Unlike the other blog posts, this will be of a more personal nature, and I’ll be sharing my observations on the state of the dive industry in Singapore. These views are solely my own and do not represent any organisation or persons.
I’m 51 this year, and after spending more than half my life teaching scuba diving and running my own outfit (teaching PADI, SSI and RAID previously), I feel compelled to write about what I see happening in the industry that I love and depend on for my livelihood.
Let’s face it. Our dive industry in Singapore has not kept pace with inflation. While the standard and costs of living have increased over time, the prices of dive courses and packages have, on the contrary, gone down. Training agencies have also increased their certification fees, but the sale prices of courses are getting cheaper. You can do the math.
Of course, dive shops in Singapore or anywhere else have the right to price their courses or packages as they deem fit. It is a free market, and the last thing we want to do is to fix prices as an industry. But what I’ve seen at a recent trade show in 2019 has highlighted to me a problem that is emerging and looks to hurt our industry further.
A major dive training agency was supporting dive operators from overseas, who have lower overheads than the Singapore companies, and is selling courses at below market prices to our customers. To be blunt, they were undercutting the market. Let’s be mindful that all Singapore dive shops will be affected by such tactics, even those whose livelihoods depend on selling courses from that very same major training agency.
17th May 2019, when I last checked, they are not registered companies in Singapore according to ACRA. Based on that training agency’s dive shop locator which can be found on their web site, one of the above is not even a registered authorised facility with that training agency, but they are selling dive courses and trips representing that same agency. Store number 765163 is who? I am also not sure.
Where is the sense in this? Before I go further, please know that I have nothing against overseas dive establishments and them coming over to Singapore and selling dive courses or trips at a trade show, they have every right to do so, but it is how they are doing it that matters. What is going to happen in the near future if such pricing tactics continue? As a small industry, everyone will eventually lose. We really need to end this. But of course, this is easier said than done. Many dive shops and operators preach about the negative effects of selling cheap, but don’t walk the talk. Talk is cheap, after all.
In the midst of this, there is the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) licensing. The rules and regulations about selling dive courses and trips outbound are however, still relatively unknown to most. The fact is this: Any Singapore dive establishment that sells dive courses or trips overseas need to have a valid Travel Agent (TA) licence, or at least, at face value, go through the TA of another establishment. At the point of sale, monies that are collected need to be issued with a TA-licensed receipt, with the TA number, name of that establishment, operating addresses and contact information stated clearly on it. It cannot be any generic receipt slip that can be bought from any stationary shop, and having a company chop on that receit will surfice? Only STB can answer that. STB’s main concern is for consumers to be able to seek compensation or refunds when the trip or course overseas runs into problems, or when the establishment closes down. Hence, for TA licensed establishments in Singapore, their accounts need to be properly done and audited, and with a minimum of S$100,000 paid up capital.
But as mentioned before, we now have Malaysian-owned dive establishments coming into Singapore, which are being supported by some local Singapore shops. The Singapore-based dive shops provide venues and logistics for theory and pool lessons in Singapore, after which the customers complete their open water training in Malaysia. The Malaysian owned dive shops sell courses and trips at a major trade show, collecting deposits of S$100 from each customer, who are then issued with some sort of receipt. Don’t get me wrong, referral for training is not wrong, but the collection of monies is the issue here. They can claim to be using the TA licences of some Singapore establishments, which only STB can verify. When the package being sold runs into problems or that particular dive establishment in Malaysia closes down, I wonder who the consumers can go to for compensation, the Singapore based shop or the one in Malaysia? Never say it will never happen, a good case is Five Star travel that closed down a few years ago, leaving a lot of their customers who purchased packages with them with no where else to go to for refunds.
In light of all these things happening, and we as Singapore-owned establishments see this happening right under our noses and we can’t do anything about it, I have no choice but to distant myself and my company from those establishments concerned. I can only hope that the rest see what I see, but then again, it’s a free market, and there are rules that govern these things in Singapore, we are trying our best to follow them. It is indeed extremely unfortunate for us here in Singapore if this keeps happening. I really hope the authorities can do something to prevent this from happening again, or at least to make sure all the establishments are following the law which STB has put in place, a level playing field for all perhaps? Those who stand for nothing will fall for everything….
Simply Scuba Private Limited.
PADI Course Director.