DEMA Show Posts Strong Numbers in Uncertain Economy

November 23, 2012

Mermaids, Hawaiian shirts and just about every type of equipment needed for a treasure hunt in a shipwreck took the spotlight at the 2012 DEMA Show, the world's largest trade-only event for the scuba diving, ocean sports and dive travel industries. It took place Nov. 14–17 at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas.

"Diving is a discretionary industry, which makes it unique that the show is growing in size in this economy," said Robert Harar, chairman and CEO of National Trade Productions that produces the show for the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association.

Compared with 2011, this year's square footage was up 12 percent to 134,000 net square feet. Attendance also was expected to surpass the last year's 10,000 by about five percent. Some 640 exhibitors participated.

The show put extra effort into promoting early registration and streamlining the registration process for returning attendees, which attributed to about a 30-percent increase in pre-registration numbers.

It also got a good response from using Instagram and the Pinterest social network, according to Karin Fendrich, COO of NTP.

On the showfloor, attendees could get their hands on the latest diving technology and products, as well as explore the new destinations for their underwater adventures.

But it was the capturing of their experiences that got the most attention. Image Resource Center offered presentations by photographers and videographers, as well as the makers of equipment, attracting a standing-room-only crowd.

Exhibitor GoPro captivated attendees' attention with their small but powerful cameras that let you record your James Bond-style tricks and share them with the world.

"Next year, we plan to introduce a Technical Resource Center that would build on the popularity of the Image Resource Center and cover every aspect of technical diving," said Chris Harar, director of marketing for NTP.

Aside from the excitement about better technology, the mood on the floor was of cautious optimism, with the sense that the tide can change anytime.

Exhibitor March Storm with Buddy Dive Liveaboard, which specializes in diving tourism to the Galapagos and Bonair, noted that the traffic had been less than expected.

"But this is still our biggest show, and we are happy with the return on the investment," said the veteran exhibitor. "In general, so far, the occupancy for us has been really good, even in low season. But with airlines cutting routes and with uncertain economy, it's hard to predict what's going to happen."

Attendee Lawrence Grayson, with Aaron's Diveshop in Kailua, Hawaii, has been coming to the show for more than 10 years to see new equipment, learn about the new standards and regulations and to catch up with friends.

He said he was happy with product offerings, but wishes there were an iPhone app for the showfloor that would give brief information about each exhibitor.

NTP actually had an iPhone app that had been heavily promoted before and during the show. When asked about his business, Grayson said, "Right now, it's steady and plenty of people are coming. We're keeping our head above water."

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