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Why aren't more people taking up scuba diving?

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba Discussions' started by RJP, Dec 30, 2013.

  1. RJP

    RJP Scuba Media & Publications

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: New Jersey
    Recent threads about the state of affairs of scuba training, whether and how “the scuba industry” might try to attract new divers, and what impact the dynamic of upselling new/existing divers on gear and training as the main source of revenue (since there are fewer new divers) might have on the scuba diving industry overall.

    With no single voice trying to drive interest and demand for scuba diving, we are left with the various manufacturers, agencies, shops, boats, resorts, instructors, etc (and their individual, often conflicting messaging) in a desperate fight for the handful of people who have come to their own conclusion – for whatever reason – that they want to be a scuba diver.

    To examine whether this approach has fostered a compelling value proposition that is attractive – or repulsive – from the potential new diver's point of view I present…

    Monty Python’s “The Dive Industry Sketch”

    LDS Owner: Michael Palin
    Potential Customer: John Cleese

    [A bell rings as the door to a dive shop swings open. A potential new customer rushes in out of the rain, approaches the counter, and patiently waits a few moments for the LDS owner – who is busily dusting aging inventory – to notice him.]


    CUSTOMER: [Clears throat loudly.]

    LDS OWNER: “Oh… well hello there!”

    CUSTOMER: “Good day. I’ve come in to find out about…”

    LDS OWNER: “Come in to find out about how to ‘Be A Diver’ have we? Wonderful!”

    CUSTOMER: “Um, uh…”

    LDS OWNER: “You’re in luck! We’re running a special on scuba diving certification!”

    CUSTOMER: "Hmm…"

    LDS OWNER: "The class is $395. And you'll have to buy your own mask, fins, snorkel, booties..."

    CUSTOMER: "That stuff isn’t included in the course fee? What do you charge for that stuff?"

    LDS OWNER: "Well it depends. Masks can run as high as $125 for a good one. Snorkels can be $40 for this fancy one. Booties are another $40. And these "Smoke-On-Your-Wallet" split-fins are $259."

    CUSTOMER: "Hmm... so a new diver is looking at more than $800 before they even get wet?"

    LDS OWNER: "Oh, heavens no..."

    CUSTOMER: "Whew!"

    LDS OWNER: "... you'll also want to factor in buying your own wetsuit. People pee in those things, you know!"

    CUSTOMER: "Um..."

    LDS OWNER: "... and a BCD, a regulator, a backup regulator, a computer, a backup computer..."

    CUSTOMER: “Why would I need backup gear?”

    LDS OWNER: “In case your primary gear fails, of course.”

    CUSTOMER: “Does the primary gear fail often?”

    LDS OWNER: “With alarming regularity… theoretically speaking, of course.”

    CUSTOMER: "Um, so what does all that stuff cost? The training, the personal gear, and the other stuff you say I need?”

    LDS OWNER: "Right. Let’s get down to business! Very direct, I like the way you think! [Starts piling gear on the counter and ringing customer up on cash register] Figure another $1,500 on the low end… maybe $2,500 on the high end. A few retractors… a snorkel keeper… some defog… Of course, someday you might dive TriMix... so you'll want this $2,000 gas-switching computer..."

    CUSTOMER: "Um, perhaps a crazy thought sir… but can’t I just rent that stuff when I take my wife and kids on our once-a-year vacation?"

    LDS OWNER: "Oh, sure. You can always rent gear… if you want to die. This stuff is life-support equipment! And very delicate, too! Rental gear is usually 25yrs old, stored in a trash bin, and is only serviced by drunken chimpanzees after someone dies while using it. Besides, rental gear will be very different than what we use here in class… see these square buttons? [Points to LPI attached to a BCD] These square buttons could well be round buttons on rental gear! See what I’m getting at? You’d really be in quite the pickle then, wouldn’t you? Quite the pickle indeed!”

    CUSTOMER: “Ok. But once I buy my own gear I’m all set then, right?”

    LDS OWNER : “Right.”

    CUSTOMER: “Ok.”

    LDS OWNER: “Except for the annual service.”

    CUSTOMER: “Annual service!?!”

    LDS OWNER: “Indeed. Life support equipment must be serviced every year! Can only be done by the guy we keep locked in the back room here at the shop. Can’t expect to be able to turn a few screws or change a battery yourself, can you!”

    CUSTOMER: "So I'm looking at spending more money each year in service costs - on the $2,500 worth of gear you want me to buy today - than I would pay to rent the very same gear for the one trip each year I'm planning on taking?"

    LDS OWNER: "Oh, heaven's no..."

    CUSTOMER: "Whew!"

    LDS OWNER: "You need to dive locally too! Of course you'll need a drysuit, and drysuit training, and your own tanks, and a redundant tank, and you'll want to get nitrox certified..."

