Setting up a local dive community (again?)
By Jean-Marc Claes
We have already written several articles on the subject of building dive communities, yet many dive businesses continue to struggle to:
- Do it.
- Get it done.
- Keep on doing it.
- Keep it going.
So, we at ScubaBiz.Help keep on helping you with this important subject.
Currently, we are setting up a local dive community in one of the most dived islands of the Caribbean: Curaçao.
You would wonder why. Scuba tourism is a BIG thing here, so why would a local dive community be of value? And how would it work?
Well, here is an excellent example to start with.
Imagine the life of a bartender serving drinks all day/night. Do you think they don’t want to be on ‘the other side’ of the bar at some point during his week? Maybe not on Saturday evening, but on his day off, like Mondays? Who will he hang out with on that Monday evening? I am pretty sure it will not be the tourists visiting the island that week.
A local dive community serves the local people, the people who live on the island and might even work in the scuba industry but choose not to be with guests every day, including on their day off!
Do you get the idea?
Curaçao, the sister island of Bonaire, is one of the ABC Islands (Aruba/Bonaire/Curaçao) and offers a serious amount of scuba diving. From pristine reefs filled with abundant fish, deep walls to inspire you, and nice wrecks to attract bigger schools of fish. The healthy reefs of Curaçao attract oceanic fish as well, so a large variety can be found all around.
Maybe Curaçao is even better than the intensively dived Bonaire reefs that are suffering badly from the Stony Coral Tissue Loss disease (SCTLD), which is creating a lot of problems now and even more for the future. The colours of the once-so-beautiful reefs are fading quickly, and the sponges are losing their colours. Bonaire has some serious issues to deal with.
During the last months, we have been active on both islands, comparing the reefs and the colours, using video footage on both places and diving similar reefs.
Does this problem offer a future in dividing or shifting the diving tourism from Bonaire to Curaçao, only 40 miles away from Bonaire? We can already see the impact of the news and the increase of diving tourism in Curaçao, and as it is a bigger island with lots more reefs, it can easily handle the increase of (diving) tourism.
During our visits to both islands, we have seen the differences and possibilities that both islands offer. It made us realize that Curaçao has been in the ‘shadows’ of Bonaire regarding dive tourism over the last decades, but it didn’t need to be.
So, we chose Curaçao to set up a local dive community.
Starting from the famous ‘Spaanse Water,’ a highly protected bay that sailors use to anchor and stay during the six months of hurricane season, it has a nice community of ocean lovers.
Using social media as a communication source, we started to reach out to the sailors in organizing a community dive, organizing multiple dives a week, sometimes in the morning, others in the afternoon or evening. Don’t forget not all people have the same free time schedules. Even sailors have families to attend to or work from the boat as digital nomads.
When organizing the dives, we looked at available locations within the reach of the small ‘dinghies’ sailors use to get to shore from their boats. For sailors, the dinghy is more like the cars that land people use to get around.
If the sailors did not have the right/complete equipment (most sailors do not have access to a compressor to fill a dive tank), we made sure the information was available for sailors to use a local dive centre to get the scuba tanks filled or even rented (this could be your dive centre).
Yes, details and information matter!
After ensuring the information was out there (that takes energy, lots of it), we started planning the dives and beginning with a very easy dive site close by to make it all happen.
A full range of people showed up. The experience of people ranged from those with just a few dives under their belt through to others being retired dive instructors.
The community dive quickly attracted up to 15 divers in less than a week, so we introduced more challenging dives like lionfish hunting (read about this in our earlier ScubaBiz.Help magazine edition). To organize these dives, we asked local operators to help and get involved (again, this could be your business doing that).
When doing night dives and deeper dives, we uphold the dive course standards, so some people who wanted to participate needed extra training, like an Advanced Course. For this, again, local dive schools became the solution.
As for the sailors and the land people… they both have unique possibilities: sailors have boats, land people have cars…so let’s connect them.
Organizing boat dives gives new possibilities to land-based people. Cars are needed to organize beach dives so sailors can get there.
Do you get the idea? Making the best of both communities and connecting them.
What’s next? Equipment? The more people dive, the more they are convinced about buying equipment (rental is always putting money out repeatedly). Still, frequent diving generates revenue by servicing dive gear, more courses, more tank filling, and even upgrading existing equipment.
So, the community has started to dive, what do we do next?
The next step, and maybe the hardest one, is keeping it friendly, fun, exciting and diverse! So, use different dive sites, different subjects, different possibilities. We need to ensure the community does not get bored but keeps it professionally organized.
Always be on the lookout for new things to introduce, such as:
- Scouting dive sites by using DPVs (using a local partner or your business)
- Photography dives by selecting only one fish or coral
- Making fun videos
- Clean up dives, trash counts, creating awareness
- Night dives
- Lionfish hunting, creating awareness of a human-introduced apex predator
It is also remember to do some social things, like remembering when there is a birthday, having a post-dive beer, organizing a lionfish dinner or a potluck (everybody brings some food to share after the dive).
A community takes energy, and you need to put that into it.
The return is a lot of fun, but also good business!
Remember: Sharing is caring!
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