Returnees and experimenters

11.05.2018 by Steve Weinman, Editor, DIVER Magazine

Guest Article by Steve Weinman, Editor, DIVER Magazine

I reckon we’re quite fortunate with our specialist dive-tour operators, certainly in the UK.

They’re businesses, but for the most part they’re run by diving enthusiasts who seem to do their best to make planning diving holidays fun. A good few of the weaker outfits have been shaken out by the tough economic conditions of recent years, and for the survivors I do think it’s about more than simply profit margins.

After all, it’s very much in their interests to engender loyalty and get divers to have such good experiences that:

a) even the most pernickety travellers can have no complaints and

b) that guests are moved to rebook in the hope of repeating their enjoyable under (and over-) water experiences.

A tour operator with a high satisfaction score might even pick up a Diver Award along the way!

Hard Work

The operators have to work hard to get it right. They employ discerning divers they can trust to scope out resorts and liveaboards they believe will meet their clients’ needs, while presenting a minimum of risk of anything going wrong. And in the holiday business, that’s no easy thing to guarantee.

They design bells-and-whistles websites and brochures intended to get divers salivating about the prospects of particular destinations. At the same time, they need to be careful not to raise expectations to an impossible level, and risk incurring their disappointment and disapproval.

Much as I admire their work, I’m not here as a cheerleader for the tour operators. But one of the things that always interests me is how they decide on particular new parts of the diving world that they believe will grab your imagination.

Sometimes they seem to settle on such places in packs. One year they might seem agreed that the hot tickets are for Oman, for example, before all moving on to the Azores, or Yucatan.

The place to be

Every year DIVER magazine asks the dive-holiday trade where they think the Next Big Place in diving will be.

We then look to see if there is any sign of consensus in their answers that might indicate a trend. Whatever they reply, we’re never surprised when the majority of divers just seem to go on visiting the destinations they’ve always enjoyed. I’m sure the tour operators expect this too, and are prepared to be patient in shifting popular sentiment towards their latest recommendations.

This year there seemed to be no great agreement among the operators about any one location being the place to be – apart perhaps from the Maldives (on the picture), familiar to many divers but where liveaboards and populated islands continue to open up new possibilities alongside the conventional resorts.

Various operators believed that select locations such as Truk and Socorro, already strong, were getting even stronger, and that others such as Egypt, Indonesia, the Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico and South Africa represented great value for money (which all depends on your idea of value, of course).

The hot tips were mostly high-end or hard to access – places such as Alor, Bikini, Cocos, Guadalupe, Mozambique, PNG, St Helena and Tonga.

I’m sure the tour operators will be arranging packages to all these places for first-time visitors, but that many more of their customers will be heading back to the locations they know suit their diving style and budget, and I understand that.

A step in the dark

After all, once you’ve found a formula that works for you, why risk your precious holiday time venturing somewhere unknown, at the mercy of unpredictable weather patterns or marine-life migrations, or perhaps dive-crew who aren’t as laugh-a-minute as the ones who now seem like old friends?

Looked at that way, each often-expensive trip becomes a step in the dark – which is of course where recommendations or articles in those magazines you can trust to provide independent reviews come in!

For journalists like me, there’s little point in going back to the same dive-spots time and again. The story is written and there are too many other exciting destinations to explore. And let’s face it, we’re not risking our hard-earned cash, we’re making a living.

What I depend on is that whichever group they fall into, holiday conservatives or hardcore experimenters, divers still like to read about a variety of destinations – and either dream-dive, put them on the wish-list, or book, pack and go.

The DIVER Magazine

In the current (May) issue of DIVER, the only print magazine on British news-stands, the main destinations featured are as eclectic as we usually aim to make them.

In the hope of offering plenty for everyone, our corespondents have been away diving in Antarctica, Spain’s Costa Brava, Oman, Florida and New South Wales, and share their impressions. Meanwhile our Booking Now holiday-ideas pages feature diverse locations from the Maldives, Tioman and East Kalimantan to St Helena, Socorro and Greece.

It’s a pleasant way to browse for ideas for that next trip, I hope, and of course there’s a lot else in the magazine besides destinations.

Check out our digital edition at