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Ways for Dive Operators to Support Diversity and Inclusion

The ocean has taught us that diversity matters — above and below the surface. This richness should be encouraged, protected and welcomed. Moreover, there are ways to do boost diversity dive boats or at dive resorts. Below, we offer a few tips and why they are important.

Making dive boats more inclusive to all divers helps the entire dive community. Jim Elliott/DiveHeart

Why Celebrate Diversity?

Diving is arguably the most inclusive sport, said PADI President and CEO Drew Richardson. On dive boats, being “diverse and inclusive” can have several, sometimes overlapping meanings. In this blog, we will cover inclusivity as it pertains to adaptive, LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC divers.

Ashley Hubbard (she/her), a bisexual freelance travel writer and content creator, said, “I definitely choose places and resorts based on inclusivity and not just in terms of LGBTQIA+ but whether they can be inclusive of different needs, their willingness to be patient and professional with anxious divers, and their sustainability practices. Everything I do when I travel, I try … to [benefit] the environment, the locals, the local economy, and the wildlife.”

She added, “I would never use a business or brand that has knowingly been anti-inclusive. I would never go somewhere that I don’t feel accepted or safe.”

Barnacle Busters LGBT dive club on a trip together, sporting the PRIDE and American flags on the boat. R.A. Buck/ Barnacle Busters

How Inclusivity is Good Business

Hubbard isn’t alone. Many diverse travelers select dive destinations, accommodations and PADI dive centers based on inclusivity. Their example shows how promoting diversity and inclusion is good business for dive shops and resorts.

For instance, R.A. Buck (he/him) has been coordinating dive trips for his LGBTQ scuba club Barnacle Busters since 1989.

As a gay PADI scuba instructor, he said, “Our priorities are always great diving and a unique cultural experience…OK, and air conditioning…. We avoid areas where homophobia and discrimination are government policy. We choose to spend our money where we are openly welcome.”

In another example, Gay Scuba Week, a week-long scuba adventure for LGBTQIA+ divers, friends, families and allies, only travels to places where being gay is legal. Richard Lear (he/him), the founder, hopes his trips help operators understand and recognize the money that the LGBT community spends.

He said, “They need to know they have gay divers interested in coming so they see the opportunity for revenue to be generated from our community. More importantly, in places where it is still against the law to be gay, to get rid of archaic laws. They need to see the number of us wanting to book trips to places that are safe and welcoming.”

Just as LGBT divers are important customers for all businesses, so too are adaptive divers. DiveHeart trains individuals, dive centers and organizations on how to facilitate adaptive and differently-abled divers. Jim Elliott (he/him), who founded the organization, said “Using zero gravity and scuba therapy is the next big thing. Therapy is the future.” 

Dive crew and buddies assist an adaptive diver out of the water. Jim Elliott/DiveHeart

Marketing Tips

So, how can a shop be more welcoming to everyone? To start, several divers emphasized the need for targeted marketing that includes diversity of all kinds.

Lear, said, “Exposure is the way we change, and exposure happens through the images we see….When you see people on a regular basis they become normal.” 

To that end, he suggests including divers from various backgrounds, genders, races and abilities in daily marketing to showcase and welcome greater diversity. Include black families, adaptive divers and gay couples right next to straight couples in materials and advertising, he said. By showcasing a variety of people in your outreach, you’re letting everyone know that they are invited and welcome to dive with you.

You can also market yourself as an LGBTQ+ friendly dive operator, adaptive diver operator, and/or “welcoming of all divers.” This could lead to more business. For example, “Gay-Friendly Dive Destinations” continues to be one of the most requested collections on PADI Travel ever. It’s in the Top 10 of requested collections, and marketing yourself as welcoming could invite more clients to visit.

Lear had one additional tip for shops and resorts: don’t just market to the LGBT community during pride month. 

Richard Lear completes a perfect backroll during the “tutu dive” of a Gay Scuba Week trip to Fiji. Richard Lear/Gay Scuba Week

Boat/Resort Considerations

On boats, an important way to support diversity is to have proper facilities. Having gender-neutral bathrooms and places to change away from crowds is a great start. 

Adaptive divers and other differently-abled persons also have a variety of needs. A quadriplegic diver will need a transom close to the water for easier entry/exit. Instead, a wheelchair user may want a stationary pole to securely attach their chair to, Elliott said. Boats with a davit and winch can maneuver adaptive divers in and out of the boat while still in their wheelchairs. Shaded areas are also good for individuals with sun sensitivity, he added.

There are various steps to properly and safely helping an adaptive diver into the water. Jim Elliott/DiveHeartCrew must be trained to support and lift the adaptive diver at specific points on their body. Jim Elliott/DiveHeartStep 3: Move the adaptive diver safely toward the platform for a seated, forward entry, with buddies in the water to assist. Jim Elliott/DiveHeart

Crew Training and Setting the Tone

Also, crew (and client) training is a huge part of inclusivity. Diveheart has special training geared specifically to help adaptive divers safely enjoy the sport. Beyond this, the organization speaks of training crew on how to be aware of different needs.

“We can adapt for different boat accessibility, but being able to have a crew or resort understand sensitivity is the next level, whether that means autism, a cognitive disability, or a physical one,” Elliott said. “Knowing who’s on your boat is huge, and that goes for LGBT, disabilities, autistic, etc.”

As a start, dive centers can enroll in diversity and inclusion training or reach out to groups like Gay Scuba Week and Diveheart to learn more.

Clients can also be “trained.” For example, boat briefings can set an inclusive tone and make dive boats safer for all. If the captain and crew introduce themselves with their pronouns, some may feel more welcome to share theirs. Moreover, others may think twice about making fun. Emphasizing zero-tolerance for hate or discrimination as a baseline rule also helps. 

A good boat briefing can promote dive safety and positive ad welcoming attitudes.

Support Other Organizations with Similar Values

Finally, dive centers can support diversity by amplifying other businesses in the community that share these values. For example, a dive center can partner to offer dive scholarships for underserved communities. Or, you can sponsor an event that champions diversity, such as PADI’s Diving While Black panel.

Additionally, you can share pamphlets with clients from organizations that help marginalized communities access the ocean. Live-a-boards also can sponsor trips for adaptive divers or identity groups. And lastly, anyone can financially support other organizations doing diversity and inclusion work within the ocean field. Basically, by becoming an ally, any shop or resort can help build a more inclusive dive community overall.

JD Reinbott, a cis-gender openly gay man, celebrates each Pride Month by bringing his flag to his favorite place: the ocean.

Having a Welcoming Mindset

In the end, our dive boats and resorts will only become more inclusive by increasing accessibility, safety and diverse voices. This should be an all-the-time effort that includes everyone on the boat. Together, we can bridge gaps, build connections, and dive deeper together.

The post Ways for Dive Operators to Support Diversity and Inclusion appeared first on PADI Pros.

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