While the Cayman 2.0 series has thus far been looking at the ideas and strategies that could make the country a better place, we’re changing things up for December. This month, we’re highlighting 21 people who could turn some of those ideas into reality – or at least get the ball rolling – over the next calendar year.
For the longest time, the recipe for scuba diving operators in the Cayman Islands was a pretty simple one. Establish a link with the cruise ships and stay-over tourists, take the boat out for a two-tank morning dive and a one-tank afternoon dive, rinse and repeat.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Don Foster’s Dive operations manager Sergio Coni says those days are long gone.
“I think it’s a true blessing in disguise in many aspects,” said Coni, who watched as his company’s owners downsized the operation from a daily dive operation and retail shop into one that only provides tanks for shore divers and a few boat dives per week while the borders are closed.
21 people in 2021
• James Whittaker
• Rachel Smyth
• Andre Gooden
• Adam Sax
• Marc Langevin
• Louisa Sax
• Dr. Marc Lockhart
• Lauren Nelson
• Jordan Stubblefield
• Brandon Caruana
• Josephine Horwitz
• Juliet Austin
• Stacy McAfee
• Blair Lilford
• Mike Mannisto
Perhaps more importantly, however, Don Foster’s has changed the way it is interacting with its customer base, which is largely resident-based at the moment. It’s now using technology like WhatsApp and Facebook to communicate directly with customers, letting them know what dives are coming up while also asking for feedback on when and where locals would like to dive.
Don Foster’s is now advertising where it will be diving days ahead of time, a far cry from when divers only found out where they’d be heading once they stepped foot on the boat. Knowing that most customers right now will be residents, Don Foster’s is also offering unique dive experiences, like 90-minute bottom times and trips to dive sites not normally visited when borders are open and visitors fill the boats.
Coni says, “We are basically re-inventing ourselves.”
So far, so good, he says.
“I think every other diving operator… will find themselves in that situation of having to redesign and maybe try some things to see if they work or they don’t and adjust,” Coni says.
“We have a loyal following [of visitors who dive with Don Foster’s]. They will also like and benefit from the way we are running things,” he says.
He’d like to see the “new” way of doing business as a dive operator include dive companies working together to make sure each of them gets the best user experience possible.
That could include staggering the start of boat dives to ensure each operator can reach highly desired dive sites. That would have to happen in order for dive operators to be able to advertise dives for specific sites days ahead of time, as Don Foster’s is currently doing.
“It would be a matter of organising ourselves,” he says.
While Coni continues to take this new way of doing business into 2021, he says it’s important to remain adaptable and continue focussing on the customer experience.
“I will admit that if things were ‘normal’, I would probably stay with the time schedule that we had because it seemed to be working,” says Coni of life before the pandemic.
“I’ve seen a change. People doing a little more nighttime [diving], especially because residents work during the weekdays.
“The way we organise it allows that possibility.”
He says he hopes the diving industry on the whole adopts this new, flexible way of doing business – at least parts of it – going forward in order to keep the industry thriving.