Rebuilding the scuba industry

By Bill Doran


This month we are starting a new series that we hope will create some hot topics to bring real discussions to the scuba industry. Many people are talking about how the scuba industry is shrinking. Well, it is true, and in the coming issues of the ScubaBiz.Help magazine; we look at ways to grow and rebuild the industry by focusing on one topic at a time and then relating it will affect certain groups and how things could change to support the industry better. These groups include independent instructors, stores, charters/destinations, training agencies, and suppliers. These are the boots-on-the-ground people that make our industry work. Topics include instructors, training costs, fees, insurance, customers, etc.


Rebuilding The Scuba Industry – Part One – Embracing The Instructor


By Bill Doran


The instructor is a key part of everyone’s scuba experiences. When you talk to a diver about their path to becoming a diver, they mention their instructor’s name more than that of the shop or agency. So we will start this series with part one, focusing on the scuba instructor.


Getting to the instructor level takes a lot of dedication, time, experience, and money. Most instructors want to share their passion for diving with others and make some money. We are all aware of sharing the passion for diving, so let us look at the money side. The money side ranges from earning back my investment, having a little part-time job for extras, and being a full-time job. For others becoming an instructor can lead to starting or buying a business such as a shop, a store, a charter boat or a holiday destination.


The above seems to contrast the answers to the questions below.


  • So why is the retention rate at training agencies so low?
  • Why do instructors often need to get a second or third training agency rating as an instructor?
  • Why are we losing instructors?


What are the costs and obstacles that instructors have?

  • The cost of the training agency or agencies annual professional fees.
  • Annual liability insurance.
  • Equipment for them to use.
  • Equipment for the students to use.
  • Air fills for them and their students.
  • Pools or open water locations often are both a cost and an availability issue.
  • Local or destination competitors are not charging the proper amount of money, and yes, they rarely deliver the appropriate course quality.
  • No business training. Many agencies try to include some form of business training but fall short of any tangible skill acquisition.
  • How much does the instructor actually get paid per student? Of course, we know the answer, as our readers are almost all instructors and divemasters. But students and divers would be surprised at how little it is. Yes, I know that shops and stores have the same issue, and we will discuss them next month in part two.


There are more obstacles, but let us stop the list here.


These above costs and obstacles are what lead so many instructors to stop. Often it costs them more money to teach than they receive in payment. Simply put, they can not afford to pay to teach others.


How does this affect:

  • Independent instructors –often they can not afford to continue.
  • Stores – without instructors teaching, there is little opportunity to sell equipment.
  • Charters and destinations – without new divers, customers will fade and
  • Training agencies – to simplify things. Training agencies sell courses, and instructors teach the courses. One can not survive without the other.
  • Suppliers – without new divers, customers will fade and disappear. Scuba divers use scuba equipment. Suppliers need sales, so they need instructors.
  • Insurance companies – you are a supplier!


Instructors need to survive. We all need them. This includes instructors that work for shops, stores, charters, destinations, and independent instructors.


What can we do?


  • Independent instructors –Charge an accurate cost for your services. Yes, your costs may be lower, but your volume often is as well. Do not undercut the others in your area. Give more, do not charge less.
  • Stores – Do not give away courses to sell equipment; they are two different product lines, and

both should be profitable to sell.

  • Charters and destinations – charge an accurate cost for your services, and remember to encourage instructors to send you business. This encouragement should consist of cash incentives. The days of giving a trip free for every ten people they bring are not attractive to an instructor trying to pay their bills.
  • Training agencies – Focus on the fact the instructors sell courses. Are you charging an annual fee to the instructor to have the privilege of teaching your courses? How about focusing on how you can help the instructor sell your courses? Include some (perhaps five) digital course package codes so that when the instructor sells them, they make more than your fees. What do you have to lose? Instructors that teach five courses at the beginning of the season will teach more, which means you sell more courses!
  • Suppliers – How can you help the instructor? Students often buy what the instructor uses and what they learn using. Can there be an incentive there? I know there are often store and shop incentives, but what about the independent guy or the store that can not afford to order ten to 20 sets this year?
  • Insurance companies – Simply stop raising the premiums. We can not operate without insurance but be reasonable. Unfortunately, the cost keeps going up and up and up. My personal premium increased more than 25 % this year: no claims or problems, just the increase. Remember, you need customers too. We can not raise our fees by 25 to 30 %, and we can not absorb your increase.


This article aims to get people talking about building their businesses and the industry.


Who can help? Remember, our mission is in our name, ScubaBiz.Help, and we not only write but also provide other services. All to build and grow your business.

Count Down to Launch

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *