State of the Diving Industry
Following on from my blog post about the Red Sea and how the decline in tourists could be affecting the whole UK diving trade I wanted to explore this further. Last year at the SITA trade show Jim Standing (vice chairman and Fourth Element co owner) did possibly the most relevant presentation the UK dive industry had been privy to in a long time. The lecture was well attended but I am not sure if the significance of his message was fully taken on board. Essentially he said that as an industry we should not be considering other dive centres as competition but other activities such as kite surfing, sailing, wind surfing etc. we need to think on a bigger scale than just our own businesses. Easy to say, but we all have bills to pay. However he makes an extremely good point, if we are all concerned about how big our individual slice of the dive industry pie is, we lose sight of making the pie bigger (ie diver creation). There are many excellent dive centres training hundreds of divers a year. Many people choose to learn whilst away in resort. It really doesn't matter how we continue to grow our industry, just that we manage to do so. Since I started Simply Scuba back in 1995 I have seen many peaks and troughs. The NVQ era which generated many divers. A quick chat with a colleague at PADI confirms the amount of dive centres has grown steadily since then. I would also confidently add that the dive centres now are far more professional and commercially enticing to consumers than ever before. The dive training agencies of PADI, BSAC and SSI have massively improved the training materials available, which has helped increase diver enjoyment and safety. So how do we entice more people to join our community? Obviously the cold weather doesn't help. Personally I think a two fold approach is required. Firstly we need to package diving in a way to make it easier to fit in to busy lifestyles and move away from buying individual items of kit. Do you remember buying your first set of dive gear? The choice was mind boggling! Here's a news flash, it's even worse now. Years ago at Simply Scuba we discovered that customers visiting us to buy snorkelling gear found too much choice off putting. We bundled snorkelling kits into three levels, good, better, best or bronze, silver, gold. Immediately sales increased and we could reduce the amount of stock we held. Great for customers and us. Packaging is not only for kit but also training. Being expensive is not a negative, being bad value is a negative. As an industry we need divers who can afford to be active. A quick Internet search reveals the average price for an Open Water course is now about £330. I was charging that 18 years ago when I first opened Simply Scuba. Certainly all the costs associated with running a course has increased in that time massively. 18 years ago I would not have said that our price was expensive then, so now it's a down right bargain. We all love a bargain but are we in danger of recruiting low value customers who cannot afford to be active divers? Here is an idea rather than compete on price, why not provide a unique experience that other competitors just can't or won't provide? Maybe package a dive trip to the Red Sea to complete the qualifying dives, maybe up sell an Adventure Diver course whilst there. Include a mask and snorkel of each diver as part of the course, for their hygiene, comfort and psychologically they now have items which make them a scuba diver. Secondly I think us as dive centres need to continue to develop and make diving accessible and desirable to the general public. Lose the lingo, who cares if a customer refers to fins as flippers? Hold on I do! Nah I don't. I am happy for the opportunity to engage with the customer and discuss fins and how they are used for diving. Oh they are only going snorkelling on holiday.. Bingo! Now I can tell them of all the great things they will miss by not going diving, now that's not to say I will disparage snorkelling in any way, far from it. Remember earlier the good, better, best packages? Snorkelling is good, but diving.... Please leave your comments here on the blog so they remain linked to this post. Of course if you prefer use Facebook but I would appreciate being able to keep your comments.