One hallmark of today's leisure travelers is that they are
perennially on the lookout for new experiences and adventures. One
way agents can satisfy leisure clients' yearnings for the new and
begin building a dive travel market base for themselves is by
introducing clients to the concept of dive vacations.
In recent years, dive certification organizations, in concert
with travel suppliers and popular dive destinations have
implemented a number of promotions, programs and changes to
existing programs that make it easier than ever to introduce new
divers to the beauties of the underwater world.
Many also have begun promoting snorkeling as one of the easiest
and nonthreatening ways to create interest in dive travel. They
encourage travel agents to recommend to clients bound for
warm-water destinations that they try snorkeling, since surveys
indicate that most people who sign up for dive certification
classes became interested in doing so after snorkeling.
STREAMLINED DIVE TRAINING
Historically, there were two avenues through which neophytes
could pursue diving. They could obtain a full open-water dive
certification, allowing individuals to dive independently once they
had completed classroom, pool and open-water training, or they
could sample diving on vacation by taking a one-day resort course
-- a one-time guided shallow-water dive following quick and basic
Those are still popular options, but now there are even more
pathways into the world of diving. For example, depending on the
dive certification organization, divers who complete a resort
course (available under different names) receive documentation that
allows them to enjoy guided shallow-water dives repeatedly instead
of just once.
In addition, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors
(PADI) recently introduced a new certification level, the PADI
Scuba Diver program, that requires less training than the full
open-water certification, yet allows individuals who have completed
it to dive almost anywhere under the supervision of a PADI
In addition, PADI has streamlined its diver education system to
allow participants in its introductory programs to apply their
experience toward full open-water certification. Also, individuals
can now easily complete the academic portion of PADI certifications
at home using video or CD-ROM.
Changes in the dive certification process and the availability
of several levels of introductory experiences have prompted dive
travel suppliers to offer a variety of learn-to-dive or experience
One dive operator that is making an effort to introduce agents
and their clients to learn-to-dive vacations is the Underwater
Explorers Society (Unexso), a dive operator on Grand Bahama Island.
It has created three levels of vacations for what it calls
"want-to-be" divers and introduced fully commissionable travel
packages as well as collateral materials targeted to agents.
"The fact is people want to go scuba diving, but they don't want
to spend four weeks preparing for it," says John Stewart, president
of Dive Marketing International in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which
represents the Underwater Explorers Society. "There's a perception
that to dive you have to go through a long arduous training
process. That's no longer so."
Unexso provides a program guide for agents that explains the
home study portions of learn-to-dive vacations, a fact sheet
detailing the different levels of dive certification and a
four-color brochure showcasing its learn-to-dive, snorkeling and
dive with dolphins programs.
Unexso is one of a number of dive travel suppliers that offer
learn-to-dive, introductory scuba and snorkel vacation packages.
Following is a selection of such packages in several popular dive
destinations. Prices are per person, based on double occupancy.
Cozumel. Dive Tours in Houston offers a seven-night
CertiVacation package that leads to PADI's full open-water dive
certification. The package price covers at-home video or CD-ROM
study materials; additional instruction in Cozumel including pool
sessions and lectures; an open-water dive experience; open-water
skills demonstrations, and a final exam. Priced starting at $592,
land, in September and October, the package includes accommodations
at the Casa del Mar, necessary dive gear, instruction, hotel
transfers, instruction and taxes.
Grand Bahama Island. The Underwater Explorers Society
offers a four-night Learn to Dive Vacations open-water package on
Grand Bahama Island that also leads to PADI's open-water
certification. Priced starting at $599, the package includes
accommodations at the Port Lucaya Resort and Yacht Club, all
materials for pre-trip at-home study, two days of pool and ocean
dives while on Grand Bahama Island and use of dive gear. For
clients who simply want to sample diving, Unexso offers a
four-night Dive Today package at the same resort that incorporates
a half-day dive experience beginning with a pool-side briefing and
a pool dive and concluding with a guided reef dive. It is priced at
Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Baskin in the Sun has
put together a five-night Experience Diving program that includes
oceanview accommodations at the Prospect Reef Resort, a PADI resort
course, airport transfers, hotel taxes and service charges. It is
priced at $397 through Dec. 14.
Contact Unexso at (800) 992-DIVE (3483) or (945) 351-9889.
Maduro Dive Fanta-Seas in Miami offers a free introduction to
scuba experience, normally priced from $75 to $100, to clients who
book a minimum five-night stay at the Sunset House on Grand Cayman
or at Habitat Curacao.
Contact Maduro Dive Fanta-Seas at (800) 327-6709 or (305)
FREE DIVE CERTIFICATION
Nekton Diving Cruises in Fort Lauderdale, which operates the
live-aboard Nekton Pilot in the Bahamas and, starting in November,
off the coast of Belize, offers a free open-water dive
certification program to consumers and agents.
Under the program, travelers who book a Nekton dive vacation
will be connected with a PADI dive shop in their area, where they
complete the necessary book and pool work at no cost before
departing on their vacation. (If a convenient PADI shop is not
available, Nekton will arrange for travelers to complete pretrip
book and pool work shoreside in Fort Lauderdale.) Once on board the
Nekton Pilot, new divers complete the final checkout dive required
for final certification.
John Dixon, marketing manager for Nekton, says that if one
member of a couple finds that after completing the checkout dive he
or she doesn't enjoy diving, he or she can choose to participate in
Nekton's Snorkel First program, which offers guided snorkel
Nekton's weeklong live-aboard dive vacations are priced at
$1,395 or $1,495, depending on departure date. Contact Nekton
Diving Cruises at (800) 899-6753 or (954) 463-9324.Bonaire Diving Package
Caradonna Caribbean Tours of Altamonte Springs, Fla., is
marketing a Bonaire Adventure package that combines diving with
other nature-oriented activities during a stay at the Sand Dollar
The seven-night package begins with a full day of diving that
includes an orientation of Bonaire Marine Park, a shore dive on
Bari Reef and a boat dive. New divers may choose a resort dive
The package also incorporates a guided kayak tour of Bonaire's
mangroves; a half-day nature tour of Washington Park; a guided
snorkeling excursion that is introduced by an audiovisual
presentation of the snorkeling site, and a tour of Bonaire by
On the final day of the trip, participants may choose to repeat
either the snorkeling, diving or mountain bike program. The Bonaire
Adventure package is priced at $682 per person, land, based on
quadruple occupancy in a two-bedroom condo during September and
Call Caradonna Caribbean Tours at (800) 328-2288. For carrier
information to Bonaire contact ALM at (800) 327-7230 or Air Aruba
at (800) 882-7822.