot to do with the weather, holidays, work and school schedules and consumer buying habits. The typical summer season is Memorial Day through Labor Day. Kids are out of school, families plan their vacations and the weather is warm and inviting in the United States. Retail sales should be brisk during this time period, leaving inventory levels low and open-to-buy dollar levels at a high point by the time Labor Day rolls around. When the kids go back to school and activity slows down, Retailers have the time to clean house and get ready for the Holidays and the new diving season. In the retail industry, some stores do 25% of their annual sales during Christmas shopping. It’s a great time to sell off last year’s gear at discounted prices while showcasing next year’s NEW gear at premium prices. Sales Reps from the large diving equipment manufacturers have known this for years. They are on the road with their new samples beginning September 5th. It always seemed like a race to get to the Retailers first, show them the new products, get their orders and lock up their open-to-buy money before someone else does. Things haven’t changed, even when the DEMA Show switched show dates from January to November.
January through March used to be the pre-season period. We all exhibited at DEMA in January and participated in the consumer dive show circuit in February and March. It was time to stock the stores in April and May and get ready for the new Memorial Day to Labor Day Summer Season. Up until the covid pandemic this year, the pre-season period grew to January through April with May still being the restocking period. All of that changed and we now have to fill in the blanks next year for January through May. We have some ideas on how the industry can maximize its effectiveness but remember, this is only a first draft. Your comments are welcome.
First we have to divide the industry activity to In-Season and Off-Season. In-Season is when your dealers and clients are busy making money. Give them your support during that time but stay out of their way. The Off-Season time is when we should conduct our Professional Development Training. Let’s face it, dive shows may never return to the way they were. We still have to make the best use out of our industry down-time.
Let’s start the new season in September, right after Labor Day. Send the Reps out to show their new lines and take orders for Christmas. Move the DEMA Show back to January and clear the way for Retailers to focus on 4th quarter sales and to enjoy the Holidays with their families. In January, start the on-line professional development webinars and conferences. Plan to end this period by the end of April. Instead of planning a single event with 300 seminars, schedule dive equipment seminars, training seminars and travel seminars separately. Make sure that each industry sector (Equipment, Training & Travel) doesn’t compete with other sectors and does not compete within its own industry. As an example, have DAN, NAUI, PADI, and SSI plan their seminars on different days. Same thing goes for Aqualung, Huish, Mares and Scubapro. Remember, some Retailers may be Aqualung and Scubapro Dealers who certify through DAN, NAUI and PADI. Separating your professional development training gives your dealers an opportunity to attend all the training they need. No conflicts – No competing for Dealer time.
The month of May should be used to make sure your Dealers are ready for the new summer season. When Memorial Day arrives, your Marketing people should go visit their Dealers to see how they are doing, analyze their effectiveness, and get some good old fashion press content for future marketing purposes. Your sales people should be working on next year’s line of equipment, getting samples ready and making sure everything is on track for the introduction of the new line for the next season, beginning on Labor Day.
I know. Easier said than done. The main point of this article is not to tell the industry what to do or how to do it. Our point is that things are going to be different from now on and that we need to rethink everything. Equipment, Training, Travel, Customers, Dealers, Sales, Marketing, Time & Date to Market, Professional Development, Shows & Events, Communications, etc., etc. The best thing I can say is have a plan for what you are going to do, why you are doing it and what outcome are you shooting for. Start with an outline. Walk through the process. Add content as necessary. Make it a working plan in process.
Good luck in the next season. Stay safe.