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April 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 29, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Sandals, the Certification King?

from the April, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Here's a press release I got back in February. "The Caribbean's leading resort company, Sandals Resorts International, has reinforced their scuba diving credentials after reaching 50,000 certifications to become one of the premier dive divisions in the world. The award was bestowed upon the company by PADI Worldwide, the world's leading scuba diving authority, after reaching the milestone and now sees them become one of the world's top five companies for scuba."

I'm not sure what this press release says about the future of sport diving when it turns out that 50,000 of PADI's certified divers got their certification card at a Sandals (or Beaches) resort. Do these folks, on packaged vacations where they also are kayaking, waterskiing or parasailing, go on to become serious divers? Will they buy their own computers and regulators, get housing for Nikons, and head off on their own to Captain Don's, CoCo View or the Ocean Hunter?

I suspect the numbers for Sandals' graduates are very small, indeed. So next time I look at the certification figures PADI tosses out, my optimism about the economic future of the sport will be slightly soiled. You see, I suspect the Sandals' crowd won't be with us for long, and to consider even a small percentage as real divers might be a stretch for those dive businesses that use certification numbers as part of their economic planning. Surely, 50,000 is good news for PADI and Sandals, but what does it mean for other businesses?

It's like saying that the future of book stores is on the rise because last year (I'm guessing here) 274,000 university students graduated with degrees in literature. Because those graduates will probably choose to do other things besides buy books, I wouldn't bet on the bookstores either. At least, not based on a simple graduation number.

-- Ben Davison

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