Friday, November 27, 2009

Marine Extinction - two


I'm talking about us!
Us, the baby boomers - me, I learn, being a Joneser.

One of the most interesting topics of discussion at this year's DEMA was how population dynamics are affecting our industry.

It is very much us the boomers who have pioneered SCUBA diving and who have developed it from the initial passion of a select few intrepid adventurers to a world wide movement that has become universally accessible. It is very much us who have discovered and developed most destinations, opened the first dive centers, built the first liveaboard vessels, established the accepted diving procedures and developed the modern dive gear.
And most passionate, committed, wealthy and experienced clients hail from our ranks - especially those who book trips on liveaboard vessels.

But now, we're getting ever older and ever more frail, and dying.
Gone are the glorious days of hard core diving in some remote corner of the world - nowadays, it's Old Farts' Diving, as Bob Halstead calls it: no more schlepping of tanks, no more currents, no more risks, no more reckless adventure and exploration.
Enter the global recession that has wiped out most 401Ks and by the time we’ve managed to re-coup our losses, it will be too late - for us and for the conventional liveaboard industry.

Because the next batch is nothing like us.
To them, diving is just one among many other activities one can pursue during one’s holiday. They care not for dive dive eat dive dive eat dive sleep, the rather basic food, the occasional roach infestation and the constant rocking whilst trying to fall asleep on a narrow hard bunk .
They want to be able to play a couple of rounds of golf, sip a cocktail at the pool, have a massage, download their mail and watch news, go sightseeing and shopping and sleep in a proper bed.
Plus, more often than not, they tend to be accompanied by a non-diving and boat-o-phobic partner and a bunch of kids for whom diving is something un-cool that only old people do.
Not the kind of people who book traditional, old-style liveaboards, that’s for sure.

For that very specialized industry segment to survive, it will have to evolve, and very fast on top of that.
I believe that with the exception of very select destinations that will always remain iconic and attract a loyal following, like Cocos and the Galapagos where land based diving is really not an option anyway, the trend will have to be substantially shorter trips coupled with a much wider range of activities and services. Think “very small adventure cruise ship” offering a wide range of aquatic and land based activities including several X-activities like kayaking, surfing, hiking, canyoning and cross country biking along with cultural immersion and shopping - and even the all-important yoga, wellness and spa! And the connectivity! And the luxury!

Impossible?
Not really – but it will imply a change of mind set, strategy and marketing. And substantial investments on top of that, something I fear only few will be able, or willing to shoulder in these challenging times. Having talked to quite a few, many just can't be bothered and will just sell their vessels and retire.

Le Roi est mort - vive le Roi!

3 comments:

Dive Vava'u said...

Great post. It will be sad to see the days of dive, dive, dive dwindle. Lets hope the new evolution of travel and diving allows still for growth and important protection of the resources we have enjoyed for so long......

DaShark said...

Thank you.

I'm actually hopeful on both fronts.

The recession is a blip and everybody will continue to do what humans do, to be industrious and to strive for a better life - including having a well deserved vacation.
And growth will be fueled by the immense markets of China and India that are creating individual wealth and where the population is increasingly discovering the pleasures of traveling abroad. We already experience a lot of it here in Fiji.

Marine conservation has thankfully come a long way and I see no reason to believe that it won't continue to progress.
We certainly wouldn't be doing what we do if we thought it was hopeless, or ineffective.

Shark Diver said...

I like crystal ball forecasting.

I think you're right about the future.

Another consideration is the giant X graph of poorly qualified divers and tougher and more remote dive sites.

As for the industry modifying in time?

Suffice to say 10 years from now will feature a leaner, smarter dive sphere.