    CUSTOMER: "Wait, what!?! What's nitrox?"

    LDS OWNER: "A special gas you need to breathe... it helps make diving safe."

    CUSTOMER: "Wait, what!?! Is diving unsafe!?!"

    LDS OWNER: "Oh heaven's no! As long as you take the Rescue Diver course..."

    CUSTOMER: "What's a Rescue Diver course?"

    LDS OWNER: "$450"

    CUSTOMER: "No, no! Why do I need to take a Rescue Diver course?"

    LDS OWNER: "So that your wife and kids don't die!"

    CUSTOMER: "Huh!?!"

    LDS OWNER: "...but you’ll need to take Advanced Open Water first..."

    CUSTOMER: "I need to be an advanced diver?"

    LDS OWNER: "Oh, heavens no! It's just that the OW course doesn't really teach you everything you need to know to go diving.”

    CUSTOMER: “But aren’t there training standards?”

    LDS OWNER: “Of course there are standards. [Wistfully staring out the window.] Though they’re not like they used to be, I’ll tell you that much. Back when dive training was worth paying good money for it was done by navy seals, who would spend six months trying to kill you…"

    CUSTOMER: “So the standards are lower now?”

    LDS OWNER: “Oh yes! Abysmally so. But not all training agencies are that way.”

    CUSTOMER: “What’s a training agency?”

    LDS OWNER: “They oversee the training. Well, technically speaking the instructor oversees the training, not the agency. The different agencies are just publishing companies, each with their own standards…”

    CUSTOMER: “So there ARE standards, then?”

    LDS OWNER: “Oh, of course! Wouldn’t be much of a profession without standards then, would it?”

    CUSTOMER: “But if I’m hearing you right, the standards… aren’t… actually… standard?”

    LDS OWNER: “Right.”

    CUSTOMER: "So after spending $395 to get certified, for which I need to spend another $400 for personal gear, I’ll need to take Nitrox, Drysuit, AOW, and Rescue Diver in order to really know how to dive… so I can spend another $2,000 per person for the rest of the gear, which will need to be serviced every year, because if I rent gear in the Cayman Islands… my wife, kids, and I will probably die?"

    LDS OWNER: "Ah, yes! Been doing your research on ScubaBoard then, I see!?! I knew you were a sharp cookie!”

    CUSTOMER: “What’s a ScubaBoard?”

    LDS OWNER: “Great website, lots of divers there. Even cave divers post there, you know!”

    CUSTOMER: “People dive in caves?”

    LDS OWNER: “Whoa, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, then. You haven’t even paid for THIS gear yet!” [Presenting customer with lengthy bill.]

    CUSTOMER: “So that’s roughly $20,000 in gear and training, plus annual service costs on four sets of gear, plus airfare, hotel, and food so that my wife, kids, and I can look at some pretty fishies once a year… assuming of course that we don’t die?”

    LDS OWNER: “Don’t forget tips.”

    CUSTOMER: “Tips?”

    LDS OWNER: “Of course! For the DMs. They’re professionals, you know! [Stares out the window, thoughtfully] Though, come to think of it… we don’t actually pay them. [Snaps back to present.] Well, that’s neither here nor there…”

    CUSTOMER: “Well, I guess it’s worth throwing the DM a few dollars knowing I can count on them to keep my wife, kids, and I from dying.”

    LDS OWNER: “Right. Yes. Well… not exactly.”

    CUSTOMER: “Seems like a lot of time, effort, and money for something that I really only see myself doing once or twice a year on vacation.”

    LDS OWNER: “Don’t forget the freezing cold quarry that’s 4hrs from here!”

    CUSTOMER: “What can we see in a freezing cold quarry?”

    LDS OWNER: “There’s a school bus. Ooh… with a trout in it!”

    CUSTOMER: “I see…”

    LDS OWNER: “Not with the viz we get up there after an OW class has come through, you won’t…”

    CUSTOMER: [Slowly backing towards the door.]

    LDS OWNER: “We have a class starting tonight…”

    CUSTOMER: “Yeah, um… ya know… my wife and kids are in the car... and… well… I’m thinking… maybe… maybe we’ll come back another time.” [Heads for the door]

    LDS OWNER: “Oh you are a sharp cookie then! [Calling after the Customer as he exits shop] Waiting is a perfect idea! You’ve no doubt read on ScubaBoard that there’s a move afoot to make the training harder… and longer... and far more expensive if you’re lucky! Then you can REALLY be a diver! Come back soon...”

    [Bell rings as the door closes. Through the shop window we see the customer getting into his car and driving off.]

    LDS OWNER’s WIFE (Terry Jones in drag): [Coming out from back room.] “Was that a customer, dear?”

    LDS OWNER: “Indeed! He said he’ll be back... with his wife and kids!” [LDS Owner resumes dusting aging inventory]

    [Scene shifts to interior of Customer’s car.]

