Keys dive into big trade show

kwadlow@keynoter.comNovember 13, 2013 

Coral Restoration Foundation staffers Jessica Levy (left) and Kayla Ripple check the DEMA Show display for their nonprofit organization, based in Tavernier.

BY KEVIN WADLOW

Florida Keys businesses and nonprofit groups raised the red-and-white dive flag this week in Orlando during the dive industry's largest trade show.

The DEMA Show 2013, hosted by the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association, drew thousands of diving and related professionals to the Orlando Convention Center from Nov. 6 through Saturday.

While the number of exhibits by manufacturers, dive destinations and scuba-center operators "was not a record-breaker, it was a good show to go to," said Spencer Slate, whose Capt. Slate's Atlantis Dive Center in Key Largo has attended for 35 years.

"It lets everybody know we're alive and well," Slate said.

Bob Holston of Dive Key West remembers attending the first DEMA show in Miami in the mid-1970s.

"It was a better show for us than last year in Las Vegas, and better than the [2011] show in Orlando," Holston said. "I don't know what the attendance was but the quality of people there was more serious about coming to the Keys, or serious about recommending to their customers that they come to the Keys."

The official Florida Keys display organized by the Dive Umbrella advisors to the county Tourist Development Council was smaller than in past years but got the message across, Holston said. "We're satisfied."

The Dive Umbrella "is focusing more on the consumer shows that promote directly to individuals," he said, citing events in Chicago, New York, California, Germany and England.

The Keys "still has a significant presence at DEMA," said county public-relations consultant Andy Newman, "but it's not as critical as it used to be."

The TDC this year allocated a total of about $700,000 to promote Keys diving and snorkeling, Newman said.

"The research connecting the environment to the economy shows about 1 million visitors plan to dive or snorkel while in the Keys, so that's more than 40 percent of our visitors who will personally experience the coral reef of the fabulous Florida Keys," he said. "Even if they don't dive or snorkel every day, it's an integral part of their Florida Keys experience."

Among other Keys displays, Wayne Quarberg of the Multinational Diving Educators Association in Marathon unveiled a new model of a sport rebreather system. Gary Mace founded the Scubaocity Dive Tracking system, a unique reservations and booking software to visitors, and attended DEMA.

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