North Central Summit Held in Chicago


Photo by Jennifer Idol

North Central Summit Meeting Recap
Friday, February 26, 2016
Hyatt Regency O’Hare, Rosemont, IL
By Gene Muchanski, Executive Director
Dive Industry Association, Inc.

The first regional summit meeting of the North Central United States was held during the Our World-Underwater Dive & Travel Show.  Nineteen (19) Dive Industry Professionals attended, representing dive stores, dive boats, dive clubs, dive instructors, certification agencies and various dive businesses.

Gene Muchanski, Dive Industry Association kicked off the program by explaining the concept behind the cooperative industry campaign called DIVE LOCAL.  The Goal of the campaign is to unite the local diving community in the Greater Chicago area to work together on activities that have the potential to increase the participation and economic impact of the local dive community.  Growing the diving industry begins with promoting and growing the local diving communities.  The heart of every local diving community consists of its Dive Stores, Boat Operators, Dive Clubs and Dive Instructors.

The objective of this cooperative campaign is to educate the general public about the Joys of Scuba Diving.  We need to show current divers, former divers and prospective divers how to 1) Learn to Dive (Initial training and continuing education);  2) Buy their dive gear;   3) Go Diving;  4) Stay active in the recreation.

The Summit consisted of a series of guest speakers followed by two breakout sessions. The speakers included, Patrick Hammer, Scuba Emporium, Rick Stratton, Dive News Network, Capt. Jim Gentile, Windy City Diving, Margo Miller, Illinois Council of Skin & Scuba Divers, and Lucy Dunbar, PADI Americas Regional Representative.

Patrick Hammer spoke about the importance of dive store sponsored activities and events to keep local divers enthused about the sport.  While Hammer admitted that gear sales are down, classes are way up, and he is having a good year. He encouraged other retailers and clubs to sponsor local dive events.

Rick Stratton spoke about the dive industry as a whole with respect to local diving.  Local diving is down all across the country, not just the Midwest said Stratton.  Stratton encouraged local shops, clubs and instructors to promote local diving as the mainstay support of our industry.

Jim Gentile spoke about his experience working with a variety of shops and clubs to promote the sport locally. He has seen a severe decline in the number of divers diving locally and wants to work to promote local diving with the help of other charters, stores and clubs.

Margo Miller spoke about her experience working with a variety of dive clubs across the state of Illinois. She stated that dive club membership is way down overall and many clubs have disbanded due to lack of attendance or activity. Many of the clubs have no real activity explained Miller. She emphasized the need for cooperation within the clubs to promote the sport.

Lucy Dunbar spoke about her experience running a successful dive store and the need for the dive stores to work effectively to promote local diving and activities. A dive store can only be successful if they develop a group of divers who dive locally and often, said Dunbar.

In the second hour, the group broken into focus groups including dive clubs, instructors, resorts. They discussed the problems with the local area including aging membership base, the lack of good meeting places, and people reluctant to take a leadership role.

The dive retailers face problems too including dropout rates, course prices that have not kept up with inflation, instructors who do not seem to value marketing, and everyone recognized that it is a struggle to communicate, especially online.

The group recognized that the upcoming millennials market is a potential huge market who seem to value travel and experiences over acquiring more stuff and that the social aspect of the sport is a huge motivator to get people to join the sport.

Finally, the group joined a larger discussion of potential solutions. With the baby boomers still booming, senior only trips is a potential resource. Dive clubs can work together to promote group events, helping each other remain active. Dive clubs could offer to help cross market diving with other clubs of dissimilar interests such a motorcycle club having a try scuba event.  They said that everyone should try attracting more active customer base that values extremes, like backpacking or all-inclusive, focus on the social aspect of the sport and work with other groups to share successes and best practices.

All-in-all, the second Local Diving Summit was a success and everyone seemed genuinely inspired by the event. The Dive Local campaign now has two successful events and nearly 40 members. Next stop is Beneath the Sea, in Secaucus, NJ on April 1, 2016.

Guest Speakers

Gene Muchanski, Dive Industry Association, Inc.

Rick Stratton, Dive News Network

Local Speakers

Patrick Hammer, Scuba Emporium

Capt. Jim Gentile, Windy City Diving

Margo Miller, Illinois Council of Skin & Scuba Divers

Lucy Dunbar, PADI Americas Regional Rep

Breakout Session – Focus Groups

  1. Group 1 – Clubs
  2. Group 2 – Instructors
  3. Group 3 – Resorts

Regional Problems

  • Aging membership
  • Finding meeting places
  • People are reluctant to take a Leadership role
  • Drop out problem
  • Prices of courses have not keep up over time
  • Instructors will take more diving courses but not marketing courses
  • Industry resistant to using marketing experts
  • Email is getting passe – many don’t read their emails anymore


  • Millennials are a hugh market
  • Social aspect of diving is very important
  • You can have a career in diving – We need a Pathway to a successful career

Potential Solutions

  • Senior-only Trips
  • Combine Club Events
  • Need to do more than just Dive
  • Link up / partner with other clubs
  • Cross market to other clubs – i.e. motorcycle clubs
  • Plan trips that are more demographically similar
  • Cater to Extremes – i.e. Backpacking side trips
  • Promote all-inclusive trips – $$$
  • Attract other adventure sports people
  • Broaden horizons
  • Courses that meet needs
  • Make group photos interesting
  • Build a pathway to a successful diving career
  • Don’t take away from the “Thrill of Adventure.”

Actionable Items

  • Acquire New Club Members
  • Focus on social aspect of the sport
  • Develop best-practices for Youth Groups.
  • Create sharable content for newsletters & communication
  • Change the image of the diving industry
  • Improve communication with industry shareholders
  • Publish & Promote Local Diving Events & Activities


About divelocal

Executive Director of Dive Industry Foundation. The Foundation is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)3 charitable organization. We are the Founding Sponsor of DIVE LOCAL and soon to be just one of many.
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