WRAP-UP: Northwest Dive and Adventure Expo 2013

It was not your imagination…

If you were a repeat attendee of the Northwest Dive and Adventure Travel Expo this year you were not imagining that the attendance seemed very light. A few vendors even commented  that it seemed as if many visitors to their booth were other vendors roaming the floor. In addition to the low numbers of attendees, some major vendors skipped the show this year.

Expo founder and organizer Rick Stratton told ScubaGadget that he was calling this year’s expo an “UNDERwhelming success.”  Stratton was convinced the floundering economy was the reason for the low attendance. But other non-attending divers we interviewed had different opinions. None claimed money as the reason for not going to the show. Instead most said that they didn’t feel the urge to go because the show was pretty much the same each year. More that one diver suggested that show should be scheduled on a weekend with really strong currents, so less divers would be diving.

Other divers said they never heard about the show this year. This could be due to divers having less access to the show sponsoring Northwest Dive News magazine which used to be widely available. Divers on the peninsula and Bainbridge Island said they never saw the Northwest Dive News anymore because it was no longer available on the ferries. The magazine is also no longer available in local dive shops that to do not pay to have it or pay to advertise with DNN.

As for those vendors who did not attend; Scubapro gave a more practical reason for skipping the show. They wanted customers to visit Scubapro dealers’ booths or shops to learn about and purchase gear. They felt that having a company booth at the show was more of a distraction away from the dealers.

Still a fun time

Thanks in great part to show manager Selene Muldowny and her volunteer team, the show itself was still run well and attendees had a grand time. The Try Scuba pool was a great success according to Terry Keffler, co-owner of Underwater Sports. Not only did it attract 30 local boy scouts, but the Marriott Courtyard hotel staff also got into the action. The Saturday night film festival was also a great success.

We wondered about the odd move of having the seminars in curtained off areas of the show floor. Attendees said they mostly enjoyed that venue style. At least one of the seminar booths had an ongoing PA system issue. The organizers promised to purchase higher quality amplification for the future.

No matter what the attendance, the Expo always serves as an annual “jamboree” for divers and vendors to get together with friends (especially those friendly Canadians  they may only see few times a year). Additionally, it has been a great place to have unattached meetings of special interest groups. The SSI dealers had a very well attended meeting lead by Craig Willamsen, the new SSI Business Consultant for the West Coast. It was inspiring to see dive shop owners sit down together and share ideas to help each other succeed.

We don’t normally give a best in show award here. But we can give a nod to Light N Beyond’s inexpensive and powerfull Archon dive and video lights. These lights do not have the perfection found in a Sola 1200 but for around $169 you get a piercing 750 lumen beam. It may put price competition on some other manufacturers. We purchased one for a full live-dive review which will be coming soon.

The Future

We asked Stratton what he had in mind to change for next year’s show. He pondered a location change and a few other alterations.  Then he said had a “game changing surprise” up his sleeve; but would comment no further.

With the low numbers and the competition from the upcoming GEAR outdoor adventure show (June 1-2 2013 in Everett, WA)  it seems clear that the Dive Expo will have get creative to stay relevant and alive in the future. We plan to visit the GEAR show and see how it compares.

If you have any suggestions for the show producers, post them on http://facebook.com/ScubaGadget and we will pass them along.