While some dive businesses were hit hard by the recent hurricanes that slammed the Caribbean and U.S. Gulf Coast, organizers of this year’s DEMA Show in Orlando, Florida worked hard to ensure that as many affected businesses could still attend the convention.
DEMA Executive Director Tom Ingram briefly chatted with DeeperBlue.com during the convention, admitting that “it’s been an interesting year” due to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria as well as the wildfires in California.
Attendance at DEMA Show in Orlando this year has been down by about 350 people compared to two years ago, mainly due to the weather, he added. That said, DEMA averages between 9,000 and 10,000 attendees a year, so the actual percentage drop isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things.
“Attendance is really strong, we did lose some attendees unable to get here and just a smattering of exhibitors who really unfortunately their businesses really got wiped out, so . . . we’re taking care of them, doing the best we can and I know that they are doing the best they can to get back online, but what’s really been encouraging is that the folks that are here are here because they know that this is the place where everybody shows up and this is the place where they’re gonna get word out that they’re still in business, they’re still accepting bookings and they’re ready to do business, so we’re very excited about those folks and trying to be as helpful as we can.”
For those affected businesses that did manage to make it to Orlando, Ingram mentioned DEMA’s disaster assistance program that gave affected exhibitors back US$400 (~344 Euros) for every 10-by-10 exhibit space that they have. Additionally, the association is paying for one night at a DEMA hotel block room for affected buyers.
“So at least they can get here, they can do their business, and do the stuff that they need to do. It’s been greatly appreciated, some folks have take advantage of it, and that’s what the money’s for so we want them to be able to use it.”
Ingram also noted a slightly larger contingent of attendees from Asia.
“I was very excited to see that [it’s a] very different group of exhibitors that are here, there are some folks that are talking about consumer shows that they run in the Asian marketplace which is fantastic because that’s a giant population that’s very fast-growing and the folks that are there when you talk to those consumer show organizers, their audience is very young, which is really great, it’s in the 30-, 35-year-old range at the top end, most of them are in their 20s and 30s and so that’s a very exciting development for that group of people.”
While Ingram told DeeperBlue.com last year that the slowdown in the number of Open Water Diver certifications had begun to level out, indications this year are that those numbers are on an upward trend. He said this month:
“I haven’t seen the year-end figures yet for 2017 of course because we’ve still got a month and a half to go, but we have seen indications that everything is starting to grow.”
The “Go Dive Now” program begun by DEMA last year in the U.S. has had some impact, in that the campaign has been driving about 260 people per day to DEMA member retail stores around the country, he said.
“That’s about 75,000 and some change since January; and we started the program in May 2016 . . . but just tracking what we’ve done from January to October 15th, 75,000-plus . . . these are all brand-new people who have not had something going on or they’re returning divers and something on the order of 111,000 unique users have come to the website and then 75,000 of those have gone to dive stores.
“We’re having a good time with that, its working as its supposed to do, we’ve been producing videos all year, so we’re up to seven commercial videos now that folks can use on their website if they’re members, it’s all free for them as members, and we have about 50 partners who are retailers who are actually that we’re aware of — we’d like more to do this, but we know of 50 that have actually taken the videos and the logos and all of those things from ‘Go Dive Now’ and they’re using it as their overall marketing program.”