As tourist numbers continue to decline in Cayman, dive shops are doing what they can to lure residents into the water with discounts and special rates on dives and dive training courses.
Grand Cayman has 46 dive operators and most offer residents cheaper diving options than those available to tourists.
For example, Don Foster’s is offering a free ‘learn to dive’ course for residents on 21 June. The resort course is an introduction to diving, done at Don Foster’s pool and classroom, followed by a $25 shore dive if participants decide they want to hit the ocean.
Operations manager Sergio Coni said he had seen a drop in the number of residents learning to dive and diving at weekends, so the company is pushing special offers for residents.
To do the full PADI certification course for residents costs $230 if eight people join a class, or $288 for one person.
‘I’ve noticed there has been a bit of a drop in the people who used to dive with us. It’s not a severe drop though, for example, this weekend we had a lot of residents come dive on the boat.
‘If I had to compare to previous years, I would definitely say there has been a drop.’
He added: ‘There are a lot of new people on the island, everyone here seems to have a friend who has just arrived. With the rollover, we’re seeing a lot of new people who want to get certified.’
At Sunset House, an advanced course for residents will be held on 4 and 5 July for CI$200.
Assistant manager Mike Brown said Sunset was always popular with residents because it regularly runs courses for residents and offers competitive rates for divers who live in Cayman.
He said: ‘We do a lot of residents’ courses and now we have a mailing list for residents to tell them about upcoming courses and events. We encourage people to put their emails down so we can send them the newsletter.’
But Mr. Brown said Sunset had not seen a fall-off in the number of resident dives, saying the dive shop’s location on South Church Street meant shore diving was popular there, especially among residents at weekends.
There has long been a tradition of residents getting good deals on boat and shore diving in Cayman. As many enthusiastic divers head underwater several times a month, paying tourist prices would rack up and make it unviable for them to dive regularly.
Divers Down is taking part in the Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s island-wide Staycation campaign which aims to convince residents to take their holidays on island, staying at local hotels, using local spas or taking a dive vacation on their own doorstep.
‘As part of the Staycation promotion, we’re offering two-tank dives for CI$50, including equipment,’ said Divers Down reservations manager Nicole Best.
The company is also offering residents CI$250 PADI open water certification courses which normally US$500.
With so many dive operators in Cayman, it is worthwhile shopping around for courses and dive trips, as different dive shops are offering a variety of good deals.
Eden Rock Diving Centre has seen a drop off in some of its walk-in business from cruise ships, but no decline in residents.
‘Sometimes we’ll have someone come in three weekends in a row, and then we won’t see them for six months. Weekends are a feast or a famine, depending on what else is going on over a weekend on the island,’ said dive instructor Paul Scammell.
He said Eden Rock offers a 10 per cent discount on all rentals and sales of equipment for residents. Its open water certification course costs $240, rather than the usual $320 rate. Its advanced diving course costs $198 instead of the normal $226 for residents. The lower price is offered if two people or more take the course.
Sarah Lown, a dive instructor at Red Sail said dive shops were becoming very aware that with the decreasing numbers of tourists taking to the water ‘the residents are where it’s at’.
Red Sail offers a range of deals of residents, including half-price diving, 20 per cent off catamaran sails, a Friday night happy hour sail for $15 and a $30 two-tank dive on Sundays.
‘I’d say we’re seeing a steady increase in residents as they get to know about our $30 special,’ she said.
The Cayman Islands Tourism Association features some of the residents deals available on island and other deals can be found by contacting the individual dive operators.