Even though DEMA Show will continue its alternating schedule of holding its annual conventions in Orlando and Las Vegas over the next couple years, planning is already well underway for a return to New Orleans in the autumn of 2020.
DeeperBlue.com got a chance to briefly chat with DEMA Executive Director Tom Ingram during this year’s convention in Las Vegas, where we talked about how the planning was going for adding New Orleans into the rotation.
“We’ve incorporated New Orleans as a third city in our rotation,” Ingram said, so for the next six years at least DEMA Show will be held in Orlando, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Orlando, Las Vegas and New Orleans.
“We’re contracted to do 2020, the hotels are set, everything’s ready to go, we’re set for 2023 as well, so that’s as far out as we’re gonna go for the moment . . . It took us a while to mesh it all together to work.”
Ingram said he had wanted to get into New Orleans earlier than 2020, but couldn’t because that’s how far out these things are booked.
“It’s all good stuff, and we’re excited about it — it’s gonna be fun.”
As far as this year’s Las Vegas DEMA Show, Ingram said about 95 percent of the hotel space allocated for DEMA had been sold, and the walk-up crowd has been bigger than last year in Orlando.
“Our exhibitor space numbers were also up by about three and a half percent of our projected goal, so everything looks good, it’s been busy, I’ve been talking to a lot of people and they’re excited about what’s going on.”
Whether this growth says something about the industry itself, or if it’s just that Vegas is a more attractive location, Ingram said:
“Really tough to say. Las Vegas always has just a slightly larger registration number. By slightly larger its not more than a hundred or so additional registrants when you compare to Orlando, so I don’t think that’s the issue, I think there’s a little more optimism in the country from an economic standpoint.
“The industry itself — and everybody knows this — if you look at the Open Water [Diver] certification numbers from 2010 to 2015, we as an industry we’re down about 13 percent. We’re still not as much as we were in 2010 — it’s not there, but the drop-off is slowing — maybe we’re at the bottom of the curve and we’re starting to come back up again. It’ll be hard to know until we get more numbers for this year but they’ve been good, there’s been some growth in certifications from last year.”
Ingram said his organization’s main focus this year has been on its “Go Dive Now” program launched last May.
Since the its launch, the Go Dive Now Facebook page has seen almost 3 million views, he added.
“We’ve actually used DEMA member dive stores as the focal point of our advertising so we’re looking at the area or the neighborhoods around each one of those stores and looking for the target market, it’s a system that allows us to look at who specifically is our target market by household, and then we’re firing those Facebook and Instagram ads and YouTube ads directly into that household.
“And so what we’ve seen is we’ve gotten about 130,000 website visits in 150 days. But the conversion rate of that — conversion from website visitor to visiting the dive store finder and dive store — has been 31 percent. So we know we’re targeting the right people, we know we’re generating the interest, and the question is, are the retailers actually seeing the business beyond just a click on their store website which is on our dive store finder on godivenow.com.”
Ingram noted that a trend had recently begun where — given that the dive industry is a seasonal business — the number of dive store finder click-throughs has been dropping but the number of dive vacation finders on the same website has started to come up.
“So we’re actually seeing a reflection of the seasonality of the business.”
As for his outlook for next year’s DEMA Show in Orlando, Ingram was pretty optimistic that it had an equal chance of being a successful one.
“I don’t think we’re gonna see any change in the overall attendance, because if you look at our record, it’s all posted on DEMA.org, our stats, we don’t vary by more than a couple hundred in either place we go — it generally is very consistent, back and forth.
“And I attribute that really to the fact that we pre-qualify attendees, so we make sure that they have the right qualifications, you don’t have as many tire-kickers as we used to have, and we purposefully a number of years ago reduced our attendance by not allowing folks that don’t belong there to come in, and as a result, we’ve been very even whereas the rest of the convention industry has experienced these dramatic ups and downs.”
DEMA Show is still one of the top 250 trade shows in the USA, and Ingram doesn’t see any reason why that number would go down.
“I’m always an optimistic person; I don’t know that we’ll see dramatic growth in the industry but we’re gonna target 5 percent growth and see what happens as far as the show itself is concerned and we’ll do everything we can to make that happen.”