Diving Vacations: PADI Programs Target Travel Agents

A major agent initiative launched last year by North America's largest dive certification organization offers travel retailers a new set of tools for learning about and selling dive travel.

The comprehensive program is an effort by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) to encourage travel agents to direct bookings to the more than 900 resorts that comprise PADI's International Resort Association (PIRA). "Travel agents are already sending people to resorts, so why not give them a reason to focus on PADI resorts," says Bill Hamm, manager of PADI's International Resort Association.

The program marks something of a departure for PADI, which traditionally has viewed agents as competition for its North American dive shops, some of which sell dive travel themselves. Hamm says the organization decided to target agents when it realized that the agent industry was beginning to educate itself on dive travel.

INFORMATION KIT

The cornerstone of PADI's travel agent initiative is its Secrets to Selling Dive Travel information kit. Available to agents for $49.95, the kit includes a 28-page booklet titled "Secrets to Selling Dive Travel"; promotional materials detailing PADI programs and benefits; a Dive Travel Handbook binder; a directory of PIRA dive travel resorts; dive travel brochures provided by member resorts, and quarterly copies through the remainder of 1999 of the PIRA Connection agent newsletter, which contains information on travel specials and contests.

The Secrets to Selling Dive Travel booklet contains an introduction to scuba diving that gives an overview of the sport, dive gear, certification programs and terminology. Another section focuses on tips for selling dive travel and provides suggestions for marketing, building relationships with local dive centers and orchestrating theme nights.

The booklet also explains PADI's various programs and branches, including the PADI Travel Network, a dive wholesaler that represents hundreds of PADI-affiliated resorts. The PADI Travel Network pays commissions (varies but most pay 10% on land packages) to agents (as well as to PADI dive centers). Although the PADI Travel Network has been around since 1989, the drive to encourage agents to book through it is relatively new, Hamm says.

OTHER AGENT INITIATIVES

Other PADI programs for travel agents include:

Dive-O-Rama Referral Madness. Agents are encouraged to give clients Dive-O-Rama forms that can be redeemed for a free in-pool Discover Scuba experience at a local PADI Dive Center. The names of both the referring agent and Discover Scuba participants will be entered in drawings for prizes including a dive vacation, dive gear, sunglasses, etc. The program, which runs through Dec. 31, is designed to introduce consumers to diving and to encourage agents to establish relationships with local dive shops.

P-Notes. The summer 1999 issue of the PIRA Connection newsletter contains coupons, called P-Notes, that agents can give to their clients to redeem at local dive centers for a $10 discount off a dive certification class or equipment.

Agent seminars. This fall, PADI will launch seminars, initially in southern California, designed to introduce agents to recreational scuba diving and dive travel. According to Hamm, who notes that PADI's expertise is in education, the seminars will be accredited by ICTA.

For additional information on any of PADI's agent programs or to order the Secrets to Selling Dive Travel information kit, agents may contact Annette Moore, PIRA customer service representative, at (800) 729-7234; (949) 858-7234 ext. 535, or [email protected].

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