Richard H. Stewart speaks with contributing editor Marilee Crocker
about the latest programs designed to help travel agents sell dive
TW: What's your message to agents who have not yet considered
Stewart: Dive travel, in all respects, is now getting close to
$3 billion. Why miss out on the market? You don't have to be a
diver to sell it. It's real simple. If you want to make money, find
markets that are popular and growing and get into them now. The
dive travel industry continues to grow.
TW: What misconceptions keep agents from selling dive
Stewart: That you have to be a diver to sell diving. That's
pretty much the only thing that gets in their way. You don't have
to ski to sell ski. That's the one parallel agents recognize most.
Knowledge is what's most important. If you're a sharp sales person
and study the product, you can get around most of the obstacles of
not being a diver.
TW: What are you focusing on these days at the Dive Travel
Stewart: We are putting a greater amount of effort into the
Internet product and building more and more [on-line] stuff for the
travel agent. We have a very large resource on the Internet for
agents. Those looking for places for their customers can link to
those pages fairly quickly. We have a section that is
pass-protected for travel agents only. Those who become part of our
organization will have access to a growing amount of trade-related
TW: How can agents access your Web site?
Stewart: The best door is www.divetravel.com.
TW: What new initiatives are in the works at the Dive Travel
Stewart: In two weeks we will be mapping out our 1999 strategy.
We are trying to become a catalyst for organizing better exposure
in the non-diver market, to really grow the market. Our ideas for
growth are based on the travel market as a foundation. We would
like to create a movement [in the dive and travel industries] to
introduce the snorkeling and discover diving concepts to not only
the family market but also the teen market.
Our long-range plan is to get a program for the year 2000 where
collectively with DEMA [Diving Equipment & Marketing
Association], the CHA [Caribbean Hotel Association], CTO [Caribbean
Travel Organization] and PATA [Pacific-Asia Travel Association] we
go into the marketplace with the message that it's cool to go
diving. We feel that harnessing the power of the travel industry is
probably the least expensive and most effective way to do it.
TW: Do you see evidence that dive travel suppliers are doing
more to work with agents?
Stewart: The [dive] wholesalers have always understood [about
agents]. Only a small percentage exclude agents. Most are
wholesale/retail operators. Larger resorts understand the benefits
of having volume from agencies. The smaller resorts have never
really understood the role of an agent. They still have to be led
somewhat to that source.
I see more and more [dive travel suppliers] putting their eggs
into the Internet. The harsh reality of today's marketplace is that
the Internet is going to affect, if it hasn't already, many people
in this business. Those agents who are not taking the Internet
seriously need to consider their multimarket approach. A
good-looking Web page with quick turnaround in e-mail response will
nab [consumers] in minutes.