Diving Industry – Who Are We? –
by Gene Muchanski
Editor, The Dive Industry Professional
The month of September just began and already it is the worst September I can ever remember. As the Industry’s eternal optimist and cheerleader for the past 52 years, I don’t think I can continue to fill that role anymore. The Industry needs a much younger, more energetic and more optimistic person to pick up the torch and run with it. Any takers?
This month’s Editorial is coming to you from our Melbourne, Florida office, where we are all boarded up and waiting for Hurricane Dorian’s wind and rain to hit the Florida Coast. The Northern Bahamas just suffered the worst Hurricane in its history as Hurricane Dorian crept along at 1-8 mph as a Category 5 Hurricane with winds of 185 mph and wind gusts over 220 mph. Dorian left a path of death and destruction across the Bahamas. Our hearts and prayers go out to our Bahamanian Brothers and Sisters.
In California, what started out as an enjoyable Labor Day Dive Trip aboard the Dive Boat Conception turned into an unspeakable disaster that took the lives of 37 divers. The Conception caught fire, burnt to the water line and sank in 60 feet of water. There were only 5 survivors. I don’t remember any diving accident, in my 52 years as a certified diver that comes close to that devastation. The entire industry is grieving for this loss of life. Our hearts and prayers are with those divers and their families. Our prayers are also with the Truth Aquatics Family. I can’t imagine the pain and anguish they must be going through right now. We can only pray.
The Surf Expo has been cancelled this week due to Hurricane Dorian. The way I’m feeling today is if DEMA was cancelled this year I would not mind it at all. I’m sorry, but my heart is just not into it this year and I have no idea what it’s going to take to get me back into it.
With the events of the past few days in mind, I’ve been thinking about our Industry and my fellow Dive Industry Professionals. As Industry Professionals, what is our industry identity and what is our common denominator? What do we relate to? We are the Diving Industry. Not the Surf Industry, the Outdoor Industry, or the Travel Industry. Our common denominator is that we are all watermen and women. The only connection we have with the Outdoor Show and the Travel Shows is that we participate in water sports when we are outdoors and we have to travel to get to our dive sites. Let me explain why I think that our love for the water is what ties our industry together.
A few years ago I tried, in vain, to make the connection with the Surf Expo. We all admired their youthful, energetic approach to their lifestyle. As we started to work with their show, I realized they had a major conflict with their own members. It seemed that half of them related to Water Sports and the other half related to Board Sports. If you thought of Surfing as a Board Sport (the younger crowd), you were identifying with surfboards, skateboards, wakeboards, snowboards and the street apparel that came with it. If you related to Water Sports (the older crowd), you were into surfing as a water sport and the beach apparel lifestyle that was associated with it. The Beach Boys and the film, The Endless Summer were all about the older, more relaxed surfing lifestyle. The show name, The Surf Expo, has outgrown itself. It’s still a great show but is it a water sports show, a board sports show, an apparel show or a beach lifestyle show? They lack a common denominator and a common call to action.
Travel Shows have the same problem marketing themselves as does Surf Expo. Travel shows try to appeal to everyone because they sell expensive booth space, but if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. The Travel Industry is way too big. Companies market themselves as all inclusive beach resorts, mountain lodges and resorts, air travel, land travel, ocean going cruise ships, river cruises, lake side vacations, camping trips, etc, etc. Their common denominator is Travel but travel means different things to different people.
Here is something the “Travel Industry” doesn’t understand. Traveling used to be a once a year event for people who worked for a living and had limited vacation time. Once a year, they booked a trip to get away from home to do things like sight seeing, eating and drinking. Nothing could be more boring. Today’s traveler books Adventure Travel to do something special on vacation. We dive, fish, photograph, live and learn with the locals, conduct missions, volunteer our talents to a good cause and countless other things. We travel for business. We travel for pleasure. We travel for recreation. Travel has become a means to our end. Our end goal is Adventure. I once heard Jean Michel Cousteau speak to a group about the excitement of adventure and what it meant to him. I can still hear him say, “It’s about the adventure.” Diving and Adventure Travel is all about the diving and adventure, not the travel.
Now if the diving industry marketed itself as an attractive niche within the water sports industries we could combine forces with all the different types of diving, like snorkeling, freediving, scuba diving, and tech diving. We would be able to market our niche with other water sports like swimming, surfing, fishing, boating, beach apparel, and water sports related adventure travel. This market is beyond hugh! If you add specialty industries like photography, metal detecting, treasure hunting, archaeology and the marine sciences, we would have gigantic market potential.
Instead of joining other industry shows in Surf, Travel, and Outdoor, we need to market our industry as its own major water sports adventure activity. That would include all water sports, swimming, diving (all kinds), surfing, boating, fishing, adventure travel, photography, treasure hunting, and above all, the water sports apparel lifestyle. Our common denominator would be our love for the water. Our central playgrounds would be water related destinations. Our activities would be water sports related. Our Dive Stores would become Water Sports Adventure Stores. We would become the Water Sports Ambassadors for cleaner water, living reefs and sustainable tourism.
OK. I’m starting to get excited again but that doesn’t mean I’m getting back in the game again. At least not the way we have been in it for the past 60 years. This time we have to do it right. This time we have to define ourselves first. We are Water Men & Water Women. We have to choose our own image and market that to the general public. We have to grow our own Regional Water Sports Communities and learn to work well with each other. We have to work together and support each other. I’m ready to make a commitment to being a Water Sports Ambassador. How about you?