I’ve seen long lists of dive industry stakeholders. For instance, in an Instructor Development Course from a major Training Agency, there was an exercise to do, on this topic, with instructor candidates. The correct answers included pretty much everybody on the planet! I’m not sure what was the purpose of this exercise since it’s not defining the dive industry stakeholders in a useful way.

We believe five stakeholder groups represent the key players we need to study to understand the dive industry. From there, we can work on finding paths to dive industry growth.

For instance, airlines and governments can and do have an impact on the dive industry, but they are not an active part of it – scuba diving is far from being their primary focus. In fact, in a SWOT analysis, these are external factors providing opportunities or threats.

To discuss what is happening in the scuba diving industry and figuring out ways to be better at the business of diving, let’s focus on core participants in this industry. We believe it’s more useful to define the dive industry stakeholders as those who make a living in the dive industry.

1. The 5 Key Scuba Diving INDUSTRY Stakeholders

In some cases, we can analyze the “dive industry” as a whole. However, in many cases, it’s best to examine each player separately, because they may have diverging interests with entirely different critical success factors – which is one of the issues on the Board of Directors at DEMA.

Training Agencies

Training agencies are category A2 on the DEMA Memberships & Board of Directors.

The author of the university paper title “The Startup Business Plan for LeQian” provides a quick overview of the scuba diving training agencies around the world: “There are more than 60 recreational scuba diving certification agencies worldwide. Among these agencies, some of them are rarely known in the world, and may only exist or be recognized in a small area. However, there are still some international organizations which are dominating the market. They are actually the standard maker. There are around five organization dominated the diving training, including National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), Scuba Schools International (SSI), Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (CMAS), British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC), and Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).”

Up to recently, scuba diving training agencies looked like glorified book publishers with a semi-captive clientele. They design courses, produce course material, and issue c-cards (certification cards). The bulk of their revenues came from selling the course material.

Nowadays, they are trying to redefine themselves in a digital era. They are at the heart of a lot of the discussions we have on the need to modernize the dive industry.

Scuba Gear Manufacturers

“Gear manufacturers” can be a misnomer. It is a lot more accurate to talk about “dive gear brands” and “wholesalers.” Only a handful of them actually “manufacture” some of their products. For the most part, they are “brands” involved in the “distribution” of scuba diving gear purchased from a handful of suppliers. For instance, wetsuits from many different brands come from the same Asian manufacturer.

For some products (usually the high-end ones), these brands will create their own design. For many other products (especially inexpensive ones from Asia), you get the same item under different brand names.

Yet, within the dive industry, they are referred to as “manufacturers.” It’s the name of the category (A1) they sit in on the DEMA Board of Directors.

Dive Centers

The dive center has traditionally been at the heart of the dive industry. Training agencies, dive gear manufacturers, and dive travel wholesalers were focussed on selling to dive centers who would resell to their local clientele. This part of the value chain in the dive industry needs serious upgrading to satisfy today’s consumer.

Dive centers are typically small local businesses facing the unrealistic task of managing six businesses in one. The main focus of a dive center will mainly depend on its location.

Local Dive Shops,” often called LDS or dive stores, are located in “origin” cities that may not even have many dive sites nearby. Their primary focus is providing courses, selling dive gear, and bringing their clients to dive (locally or on fly-away trips).

Dive Resorts” are similar yet very different. Their focus is different from the local dive shops. For instance, they typically rely a lot less on selling gear and a lot more on daily charter boats. We label them as “destination dive centers.”

We will further review these differences in the article discussing the two types of dive centers.

This is category A4 (retailers / local dive shops) & part of A5 (travel & dive resorts) on the DEMA Memberships & Board of Directors.

Independent Instructors & Dive Clubs

They are often seen as a non-significant part of the dive industry. Typically, gear manufacturers don’t sell to them. Training agencies do not list them on their website. They’Re a bit of the black sheep of the dive industry, especially in North America.

Independent instructors often have to establish some affiliation to a local dive shop to use the rental gear and obtain other services. In Europe, they can teach through dive clubs offering dive outings and training. Of course, in North America, they “can,” too – it’s just not as prevalent.

Once we’ve analyzed the current state of the dive industry and discussed strategies to bring growth back into this industry stuck in the past, we will discuss how the role of independent instructors could be vital in relaunching the sector.

Independent dive instructors are invisible on the DEMA Board of Directors.

Dive Clubs could be included in this category if they provide scuba diving training courses. We’re defining this 4th category of key dive industry players as a group giving dive training outside the standard dive center.

Scuba Diving Travel Agencies & Wholesalers

Traditionally, dive trips were mainly promoted through local dive shops, using albums of pictures from the previous dive trips. Today, of course, with the internet, scuba divers can (and do) research and book dive trips directly with resorts and travel agencies. The role of the local dive shop has significantly changed on that front.

You can buy a trip to Bonaire from any travel agency, anywhere. However, it seems appropriate to include scuba diving travel agencies and wholesalers in our current discussions on the business of diving, especially with PADI’s move into Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) following their acquisition of Diviac, a European startup specialized in selling scuba diving adventures directly to consumers.

Through Diviac (renamed PADI Travel), PADI is now selling courses directly to the consumer, along with online training and arrangements to get certified in a tropical destination. It warrants discussions on threats & opportunities for the local dive shops and dive resorts – and what it means for the future “value chain” in the dive industry.

Travel agencies and wholesalers are part of category A5 on the DEMA Memberships & Board of Directors.

2. Other Dive Industry Stakeholders

As discussed in the introduction of this article, we could make an almost endless list of dive industry stakeholders if our goal is to fill up a list. But if we want to analyze the dive industry to identify strategies for the future, we can focus on the five key dive industry players described above.

The other dive industry players are not ‘core’ to providing scuba diving products and services to the consumer. For instance, it’s practical to have a magazine dedicated to scuba diving and reaching current divers. However, we don’t need such a magazine to reach current scuba divers. But we do need scuba diving gear to dive.

Let’s list a few of these other dive industry stakeholders, just for the sake of it.

  • Dive Media and Publications: They are part of category A3 on the DEMA Memberships & Board of Directors, “Dive Publishing, Media, Consulting and Non-Retail Service Providers.” These companies provide support to all of our five key dive industry players. For the most part, they offer a way to reach current scuba divers – just like Facebook and Google can help you do it, also.
  • Consultants: They’re also part of A3 on the DEMA Board. We have nothing against them. This is the category in which the Business of Diving Institute fits in (consulting & media). However, they provide support services to the core dive industry players.
  • Trade Organizations and Associations: There are plenty of them. DEMA is one. The Outdoor Industry Association is another one. And we can throw in this category your local chamber of commerce, retailer associations, and so many others. Once again, these players provide value to the core dive industry players, but we could live without them. For instance, you may be getting a significantly reduced rate on in-store credit card processing from a retailer association – but you would operate your business even without it.
  • Governments: For sure, the Government can have an impact on any and all industries. But their focus is not the dive industry. They are an external factor creating opportunities or threats to the dive industry.
  • And many more.

3. What Else?

We will pursue the discussion on standard dive centers vs. independent instructors when we look at the Octopus Strategy: Gear vs. Training.