    CUSTOMER’s WIFE (Eric Idle, in drag): [Speaking to husband, curtly.] “Good heavens, what took so long in there?”

    CUSTOMER: “Couldn't get a word in edgewise. He was going on about poor dive training… and expensive gear… and annual service costs… and how you and the kids will probably die if we take up scuba diving.”

    CUSTOMER’s WIFE: “Take up Scuba diving?”

    CUSTOMER: “Indeed.”

    CUSTOMER’s WIFE: “Who wants to take up scuba diving?”

    CUSTOMER: “Sorry, dear. He just seemed so excited… I didn’t have the heart to tell him I only came in to ask if he knew what became of the vacuum cleaner shop that used to be next door.”


    Perhaps it's time?
  2. Doc

    Doc Was RoatanMan

    # of Dives: None - Not Certified
    Location: Chicago & O'Hare heading thru TSA 5x per year
    [/h]Python also supplies the real answer:
  3. pocky21

    pocky21 Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Panama City Beach, FL
    I just came in here for the popcorn, I didn't expect a sort of Spanish inquisition!
  4. Wookie

    Wookie Secret Field Agent ScubaBoard Business Sponsor

    I'll give you green. This is right up there with what to bring on a liveaboard.
    Chugwhump and RJP like this.
  5. RJP

    RJP Scuba Media & Publications

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: New Jersey
    diverjen likes this.
  6. Nemrod

    Nemrod Solo Diver

    How many times I have heard that "I SCUBA dive to relax" and then I think of all the youtube videos filmed by young(er) people showing back flips on MTBs and flying off mountains on skis and then contrast old and often overweight and sedentary folks talking about SCUBA and relaxing. Yeah, that will get them in the sport, but, wait, most divers think of SCUBA as a hobby like model trains or knitting.

    SCUBA gets older, grayer and less appealing to young people with each passing year. And the death of local diving does not help young people who are challenged by the "O" economy (or whoever one wishes to blame it on) and cannot pop five to ten thousand routinely to go SCUBA diving.

    Safety, it is way over rated. And so is boredom. Less gear, more go!

    pauldw, jaymz7783, Jlpskydive and 4 others like this.
  7. 100days-a-year

    100days-a-year Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: NE Florida
    Not hyped like the X games sports.High entry fee.America is getting fatter with fewer taking up outdoor sports.Hollywood portrays diving in a poor light a lot.Economy tanked.You can't text underwater.Hard to Silly Walk underwater.
  8. Mike

    Mike Great White

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Denver, Colorado
    The majority of 'sports' get promoted by those who benefit the most from the industry - which is usually manufacturers of the equipment sold to the enthusiasts. Obviously the manufacturers feel the market is large enough cause I don't recall the last time I saw any diving oriented tv commercials be produced by any gear manufacturers. The only advertising I see manufacturers doing is in a half dozen diving type magazines, and that's it. Manufacturers will grow the market if they need to, until they do, I guess they are very happy with the size of the pie they divide up and there is no problem with not enough new people coming in.
    jIM STEELE, Malene and FlyinV like this.
  9. RJP

    RJP Scuba Media & Publications

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: New Jersey
    It's actually the biggest problem. In general, it doesn't make sense for any one manufacturer to try to grow the market. Think about it, even if you had a 20% market share of equipment (which would be huge) even the most effective campaign you can envision to promote diving in general is going to favor your competition 4-to-1 over you.

    But it would be far better for all manufacturers if SOMEONE did SOMETHING to increase demand for scuba diving. Companies don't mind - and make a lot more money - competing for a piece of a pie that is growing. They make less money... and do stupid things that end up shooting the industry in the foot (fin?) - when they are backed into a corner and have to duke it out for scraps of a shrinking pie.
    Doc likes this.
  10. boulderjohn

    boulderjohn Technical Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boulder, CO
    About a year ago I met with an acquaintance I knew though my wife's former work group. A couple of years ago, that group had done a group Discover scuba experience with me in the shop I was working for then. He had a great time, and he had always decided that he wanted to take up scuba. A year or so after we had done the experience, he went back to the shop to sign up for a class for him and his son. He did not know that I had left the shop, in large part because of a change in dive agencies that brought with it a marketing philosophy that focused on selling gear as a prime part of the business. He told me that he walked out after the pressure to buy complete sets of gear before even taking the class was so intense that he could not take it.

    Well, his job changed, and he has moved to south Florida. I'll be there in a month or so, and we can take care of things then without all that pressure to buy! Buy! Buy!

    (BTW, we had a thread about another shop with the same agency that talked a woman into buying a complete set of gear before classes, including a REBREATHER, and then would not offer any kind of deal for taking it back when she did not even get through the pool sessions.)
    pauldw, Chugwhump and RJP like this.

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