Scuba Diving: Questions and Answers

Richard H. Stewart speaks with contributing editor Marilee Crocker about the latest programs designed to help travel agents sell dive vacations.

TW: What's your message to agents who have not yet considered dive travel?

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 travel?

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 Association?

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 materials.

TW: How can agents access your Web site?

Stewart: The best door is

TW: What new initiatives are in the works at the Dive Travel Association?

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.

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