Bad year so far for dive sector
Dominica's local dive/snorkeling product is internationally competitive and can have a bright future if the island's air access issues are addressed, according to Dominica Watersports Association president Dan Perryman.
As one of the managers at the renowned Dive Dominica operation, Perryman disclosed that, up to now, 2016 has been one of the worst years for business in terms of stay-over divers.
He attributed this largely to information circulating internationally about the impact of Tropical Storm Erika, as well as the major challenges of traveling here since the storm.
The Ministry of Tourism's 2015 Visitors Statistics Report states that "Post-Erika closure and reduced flights contributed to the 14.4% decline in arrivals to Douglas-Charles Airport for 2015."
Perryman pointed out that getting here is both expensive and inconvenient because visitors have to spend more money and time to stay overnight elsewhere before reaching Dominica.
Also, the uncertain air access situation sometimes causes passengers' baggage to be left behind, which is especially difficult for divers who regularly travel with special equipment.
Still, Dominica is rated among the top 100 dive destinations in the world and is ranked among the top five for the healthiest reefs, macro-life and photography.
"Dominica has a lot of potential. We have the product; we can compete with anywhere else in the world with what we have," Perryman asserted.
Seventy percent of the island's diving is done at the Soufriere/Scottshead Marine Reserve, but Perryman thinks there is scope to expand.
For instance, underwater exploration of the Atlantic Coast is an underused option for advanced divers, he said.
Altogether, there is huge potential for even more diving reserves and supporting businesses, he maintained.
He suggested that the North has good potential to establish fully equipped dive shops and provide comprehensive diving services to visitors on ships docking there.
Currently, there are no dive shops there that can accommodate diving, snorkeling or whale watching, he said.
Perryman also believes the deep-sea fishing sector can be expanded. He said he only knows of one local operator who is equipped to do proper deep-sea fishing 'tours'.
He noted that catering for yacht travelers, surfing and children's water-sport activities are other areas that prospective investors can explore.
The Tourism Ministry's 2015 Statistics Report revealed that 2, 921 yachts cleared Customs in Dominica in 2015, a 1.8 percent increase from 2014, and this sector has much potential for growth.