UW360 looks at an online booking agency and how it is changing the way divers travel
The Internet has changed the world. Whether through keeping up with friends on social media, checking the cameras of the International Space Station, or ordering a pizza from the local store. The Internet takes us everywhere, let’s us see everything, and in this information era, it promises us the possibility of being able to go anywhere.
Leading the charge of the new light brigade, a plethora of online booking websites that have revolutionised the travel industry. With the promise of top deals to far-flung locations, these new, intangible platforms – existing only in the clouds of the World Wide Web – have paved the way for a new kind of traveller. As the market has changed, hungry for discounts and deals, so has the industries which it has touched. One of those industries is the dive industry.
UW360 spoke to Diviac Head of Marketing, Sandro Lonardi, to try and get a deeper insight into just how the big companies involved in this change are planning to lead the travel booking revolution.
“The entire travel industry is shifting online and dive travel is no exception to this,” Lonardi tells UW360. “The great news for divers is that this shift online fosters transparency and as a result puts pressure on all actors to improve the quality of their service.”
A report from Skift suggests that “by 2020 the travel industry will have the highest percentage of online payments in relation to all sales than any other industry on Earth.” This is changing the way travellers do business – no more “offline” travel bookings by phone or by retail travel agents.
“[It’s] good for the [dive] industry as a whole,” Lonardi says. “Since it will become easier than ever for divers to travel the world to explore our wonderful oceans. And more diving means more business for all.”
The benefits seem to outweigh the negatives. As Lonardi puts it, it’s all about “choice, convenience and price”. And that is the Internet down to a tee. It offers the user a plethora of opportunities and the ability to compare services side by side with the click of a button. So when it comes down to paying, you’re almost safe in the knowledge that you’re putting your money into a quality operator.
“Online booking platforms such as Diviac offer divers unparalleled choice, both in terms of destinations and dive operators. Choice is great but it can be overwhelming as well. This is why at Diviac, we have designed a very fast and intuitive search page that includes rich filters to help users narrow down their search,” says Lonardi.
It presents these large booking platforms as trusting mediators between diver and operator – with no affiliations between operator and booking platform, they can offer unbiased advice through listing and customer care. The customer care feature, Lonardi adds, is available 24/7 on Diviac. “Divers, just like all other travellers, appreciate the convenience of an easy-to-use website where they can check availability and prices without having to fill in the ‘contact request form’ still in use with most dive operators.”
Putting dive booking into the 21st century and with “easy and safe online booking via credit card”, the service meets the expectations of customers in the digital age.
“The few dive operators that accept credit cards usually apply a surcharge of about 3% for the privilege. We [Diviac] don’t. No credit card fees, no booking fees. And to top it off, we also offer divers a free dive insurance so that they can have a safe trip and be sure that they’re getting the best deal!”
These features seem to be a common trend in maintaining customer satisfaction. In this “online review” era, big online booking companies like Diviac know the importance of pleasing their clients, to get those high ratings that inform other potential customers of the platform’s service.
Growing an Industry
Making booking more accessible means there is a greater opportunity to attract a larger volume of divers to take the step and travel. More divers means more money being injected into the industry. With the largest selection of liveaboards in the world, Diviac is also one of the few that offers thousands of dive resorts and dive centres as well.
“At Diviac, we want to inspire divers to dive more, travel more and take care of our oceans,” Lonardi says. It’s all about giving back to the customer base, and to the industry that they are a part of. “We are 100 percent customer centric. We are obsessed with offering visitors to our website the best user experience possible, and our scuba travel experts take extreme pride in going the extra mile for all our customers.”
Online booking sites also need to be trustworthy, putting to rest the typical online shopping concerns of the customer having no idea where their money is headed, and high levels of encryption for all transactions from big companies like Diviac mean that your payments are secure.
How Diviac Is a Leading Example
Online dive booking sites can utilise advanced technology to create features that enhance the user experience, such as virtual reality experience videos, and in-depth destination guides. These assist the consumer in a way like never before, and they look cool.
“We believe our liveaboard search page is the best place to research and compare dive boats around the world,” Lonardi states. I tested this claim with a search for my desired destination, the dive operator type and month of departure, and Diviac returned an impressive list of top-rate operators, with the rich filters allowing you to narrow down the number of results in order to find the best match for your vacation. Each listing has prices, images and descriptions. There’s a plethora of information at hand, offering highlights of the trips, the type of diving one can expect, and a look at the accommodation. Geared for divers, the site offers the customer the chance to know exactly what they are getting into before they purchase.
Each destination page hosts a detailed breakdown of information, from listing the best time to go, to what the country is like. Divers can even use the specific marine life calendars to see what they will be able to encounter month by month.
Perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of what Diviac offers is the Virtual Travel Agent, which allows divers to select a month they want to travel and an animal that they want to see. Diviac will then take in that information, and in a flash return with where they can see that particular animal, from the likelihood of seeing the animal, to the air temperature. It’s the divine guru of online booking and is the most user-friendly platform for divers that UW360 has encountered.
“In one word: eco,” Lonardi says. To sustain the diving industry, we need to protect the oceans. Online booking platforms like Diviac are aware of that, and are actively changing the way that they do business to help the cause.
“We deeply care about our oceans and want to do more to protect them,” Lonardi says. “We have already started to partner with leading NGOs and research centres like the Manta Trust and Bimini Sharklab. The goal is to help these organisations in raising awareness and money to guarantee a future for our oceans.”
So, the future seems bright for the dive travel industry, with websites like Diviac allowing consumers to make better, more-informed choices, and giving operators the opportunity to provide the best service possible to their customers.