Written by Ted Alan Steadman
The Digital Age may not be new, but changing technology opens doors while closing others. Maybe nowhere else is that more evident than in the world of travel.
Technology’s influence on travel has made it among the digital revolution’s most impacted industries. Travel agents of the 1980s and 1990s gave way to website searches and online bookings, creating a major shake-up for how we research, plan and execute travel. Back then, could anybody have envisioned the technology integration and convenience that modern travelers enjoy?
“Online travel agencies have been among the clear winners of the digital travel revolution, which has changed the way today’s consumers plan and book their trips,” says Angelo Rossini, contributing analyst at Euromonitor International, a global marketing research organization. “The next few years will see travelers requiring an increasingly personalized service, with companies able to suggest to them customized products on the basis of their profiles and past behavior.”
Our predisposition to being digitally connected around-the-clock plays heavily on consumer behavior. Tech-savvy travelers expect tech-savvy experiences through digital platforms. For instance, in its 2017 survey of major travel companies and professionals on five continents, travel commerce website Travelport Digital reported “90 percent of travel brands said that having a ‘mobile strategy’ is ‘crucial’ or ‘very important’ to the future success of their organization.”
Further evidence? Global hotel titan Starwood Hotels and Resorts knows the deep roots digital now plays with travel consumers. “Digital technology has changed the way we connect with guests, creating a 24/7 relationship in and out of stays,” says Stephan Croix, Starwood’s Vice President of Marketing. “With many travelers already seeking a more customized and local experience, truly personalized trips are already taking off.”
Where PADI Travel™ Comes In
This just-launched division replaces the former PADI Travel Network® with a more comprehensive, sophisticated and reward-based program designed with every segment of the global PADI® community in mind. Thanks to its technology, the dive travel experience can be easier and more profitable than ever for you. This new network gives PADI Dive Centers the ability to easily sell dive-destination packages literally around the globe, while PADI Resorts suddenly have a presence in the world’s most comprehensive dive travel platform.
To clearly see where dive travel is today, just take a look at the past. It all goes back to 1988 when John Cronin, PADI’s co-founder, had the idea of starting a travel company catering to dive travelers – a novel concept at the time. The original PADI Travel Network began as a wholesale tour operator specializing in dive vacations for individuals and groups, and was based at PADI Worldwide in Orange County, California, USA. It operated on the philosophy that growing the dive industry depended on what Cronin called the “Three Es” – Education, Equipment and Experience (the fourth E – Environment – was added later). After the first two Es, travel provided the experience he believed was crucial to keep divers engaged. In addition, he saw travel connecting PADI Dive Centers and Resorts throughout the world – hence PADI Travel Network.
Fast forward into the 21st century, and with the help of more sophisticated online platforms, improved visual presentations and mobile technology, PADI Travel revamps and reawakens the concept, integrating every aspect of the dive travel experience under one roof, so dive travel shoppers get exactly what they want.
“This is a completely new offering,” says Sandro Lonardi, PADI Travel Marketing Manager, who explains that people are becoming more independent when choosing their vacations and have higher expectations. They expect to manage their vacation experience with the click on their laptops, tablets and mobile devices. “We’ve designed the new PADI Travel to be the ultimate online travel agency for divers,” says Lonardi.
Navigating the PADI Travel space at travel.padi.com enables divers to easily research, compare and book dive vacations anywhere in the world, 24/7, through a directory offering one of the largest selections of liveaboards and dive destinations in the marketplace. With a click, PADI Travel site visitors find a user-friendly interface that informs, educates and empowers them to dial-in whatever experience they seek. “Dive travelers use search engines and social networks to research and plan their dive vacations,” says Lonardi, “and being on a website like travel.padi.com makes it easy for dive operators and resorts to be in front of their target audience. PADI Travel is designed to attract thousands of divers looking for vacations.”
What Customers See
PADI Travel includes more than 300 colorful dive destination guides with custom information about diving and traveling, marine life sightings, best times to go, best sites, discounts and more. About 300 liveaboards are represented with full descriptions, postcard-quality photos, alluring videos and more than 3,000 separate itineraries listed with availability, prices and other information for curious dive travelers. Along with PADI Dive Resorts, Centers, Eco Travel itineraries and Destination Guides, dive travelers have access to dedicated dive experts as well, offering personalized planning advice spanning 80 countries.
Dive travel customers are just one of the beneficiaries, however. PADI Travel sellers can register as affiliates to receive commissions and discounts. With the program, PADI Dive Centers with inhouse travel programs gain access to an immense selection of liveaboards and dive destinations as well as dive travel experts who can answer questions in advance. That access gives individual dive centers a global reach that would be prohibitive or difficult to maintain without the program. PADI Resorts, meanwhile, can earn support and business through PADI Travel’s interconnected network of dive travel sellers and registered agents.
To top it off, the aim is to maintain the highest customer satisfaction with expert customer support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The travel program’s network of experienced dive travel experts – PADI Travel representatives average around 2,500 dives each – adds the personal touch that travel industry experts say is absolutely critical for travel professionals today.
Growing Dive Travel
“Creating and assembling PADI Travel has been a huge ongoing effort,” says Lonardi. “We can cater to groups and individuals alike. PADI Travel has harnessed the latest platform technology to combine the best of online booking with concierge-level travel consultancy.” Not only will PADI Dive Centers find it easier to sell travel packages and PADI Resorts will gain broader reach, but PADI Pros will also have increased opportunities for participation to help motivate dive travel sales.
For tech-savvy PADI Members who are on board with emerging digital marketing opportunities, many aspects of PADI Travel will be familiar. For others looking to implement a more strategic marketing effort, it carries on the PADI family philosophy of growing the overall dive community.