ISSUES THAT IRISH UNDERWATER COUNCIL ARE FACING

7.0 SWOT ANALYSIS

SWOT analysis is the platform that assesses a company’s status at any given time. Particularly, it comprises the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing a specific company. A firm is assessed in accordance with the surrounding environment and what the company has been able to produce for the market.Strengths and weaknesses are the result of internal factors and opportunities and threats derive from external factors.  The following sections present a detailed SWOT analysis of the Irish Underwater Council

7.1 STRENGTHS

7.1.1 CFT skill workforce.Permanent staff, club staff and volunteers are essential in the structure of the business. At different levels of involvement all help in training and club management, and are able to transmit their enthusiasm to learners and potential customers (Bannon, 2002). The permanent staff have the high skills and the expertise required to administer and guide the club, to enable it to progress and to continue providing service to its members. Volunteers give up their free time and address matters of training, promotion and guidance within the organization (Birnie & Hitches, 2000). Certainly, this is crucial for any firm which needs to grow.

7.1.2 Assets.Capacity to innovate and adaptability to change are a significant asset in CFT. CFT has showed a clever market attitude by using product diversification. It offers a diversified range of activities including underwater photography, archeological groups, trails around the country, scuba diving, and snorkel and underwater team sports. Additionally, the presence of sponsors in its activities is also an example of its capacity to use any option available to gain visibility and therefore to create brand awareness (Council, 2001).

7.1.3 Recognition of other diving bodies’ qualifications, free of charge. This recognition is included in the CFT website and in the promotional campaigns of clubs. Because of the social aspect presented by CFT, new members with qualifications from other bodies may be attracted. CFT recognizes most international diving grades and offers equivalence to its own grades which opens opportunities not only for recreational goals but also for possible job opportunities in clubs.

7.1.4 Quality of courses. The courses include: trainee diver, national instructor, leading diver, rescue diver, and many others (Dyson, 2004). These courses are offered by highly skilled trainers within the club.

7.1.5 Less expensive fees than its commercial competitors. CFT offers courses at affordable fees, with a variety of alternatives to choose from that easily accommodate different people and interests. Furthermore, skilled trainers are in charge of the development of courses.  In the long run, this mentoring helps the divers to explore the underwater world at their leisure (Gavigan & Scapolo, 1999).

7.1.6 Insurance. All sport carries the risk of incidents, therefore insurance cover is a must, and this is a unique distinction offered by CFT. The equipment gives the divers comfort and security, but also their use in a safe way. CFT offers reliable insurance coverage, which is another factor to consider when analyzing the strength of the business. The feeling that everything has been foreseen and accounted for may increase significantly the numbers applying to become members.

7.1.7Strategic alliances.with other bodies, such as the Nautical Archeology Society, is enhancing the activity and the opportunities to participate in organized trails or educational trips, using a snorkel as the first step for beginners and new members

7.2 WEAKNESSES

Weaknesses are inevitable in a firm; therefore, it is necessary to invest in order to turn them into strengths. CFT experiences diverse challenges in executing its activities.

7.2.1 Loss of under 18 memberships. This is one of the most significant limitations of sports clubs (Milliken & Gallagher, 1998). To reverse this tendency CFT is revising its range of products, to include team underwater sports and snorkel. In this context, swimming is a popular sport and Irish swimmers such as Shane Ryan, Brendan Hyland, Nicholas Quinn, Curtis Coulter, Sycerika McMahon, Jordan Sloan and Alex Murphy have recently competed in the European Swimming Championships, therefore the capability of CFT to offer quality qualified trainers might be used to promote snorkeling as a parallel activity to swimming; snorkeling helps to improve the technique of swimmers (Triathlete, 2015 & Speedo). CFT is also facing up to this weakness through the collaboration of its loyal and older members who are passing on their skills and enthusiasm to younger members.

