As the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 has now grown to become a declared worldwide pandemic, causing an increasingly alarming human toll and suffering reported in the media daily and leading to widespread travel restrictions, social distancing requirements and bans on public arrangements and congregations of larger groups, many dive operators across the world are now left with no guests and bookings that have either been outright cancelled or deferred to some later date.
While various governments, as of writing this, are mulling over various subsidies or bailouts to tide over whole sectors of business to the other side of the coronavirus outbreak, much uncertainty and concern for the future remains at this juncture among operators with whom X-Ray Mag has spoken about the matter.
Reactions to economic impact
Running a dive operation in a remote exotic location, many of which are in developing countries, generally means that one is also far away from any subsidies. Several of the operators with whom we have enjoyed long-standing business relationships are now fighting for their very survival, which is of course very disconcerting also on a personal level, as we have gotten to know many of these people well—the dive industry is not that big. Some operators, who remain open, are offering deep discounts on bookings and/or very lax cancellation policies and money-back guarantees.
Others still are battening down the hatches and entering a state of hibernation for some months in an attempt to wait out the outbreak.
The reactions and offers vary widely, so if you are planning or hoping to go on a dive trip in the near future, check in with your choice of operator and do it frequently as the situation may change on short notice.
It is going to be tough—there is no point in sugar-coating it. The dive industry is now facing its worst crisis ever, and the segment that works with hospitality, such as dive operators, resorts and liveaboards, is in for a real beating. Dive gear manufacturers appear to be affected too, by association and by the general economic collapse, but that is another side of the story.
As this publication goes to press at the end of March, it appears that the uncertainty itself and the open-endedness of the current situation has led to some panic and perhaps kneejerk reactions, which are inflicting further damage on top of the actual loss of business. It is therefore the hope and expectation of this magazine that the pandemic, which started in Asia and swept westward, will not only pass as a crudely predictable wave in the matter of a few months, but that far more reliable and accurate projections as to when this crisis will blow over can be made within a few weeks. However, as there is no vaccine yet for COVID-19, it is prudent to also expect that clusters of coronavirus may reappear later.
Light at the end of the tunnel
In the days and weeks to come, more and more data will be collected against which models can be validated because greater numbers of people will have been tested as more test facilities and testing kits are produced and authorities begin widespread testing—a strategy that seems to have worked well in Taiwan. There are reports that recovery from COVID-19 may be confirmed through antibody testing, after which parts of populations may be able to return to work and some travel restrictions may be lifted.
Indeed, some travel bans are already being lifted in some areas of China. At this point, affected businesses will hopefully be able to estimate and possibly plan when they can resume their operations and start taking bookings and orders again.
You can help
Don't cancel your dive trips - just postpone the dates.
We believe it is paramount to support each other during these trying times to save and sustain our dive community