Diving Vacations: Q&A with Regina Franklin

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Contributing editor Marilee Crocker speaks with Regina Franklin, executive director of Diving Equipment and Marketing Association about the growing opportunities for agents in dive travel.

TW: Recently, several key members of the dive industry have introduced initiatives aimed at agents. What's prompting them to do so now?

Franklin: We recognize that a great number of people utilize agents on an ongoing basis to plan their vacations, and it's important that we [in the dive industry] utilize the agent community. Some retailers in the dive industry do an effective job at selling dive travel, but that is the exception, not the norm, so if a customer comes in and says, "I want to go to XYZ destination," they're challenged.

One of the things that's driving this now is the advent of the Internet. Specialty vacations like diving offer a unique opportunity for travel agents, because if [consumers] are not familiar with a location and its facilities they will have a challenging time trying to book a dive vacation themselves. That's where the services of an informed agent could really be valuable.

TW: What are the most important first steps agents can take to become involved in dive travel?

Franklin: Ideally, they would either be a diver or be willing to go and do a dive experience [so they] have an idea of what's involved. That will create an immediate feeling of identification with the [client], and when a consumer asks specific questions it will help the person selling to understand the basics. Diving has specific details that people need to know about because of the equipment involved and things like flight times [see Dive Basics below] and dive times. It's important to be knowledgeable about those issues.

There are lots of places you can gain an overview about diving. You can do a resort course, or most dive stores offer introductory in-water experiences where you spend a few hours in their pool and talking to them to become familiar with clients and their needs.

One thing I've seen done effectively by travel companies is to make themselves available to talk about their services at a dive store's specialty night.

TW: How can participation in DEMA [Diving Equipment and Marketing Association] help agents who want to sell dive travel?

Franklin: A lot of agents are not familiar with how the dive industry is structured so they don't know where to begin. It's important to network and know who the players are. DEMA is the primary network for the diving industry worldwide and certainly can help with that.

Also, we have a trade Web site [ www.dema.org] where we can list agents who want to specialize in dive travel. And we have just launched a consumer Web site [at www.time2dive.com]. We're drawing consumers in to that through a response mechanism to an advertising campaign in dive and nondive publications, and we are aggressively marketing the site through reciprocal links and search engines. Through membership in DEMA, agents have direct access to consumers as part of this campaign.

Contact DEMA

Agents may obtain more information on membership in the Dive Equipment & Marketing Association by contacting the organization at (714) 939-6399, fax (714) 939-6398; e-mail: [email protected].

Dive Basics

Agents who are booking dive vacations are advised to keep these essential dive travel guidelines in mind.

C-Cards and log books. Dive clients should be reminded to bring along their C-Cards (short for certification card) and their log books when traveling. A C-Card provides proof to dive operators that an individual has been certified to dive, and a log book, a record of a diver's underwater experience, helps dive operators assess the diver's skill level.

Air travel limitations. Divers should be cautioned to wait 12 to 24 hours after diving before flying, since flying with residual nitrogen in the blood can cause physical problems. Travelers are free to dive immediately after flying.

Matching destinations and clients. Before sending dive travelers to destinations where underwater conditions make for challenging diving, make sure they have sufficient diving experience.

Excess baggage. Check with airlines regarding baggage surcharges and restrictions for dive clients who will be carrying their own gear and underwater photography equipment.

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