7.2.2 Branding. Lack of clear visibility. Underwater activities are well considered in Irish society, nevertheless CFT and the clubs suffer from a lack of presence in the market, which affects the number of options available to entice new members. The social aspect of CFT, which is a strength, might help to create a chain of well-known clubs. The use of word of mouth publicity with the help of volunteers and current members could enhance the issue of branding CFT.

7.2.3 Customer trends.Customers have a tendency to ask for underwater activities mainly during warm periods, such as summer or spring, therefore the season of CFT activities is reduced. Nevertheless, in off season periods the skills of staff and members may be focused on indoor activities, such as preparation for snorkeling and working with providers who can reach out to young members.

7.2.4 Communication with Clubs.The lack of a specific public relations plan may affect communication and therefore the results of promotional activities

7.3 OPPORTUNITIES

7.3.1 Environmental factors.CFT’s capability to organize snorkeling activities might be combined with the fact that more than 80 beaches and 5 marinas in Ireland have been awarded the blue flag, which is an international award that involves the recognition of the cleanness, water quality and environmental interest of a particular location. The publicity generated by this situation is an opportunity to link snorkeling activities to the specific areas that have won this recognition. Moreover, Ireland’s coastline offers the best diving environment in Northern Europe. It is apparent in the situation of the country, which is an island on the edge of the Western European continental shelf (Lillis & Lynch, 2014).  This provides and opening not only to attract people but also to include new activities such as open water fin swimming and organized championships around the country or internationally.

7.3.2 New stakeholders.such as expatriates or immigrants that as consequence of the recession in their own countries or as members of multinational companies have established themselves in Ireland. These change in the profile of the population may bring opportunities as they may look for clubs or activities that made them feel part of Irish society.  The international aspect of CFT could help to attract new foreign members. Talks and informational sessions will provide a platform for these stakeholders to get information about underwater clubs and become new members (Lillis, 2006).

7.3.3 Innovation and adaptation to changes. which is a CFT strength, may be linked with the popularity of sport in Irish culture to encourage people to consider new underwater team sports such as underwater rugby. This sport is in line with the social tendency to practice traditional sports such as rugby and allow for the interaction of girls and boys in a safe environment.

7.3.4 Technology. The use of the Internet and Social networks is quite extensive in Ireland. The most popular activities are watching videos and playing games. The next two most popular activities are school work and visiting social networks (58% in each case)(O’Neill, Grehan, & Ólafsson, 2011). These trends represent an opportunity for CFT, in the extent to which social networks can help in the promotion of snorkeling among young members.

7.3.5 External financing for clubs. The increasing interest in small and medium sized enterprises due to their relevance in the general economy is boosting policies addressed to help these companies financially; in the extent to which clubs could be considered as micro or medium enterprises they could opt into European programs for such enterprises. CFT has provided support to clubs to access information about funding and the package of European programs for small and medium enterprises represents a new opportunity

7.3.6 Social aspect of the sport activity.The eagerness of people to acquire diving skills as a means of recreation is an opportunity due to the possibility of attracting more people to join clubs. And, no doubt, this opportunity will increase clubs’ profits.

 

7.4 THREATS

7.4.1Power of competitors. Competitors don’t have the official aspect that CFT has, nevertheless they can offer packages of activities and greater flexibility in the range of activities, as they, for instance, can join with professional divers and organizations abroad and create networks. CFT can deal with this as it is an international member CMAS, the international umbrella organization for recreational diver training organizations, and with this recognition can compete confidently with competitors’ certifications.

7.4.2 Fauna. Environmental protection of fauna and the arrival of more species in Irish waters such as whales may pose restrictions to the activity of diving (O’Regan, 2008). No incidents related to attack by wildlife are mentioned in the CFT annual reports, nevertheless, swimming in open waters could generate a feeling of fear in users and therefore discourage families from taking up underwater activities. In this regard, the profits of the council might decrease (Yuksel &Dagdeviren, 2007). If this factor became a practical issue, the expertise of the staff could be used to organize planned trips that include environmental and photographic topics.

