This post on dive industry trends serves as a TL;DR summary of key findings and observations from our first two sections on the dive industry:
So far, we’ve looked at the current situation in the dive industry – an overview. Then, we’ve used five strategic analysis methods to study what the dive industry is facing and where it is (or should be) going.
This post serves as a wrap-up of these two sections before jumping into discussing strategies for the scuba diving industry to create a visionary and inspiring future with innovative solutions.
Many current dive industry trends are dreadful. It’s up to us to create a visionary future with innovative solutions.
1. Dive Industry Trends – Summary
The scuba diving trends outlined below are presented in no particular order, especially not in order of importance.
Dive Industry-Wide Trends
- The scuba diving industry is in its Mature or Declining stage. It means:
- Consolidation is inevitable. We’ve seen it happening already: Mares with SSI; PADI with Diviac and Bonnier; Huish Outdoors acquiring numerous dive gear brands.
- New growth will come from new products & services.
- The participation rate for scuba diving is shrinking. Participation by “core divers” is dropping even faster.
- The new generation of scuba divers tends to be “casual divers.”
- Consumers expectations continue to rise with much less tolerance for unacceptable quality and customer service.
- Consumers growingly want convenience.
- Local dive shops (origin dive centers) are being bypassed for gear sales and dive training (done via a mix of online training and dive resort certification).
- The scuba diving market is becoming less heterogeneous than it was when baby boomers were the only target.
- Product differentiation is becoming nonexistent. Most scuba courses and dive gear are becoming commodities.
- There’s continued downward pressure on prices. With a lack of innovation and product differentiation, competition is based on pricing.
- The respect of all laws, regulations, and standards is growing in importance.
- The number of local dive shops in North America is steadily shrinking.
- Restrictions on direct and digital marketing are growing.
Scuba diving Training Trends
- New diver certifications are shrinking, and they have been doing so for years.
- Training agencies are stepping into direct-to-consumer, both for travel and scuba courses.
- The turn over of dive professionals (instructors & divemasters) continues to be high, making it challenging to ensure consistency in the quality of the experience.
Dive Gear (Toys) Trends
- New divers want to travel light. They also want to do various activities besides scuba diving in their vacations. It leads to fewer purchases of bulky gear. Even the sales of fins, mask & snorkel are trending toward mask & snorkel, only.
- Local dive shops can no longer depend on selling gear to cover the costs of courses and other departments.
- Less certifications lead to less gear sales.
- Dive gear sales per new diver are down.
Dive Travel Trends
- Origin dive centers (local dive shops) as a portal to dive travel is dying.
- Booking of dive travels is getting done directly with the resort or through a specialized portal offering numerous destinations, like Diviac (not owned by PADI). Training agencies are stepping into direct-to-consumer, both for travel and scuba courses.
- The new generation of scuba divers is less likely to go on a “dive trip” and expected to do scuba diving among many other activities during their vacation.
- Dive resorts see an increase in clients coming to them to be certified without any visit to a local dive store.
- The deterioration of the environment is putting more resorts at risk.
2. Dive Industry Strategic Analysis Preliminary Conclusions
Here are a few dive industry strategies worth exploring, in no particular order. These strategies are born out of our take on dive industry trends and preliminary conclusions from our strategic analysis of the scuba diving industry.
We’ll discuss these strategies in the section on Strategies for the Scuba Diving Industry.
- Revise the dive industry business model to reduce waste in the value chain, better satisfy today’s consumers’ expectations, and increase value-added.
- Develop and maintain a reliable brand based on the consistency of the quality of the experience at all branded locations.
- Provide the framework for brand quality, trust, and consistency.
- Improve our lobbying efforts to obtain legislative support for the dive industry (like Colorado did for skiing).
- Position ourselves in the greater Outdoor Industry instead of limiting ourselves to the small Dive Industry.
- Expand product offering and variety to the product mix, to increase our target market and sales volume — link scuba diving to related water sports & outdoor activities like standup paddling (SUP) and swimming.
- Raise the bar by ensuring all laws and regulations are respected in all operations happening under your brand, including health & safety, workers’ compensation, and transportation of compressed gas.
- Change packaging and operational processes to lead the way on the environmental front.
- Use passionate people for what they are good at (training & diving) and provide hands-on branded support for the rest.
- Develop a comprehensive online management system to support staff and clients in all locations where your brand is located. Provide dive centers and instructors with brand recognition, quality assurance, distribution, online sales, and marketing.
- Incorporate direct-to-consumer in a comprehensive online system.
Training & Equipment-related Strategies
- Redesign the way we offer dive gear and courses to customers without requiring local dive shops to be everything to everybody.
- Split training & gear sales in different locations to suit consumers expectations and provide more value to the customer.
- Develop reliable dive gear selling channels offering all brands, all models, all colors, all sizes, all the time – and delivered at the latest, tomorrow.
- Develop and capitalize on house brands for dive gear, especially soft goods and apparel.
- Develop branded apparel and other products appealing to non-divers.
- Redesign the marketing and delivery of scuba diving training courses so that they look less like “a course to get a c-card and move on,” and more like an evolution process performed while scuba diving (like in skiing).
- Fix tryout scuba and entry-level scuba diving courses.
- Develop training programs for staff to serve customers better and sell more, either in-store, on social media, on email, on the phone or anywhere they interact with clients. This is required of both training staff and non-training staff.
- Extensively study the non-divers who are most likely to take on scuba diving, instead of continually studying the profile of current (aging) divers.
All of that being said, the first step for a dive industry investor should be defining how to create a blue ocean where no-one has gone before, steering away from the red sea of competition.
3. What’s Next?
We summarized, above, key trends, findings, and observations from our first two sections on the dive industry:
It’s now time to discuss innovative strategies for the scuba diving industry. “Business as usual” doesn’t cut it anymore.