Dive industry trade shows… are they dead or just sick?

Comparable stats from other industries (in conjunction with DEMA’s figures) seem to indicate that the broad appeal of a “traditional” trade show is waning. There are some notable exceptions, but several years of experience watching attendance at and sales at DEMA suggest the dive industry is not one of those exceptions.

I had a unique opportunity this past November to visit Orlando and attend our industry’s biggest trade show wearing several hats. I was not tied down to one booth — as in past years — but wandered the floor, made several presentations, and generally “mingled.”

As a travel product marketplace, DEMA is sans pareil. However, despite some brave attempts at making a visual impact from many of the more mainstream scuba services (punctuated by several lack-luster booths from one or two major players), this year’s show showed all the vibrancy of an old dog too tired to play fetch. Saturday, for example, the show curled up and napped.

From conversations before the show, during and after, I believe the industry has faith in consumer shows still — albeit with a slightly updated approach compared to the old “put up a shingle and wait for the customers” — but a trade show as expensive, as regional, and as poorly attended as DEMA… well, the jury seems to be out.


N.B. DEMA stands for the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association.

4 thoughts on “Dive industry trade shows… are they dead or just sick?

  1. That is why I don’t go to DEMA. From an independent instructor point of view, DEMA has nothing of significance to justify the expense of going. I’m not allowed to sell gear, so there is nothing of interest to me from the manufacturers. Very little is being done on training strategies, so there is nothing new coming out of the training agencies, other than marketing and more classes at gaining more market share.

    • Duane: all good points, mate. I did notice all the agencies were hosting lots of business-oriented presentations. Many of them on topics that seemed to appeal to the general delegate. Not sure though if these alone would be a valid reason to spend the time and money on DEMA… surely we are getting close to the point when ALL agencies will make more aggressive use of Webinars for this sort of thing.

  2. Steve: I’d say just like many other industry’s trade shows – DEMA is a dinosaur. The show floor has morphed into a dive travel event, rather than the “showcase” for innovative dive gear. It is still a wonderful place to network, catch up with friends and colleagues, go to award ceremonies and dinners, and attend some exciting workshops and lectures. But really, these can be accomplished outside the traditional “trade show” format. The DEMA infrastructure is unwieldy, and the organizers (private, for profit, well compensated!) changing course will likely resemble that of turning an aircraft carrier around in Lake Ontario.

  3. I thought that; the scuba diving industry has a failure in the marketing communication works. Here, actually, only people who have an interest on scuba diving are becoming the actual consumers, however, I think that, scuba diving activity should be reinforced and explained to all of the people in order to make it as a cultural phonemenon and general sport.

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