State of the Diving Industry

Dive 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.  

3 comments

  • Very interesting comments, a number of my own … Firstly you are right to link diving to other adventure pursuits but there is a good case study in business circles about a travel company that thought its competitors were other travel agencies, however the truth was that the competition was actually home furnishing companies, the idea being that discretionary spend could be on a holiday (scuba diving) or on another purchase (sofa, new car, whatever) so I’d like to see you expand your views between other discretionary spend and adventure sports.
    In line with the above I completely agree with you that courses et al need to be packaged and love the way that PADI training gets people wet (and therefore interested) ASAP … Other training agencies need to learn this lesson. Perhaps the idea should be taken further though with holidays linked to training packages to dive packages. Doing this in a cost effective manner must surely be a winner. Online courses provide some of these cost savings, we need to see more of these. Finally I would suggest linking divers together, after all the experience of diving is meeting people with like minded views etc. perhaps a series of mentors could be developed to help start people in the great game of diving and these links could provide real upselling opportunities.
    Good, safe diving to you all …

    Karl
  • I totally agree with what you have said. However as a relatively new person to the world of diving, the one thing I have found, which can be rather off putting, is the attitude of experienced divers towards the new comers.

    calvin
  • Hi Gerrard what you are saying makes sense. For me, i have been saying for a long time that we are targeting the same population of potential divers we have been doing since the halcyon, but the economy has changed, people have changed. We should be looking at the ‘older’ market, those who have retired early with pensions. We should be looking at diverse groups – more women, and those who have mental or physical challenges who might otherwise not consider diving as a sport/hobby. But all the material shows, young, attractive, very fit people diving – not the same people i see on dive boats across the world. If we don’t diversify the marketing offering the industry is making then I believe the future is not rosy. Richard

    Richard Cullen

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