DEMA show 2023 felt like a return to the “old normal" but is that a good thing?
We have recently returned from another DEMA Show, and it is heartening to witness the dive industry’s resurgence following the pandemic. The show felt like a return to the “old normal.” However, there is an intriguing duality at play here—the old is becoming the new normal in the dive industry.
With nearly three decades of experience in the dive industry, I may be considered a senior member by conventional standards. Yet, at many dive shows, it does not quite feel that way. Amid the attendees, you will find plenty of grey hair, a few walkers, and even some mobility scooters.
It is no secret that the dive industry faces a significant demographic challenge. The older generation proudly identifies as divers, while younger cohorts often view diving as an item on a checklist, a fleeting experience during vacations. This dwindling retention of divers, who do not progress in their certifications or continue to explore the underwater world beyond occasional holidays, has long eroded the industry’s economic foundation.
So, what has changed? One argument suggests that activities and lifestyle preferences fluctuate in popularity, and diving may have peaked around the turn of the century before gradually declining. While this may hold some truth, I find there is a deeper factor at play.
When my generation, now in our middle years, were children, diving was an unattainable fantasy. Seeing it on TV felt like watching science fiction, igniting our dreams. As dive training gradually became accessible, a door to those dreams began to crack open. As a university student with limited funds, I joined a dive club, piecing together my gear through borrowed, ill-fitting equipment. It took months of club meetings and Tuesday evening training sessions in a public swimming pool before we earned our coveted C-cards.
We were immensely proud because, at that time, certification was a significant achievement, a symbol of prestige. However, just a decade later, you could be at a dinner table, and Aunt Agatha might casually mention her PADI Open Water certification from a trip to Thailand, and no one would bat an eyelid. That is when diving lost its allure for the younger generations, sowing the seeds of its decline.
How do we make diving cool again? I don’t have all the answers, but there are promising signs of a resurgence in some regions, particularly in Asia and pockets of Europe. Additionally, younger divers are increasingly championing environmental causes, participating in underwater clean-ups, coral planting, and reef restoration efforts. It is not just cool; it adds a profound new dimension to being a diver, and that is something to be optimistic about in the ever-evolving world of diving.
— Peter Symes
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief