Observers note dive industry rise

The diving industry has experienced
a slightly better last few months, but is still a depressed market, according
to reports out this week.

Businesses saw a small decrease in
gross revenues for the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008,
according to a new report undertaken by the William Cline Group. It took in
data from 243 worldwide businesses, 88.9 per cent of which were from the USA.

The exact decrease in gross revenue
across the board, it said, was 1.5 per cent during the final few months of 2009.
Retailers reported that their overall gross revenues were down by 7 per cent.
New certifications also saw a downturn, of 7.3 per cent, and independent instructors
showed a 5.1 per cent decrease of certifications.

Dive travel sales were down by 11.9
per cent for retailers and dive equipment sales declined by 7.3 per cent.

“My data shows that travel
represents 76 per cent of all diver expenditures and equipment and services
(classes, rentals etc) less than 24 per cent,” explained William Cline,
president of the Cline Group, which is employed by a number of Caribbean
islands in a strategic branding and marketing capacity.

Better news

The first quarter of 2010 could
bring better news for the retail market, according to respondents, with 33.7
per cent of those surveyed believing that gross revenues would be up. 53.3 per
cent said the first quarter would see similar revenues to the previous quarter,
and 13.3 per cent believed it would be down.

Dive travel revenues could be up in
the period, noted 33.3 per cent, with 26.7 per cent believing it would be the
same and 20 per cent projecting a decrease.

Most optimism was garnered in the
field of dive certification. 40 per cent believed there would be an increase,
53.3 per cent said it would be the same and 6.7 per cent saw a decline
imminent.

The dive industry professionals
surveyed were also asked about equipment sales revenues. In that sense, 40 per
cent believed sales would increase, 46.7 said they would be the same and 13.3
per cent forecast a decrease.

On an international basis, 44 per
cent of Caribbean and South American region
respondents believed that they would have an increase in first quarter revenues.

“When looking at a combined
response for travel sector – resorts, wholesalers & liveaboards – the
average company posted a 6.6 per cent gain in their fourth quarter 2009 gross
revenues as compared to the same period in 2008.

“Their outlook is very optimistic
as almost 50 per cent expect to see a gain in their expected revenues in the
first quarter of 2010,” read the report.

Robust

Mr. Cline said that last autumn was
when the diving industry bottomed out, with different sections of the diving
industry having their worst moment at different times.

“Manufacturing is now looking
rather robust, as they have a different sales process than sales retailers
because they have to gear up for distribution.

“We’ve not seen any positive growth
at all for the last five quarters and we’re still not seeing any growth but
we’ve seen a lot less loss. The diving industry is still down but the margin is
narrowing across the board. From a destination standpoint there’s a similar
picture across Caribbean islands, with certain
individuals doing very well but the entire market’s down 25 to 30 per cent
which affects everybody,” he said.

Point of sale

A separate survey, undertaken by
Leisure Trends Group, noted that there had been a decline in dive industry
sales of 6 per cent in units and 4 per cent in dollars in 2009 compared to
2008.

The report, titled Dive Topline,
was billed as an investigation into the United States diving industry.

Leisure Trends Group’s scuba panel
is derived from more than 120 doors of independent and speciality dive shops.
It utilises tracking data from sell-through or point-of-sale transactions
reported electronically.

The margin or error varies by
category as the percentage of sales captured also varies. That data is then
projected up to 1,485 speciality doors.

Dive service numbers are not
tracked in the same point-of-sale way as merchandise and were therefore for
directional purposes only. Estimated dive services sales were $324 million during
2009 which was a 4 per cent increase in total dollars over 2008. It said that
fourth quarter services were up by 30 per cent.

Context

Mr. Cline said that it was
important to context the figures correctly as the market is unusually-depressed
in the middle of the world depression

“Any activity like diving which
creates an emotional bond is one of the last things you want to give up doing
in a tough economy and divers have held true. Some who have been hit hard last
fall started to see a slow turnaround in the last few months.

“2009 was also an off year, you
have to go back two years before you get a true picture in terms of relative
sales volumes. 2009 numbers were very depressed. I would say there’s light at
the end of the tunnel and we’re starting to see that light – but we still need
a flashlight.”

Awards

This month Cayman was given a
fillip after being named one of the region’s top dive destinations, according
to a magazine poll. Scuba Diving Magazine’s 2010 Readers Choice Awards gave
Cayman first place in four of nine categories in its January/February issue.

They were top overall rating of the
destination; wall diving; visibility and health of marine environment and
diving for advanced divers.

Editorial director Ty Sawyer gave
out the awards at the recent scuba diving hall of fame induction ceremony at
Pedro St. James. He told the Caymanian Compass that the accolades were
important as they were voted for by readers rather than professionals.

“Scuba Diving Magazine readers have
an average of ten and a half years’ diving so they’re a bit more savvy than
other divers you might get. They’re definitely not going to rate a place where
they’re not going to go back. They rate it as somewhere they can get more out
of it after their first dive and it’s pretty high on the list of repeat
destinations cause of all it has to offer.

“Readers go and get entranced by
the Cayman Islands, the health of the marine environment and how clear the
water is then they look for more and more so they keep coming back which speaks
volumes as to the quality of the diving there, hence the awards. I’ve been
coming since 1983 and done hundreds of dives and I never grow tired of it,” he
said.

BUZdiveSTORY

Diving in Cayman.
Photo: File

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