Why It’s Important To Study The Industry
by Gene Muchanski, Executive Director
The Dive Industry Foundation
In the early 1980’s there were a handful of young Dive Industry Professionals (myself included) who took it upon themselves to study the diving industry and turn it into successful careers as Consultants, Reporters, and Industry Planners. We conducted primary and secondary research and used the data to develop industry databases, industry norms, and industry guidelines that pertained to the market size, market composition, annual scuba certifications, and total industry sales revenue. We studied the businesses that made up the then-current Global Diving Business Network and the Key Dive Industry Professionals who were in charge of the top companies. We did our best to track the sales of diving equipment, training courses, travel programs, and lifestyle products. We developed our own industry leading economic indicators for growth which were the current number of dive stores, annual new certifications, and annual equipment sales. A lot has changed in the last 40 years but the need to study and understand the industry has actually increased. In the past 40 years, the diving industry has become more fragmented and even though we have more data to deal with on a daily basis, there is a greater need to sift through the amount of misinformation and disinformation that is out there. They say that the major problem with the information age is that there is too much information (data) being produced and the overall reliability and believability of that data is suspect. It is no longer relevant how much information is available to us; it is the quality of the information we receive that is important. The global diving industry would benefit greatly if the current Industry Planners and Researchers held a round-table discussion to discuss how we could collect economic and statistical data about the diving industry and share it with the key decision makers in our recreation.
Our Foundation follows four Dive Industry Professionals and Associations that conduct on-going surveys in the industry. There may be more, but for some reason, they are not sharing their data with us. Hopefully that will change in the near future. We currently follow and participate in surveys that are conducted by the Dive Industry Association (Gene Muchanski), The Business of Diving Institute (Darcy Kieran), the Cline Group (William Cline), and DEMA. We track the questions being surveyed, the answers and trends the respondents give, and the numbers and business categories of the respondents.
In our opinion, the important data to keep track of in the Global Diving Business Network are the data that identifies and tracks the activity and growth (or decline) of the diving industry global commerce. This job is complex, time consuming, labor intensive, and expensive. On top of that, it is not income-generating for the researchers, which is why there are so few surveys being conducted in the industry. However, the data that can be retrieved, analyzed, and compiled is priceless to the Global Diving Business Community, so we are looking into ways the Global Diving Industry could fund the non-profit organization, The Dive Industry Foundation, to conduct the necessary research.
In the coming months, the Dive Industry Foundation will lay out a plan to analyze the current surveys being conducted in the industry and to see how we can enhance and improve on them, both in quality of questions and quantity of responses. We will be looking at developing leading economic indicators that measure the industry’s economic development in terms of growth or decline. We will be looking at the numbers of dive stores currently operating in the Global Diving Business Network as well as the numbers of diving and diving related businesses throughout the industry supply and demand chains. We will look at annual sales in both wholesale and retail numbers and track initial certifications on an annual basis. It is interesting to note that annual sales and certification numbers are important economic indicators, but so are the number of diving business going in and out of business, and the number of diving-related jobs that are created or lost throughout the year. To get a firm understanding of the industry’s economic development status, we need to look at all of these factors.
Our first step will be to look at industry surveys that are currently being conducted. We need to do two things here. First, we need to help increase the response numbers for all of the surveys currently being conducted. Secondly, we have to update our own survey to include questions that are important to know but are not currently being asked.
The second step will be to convince all dive industry professionals to get behind the surveys and do their part to supply information that we can gather, analyze, and report on. This, of course, is the hardest thing to do in our industry for many reasons. While most dive businesses are small, owner-operator businesses, many are owned by larger companies. Many small business owners either don’t have the time to complete the surveys, don’t trust the companies that run the surveys, or have not collected the necessary data themselves. Too many of the larger companies are reluctant to share any of their information with survey companies, for a number of reasons.
If we can convince the industry to participate in quarterly or annual surveys, we may need to rethink how we conduct them. Rather than have one industry survey that asks the same question to all the different stakeholder groups, maybe we should conduct stakeholder group surveys with questions that pertain specifically to their group. Surveys to Retail stores need to focus on initial scuba certifications, equipment sales, total revenue, number of group trips and number of participants in each group. We also need to know how many stores opened for business and closed for business. Jobs are a big factor in retail. How many jobs are there currently? Full-time, part-time, and private contractors. Every year we need to know how many jobs were created and how many were lost.
Manufacturing surveys are important to the industry. We need to know annual sales domestically and internationally, in wholesale numbers. The numbers of Dealers and employees tells us a lot about manufacturing growth trends. How many new Dealers, how many lost Dealers, and how many current Dealers are there? Jobs created and jobs lost are a big economic factor for us to know.
Certification numbers are important to us. How many initial certs, how many other certifications were issued, and how many certifications were duplicates (one person getting two agency certifications)? If we knew the total number of instructors in our industry, that would be very helpful. If we knew how many Instructors we gained and lost every year, that would be even better.
Travel surveys would tell us how active the global diving community is. Besides knowing how many dive resorts, liveaboards, dive operators and travel professionals we have in the industry, knowing how many we are gaining and losing every year would be helpful. We need to know their occupancy rate and the number of divers they attract every year. We should start counting dive boats in the United States as part of the travel stakeholder group. After all, they are part of travel on a local level. How many dive operators do we have and how many trips do they run, and how many passengers do they take out?
Knowing the economic activity of Equipment Manufacturers, Certification Agencies, Dive Retailers, and Travel Professionals, and comparing last year’s data against the year before is critical information for every serious Dive Industry Business Professional to have. It helps them plan their business activity and budgets for the current year and future seasons to come. But let’s look at the bigger picture here. Knowing the financial state of the industry is necessary when you are considering whether to keep your investment in the industry and especially if you are considering an initial investment in the industry. Having a successful industry that is growing is a prerequisite to attracting investments in new dive resorts, liveaboard vessels, retail dive centers, and other diving and diving related businesses. What about the job market? Why would an individual choose to work in the diving industry if there weren’t employment opportunities? If we don’t have the economic data to include in our marketing message, how can we convince individuals to invest or choose to work in our industry? I think it’s high time that we gather the necessary statistical data we need to have to better market our industry to the next generation of Dive Industry Industry Professionals and Business Investors.
This is an exciting time to become part of the Global Diving Business Network. For more information, contact Gene Muchanski, Executive Director of the Dive Industry Foundation, 2294 Botanica Circle, West Melbourne, FL 32904. Phone: 321-914-3778. Email: email@example.com Web: www.diveindustry.net
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