The 2023 Malaysia International Dive Expo was a hit! Despite a last-minute change of venue, moving to the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre in Kuala Lumpur on 26-28 May, the show exceeded expectations. X-Ray Mag associate editor and regional representative in Asia, Catherine GS Lim, reports.
Entering the exhibition hall on Day One at MIDE 2023 gave me a distinct buzz. Squaring my shoulders in anticipation, I walked past the booths and waved hello to old friends. As I made my way deeper into the hall, I felt a raising sense of excitement. MIDE 2023 was my first overseas dive show since the pandemic, and it appeared to be off to a promising start.
In April, when the organisers announced a change of venue due to circumstances beyond their control, there was some degree of anxiety amongst the exhibitors. Yet, instead of looking back at what could have been, they swiftly pivoted and seamlessly shifted their operations to the new venue.
All this in 35 days. Organising an international dive show at a completely new venue in five weeks was a class act. Kudos to the organisers and their dedicated team, their associates and suppliers.
Record number of exhibitors
This year, MIDE hosted a record number of 222 exhibitor booths. Amongst them were 69 new exhibitors. As always, the show ran from Friday to Sunday, with more visitors on the weekend.
It was good to see the crowded aisles. The dive community is a tight-knit one. Many exhibitors were from the main dive community, comprising dive centres, liveaboards, resorts, equipment retailers/suppliers, and dive boats. I also noticed exhibitors from related industries and organisations, like those focused on conservation, sports medicine and even underwater hockey.
The sport of underwater hockey intrigued me. Sure, I had heard about the sport from other dive shows but had been under the impression that it was confined to university sports clubs and niche circles. Thus, it surprised me to learn from National Head Coach Roshan Babu Balakrishnan that quite a number of scuba divers played the sport. It was a special treat too that members of the Malaysian national underwater hockey team had set aside time to share their passion with MIDE visitors.
Inclusivity and diversity
It also appeared to me that as a dive show, MIDE was more inclusive, in terms of its demographics—I was seeing greater numbers of younger divers walking the aisles and even inside the booths. Not only were more of them taking the plunge (literally), they were also giving talks about their marine conservation efforts, à la 15-year-old Julia Aveline Rabenjoro’s stage presentation about “Youth in Conservation” as well as a panel discussion about dive education on youth, with the topic of “Young Generation Scuba Diver with Mission.”
Even nine-year-old Izabell Ahmad took the stage with her father, UW photo pro and expedition leader Imran Ahmad, one of Asia’s most celebrated and internationally published underwater photographers (while her mother Debbie Tan recorded their presentation from the floor) to share her diving experiences.
During the light-hearted 30-minute presentation, it was obvious that travel and diving bonded the family closer together and elevated their experiences. In addition, Imran admitted that because they did things together, it gave him a different kind of meaning to how he did his photography and how he ran his trips.
Presentations and forums
As with previous MIDE shows, there were many stage presentations and forums, as well as the Dive Divas Fan Club booth and the exhibition of the winning entries of the annual Lens Beyond Ocean International Photo Competition. As always, the winning entries wowed its viewers by providing fresh perspectives into the underwater realm—and perhaps some inspiration for their next dive trip.
Overall, this year’s show was indeed larger, in terms of physical space and its collective vision. It is a dive show that has reasserted itself by focusing on what mattered most to the dive community and industry—the essentials like dive trips, dive courses and underwater photography—while keeping an eye on the future by involving more conservation groups and the younger generation. ■