Corna has knocked many industries for six, not least scuba diving. We know here and overseas the dive industry is struggling, many dive centres have closed never to reopen. We need to be sensitive to these are not just statistics. These are real family people who have possibly lost the business, income, credit rating, savings and self esteem. Making a living in the dive industry is not easy at the best of times. So the market has just got much smaller. PADI for one have laid off many of their employees. Other suppliers, resorts and centres have either cut or rationalsised staff.
Despite all of this shrinkage, we still have a lot of agencies trying to retain or scoop from an ever increasingly smaller pond. Surely, now is the time to get all the agencie together and start thinking of strategies for the future growth of scuba diving. Continually putting up training materials either erodes margins making dive centres even less proftiable or creates switchers (switcher is going to another agency that has better priced materials). At the end of the day regardless which agency is involved, we produce divers. You can fiddle around with the odd skill, the odd depth the odd standard, but, they are divers. Agencies do not produce divers, dive centes do. Agencies ought to be looking at how to arrest training material costs to enable those centes that are left, to survive.
So what of the independent diving instructor? Here in the UK, what has it meant to them? Well more or less nothing. They have no premises. They have no fixed costs. No training, no problem. Agencies need to start focusing on real bricks and mortar dive centre. Ditto with suppliers and retail. Simply Scuba is a good example.
For someone to under take their open water (regardless of agency), there is a ceiling on price. We would all love for clients to be happy paying £1,000 per course, but that is not reality. Therefore dive centres tend to try and hold the price, but, with ever increasing costs of training materials, van maintenance, compressor maintenance, insurances, team costs, dive site entry fees, staff costs, pool hire fees, etc, it cannot go on forever.
Scuba is a discretionary spend. In the UK, very few instructors are paid full time, it is more of a small bear hobby. You certainly are not going to be paying your mortgage scuba diving.
Will there ever be a time when agencies start thinking long term, start thinking for the benefit of the diver and the industries future? Divecrew are involved in numerous agencies. No one has the complete fix. We cherry pick great techniques and ideas from each. Divecrew is fortunate in that it is owned and run by two ex-corporate business people. Financially strong and with great input on scuba teaching (experienced scuba pros) and business strategies.
Lets hope the dive centres that are left continue to survive. Once this ghastly virus leaves us, we hope those in the industry prosper and get back to normality.