7.4.3 Dumping. The dumping of dredged material into Dublin Bay is a major threat for CFT activities, as it can not only damage the environment but also reduce underwater visibility. CFT has sent proposals and suggestions to the competent authorities in order to help in the protection of Dublin Bay.

7.4.4 Social networks. These are a virtual competitor that allow people to gather without having a club as a physical space. The reputation of CFT provides a weapon to fight against this and to create a profile in virtual networks that are extensively used by young Irish people, such as Instagram.

7.4.5 Incidents related to equipment issues. The 2015 CFT annual report contended that there are still incidents caused by poor maintenance of equipment and buoyancy control. CFT is providing information to Clubs to reduce the number of these as each failure or loss of control may cause a fatality. The loss of membership and therefore of financial resources does not help to improve this situation. So information about external founding is being giving to the clubs. European programs to SMEs are in this case an opportunity of financial support for micro enterprises such as sports clubs.

Additionally, the idea of the sea as a friendly environment when utilized in the right way and under a CFT trainer is being taking seriously by CFT. CFT expertise will help to reduce the number of incidents, thus giving information and recognition to those clubs that keep high standards in relation to the control of their equipment.

7.4.6 Fees.Having more reasonable fees than its competitors is a strength but at the same time a weakness as clubs need to repair and maintain their equipment in order to guarantee security, therefore, the fees are attractive but the club´s costs may as a consequence rise.

ISSUES THAT IRISH UNDERWATER COUNCIL ARE FACING

  • BUSINESS SUSTAINABILITY
    • Introduction

Ireland has experienced a remarkable economic recovery over the past two years, nevertheless, Ireland was among the European countries most severely affected by the global economic crisis. Consumer spending is now playing a more prominent role in the economy. The recovery in consumption, while still modest, appears to be gradually strengthening. Consumption has benefited from continuing solid growth in employment. The ongoing strength of the labour market in 2015 supports the view that the economy has continued to expand solidly in the first-half of 2016. The labour market has continued to improve and it is expected that employment will increase by 2.3 per cent in 2017 (European, 2016)

Over a period of nearly ten years’ consumption has been drastically reduced and this reduction has affected services to a higher degree than other areas. Recreational services such as sport activities and club membership has been one of the sectors that has suffer from the impact of the recession.

This report provides an overview of a major issue affecting CFT, which is business sustainability. With the goal of understanding the main challenges included in the former concept, the report will be divided into the following sections: financial sustainability, memberships, staff and promotional activity.

  • Financial sustainability.
    • Fees

The Irish Underwater Council- CFT is the national governing body for underwater sports. CFT has 72 active clubs. The size of the various club´s membership has dramatically gone down in a period of five years, going from 3000 in 2010 to 1942 in 2015 (I. U. Council & Report, 2015). The reduction in the number of memberships is a major issue since it has a significant impact on the financial capacity of the CFT and the clubs.

As consequence of the recession the CFT has taken some strategic decisions, such as the decision to maintain the current level of membership’s fees for 2017. The membership fees fixed by CFT are: Full Diver €110, Student Diver €55, Senior Snorkeler €55, Student Snorkeler €35, Junior Snorkeler €20 and Non Diver €30. There are not, however, any options of pay-as-you-go with a reduced membership to face offers from competitors.

Although the freezing of the fees has not involved an increase in the number of memberships, its seems to be a logical measure as increasing the cost of membership may lead to a loss of membership and may deter families with young members from joining clubs. Additionally, as consequence of a diminishment in the membership the subsidy that Sport Ireland gives to CFT might be affected.

 

 

  • Options of funding by Sport Ireland Council

Sport Ireland (SI) assists National Governing Bodies of Sport (NGBs) to develop sustainable and effective structures and to facilitate increasing numbers of participants. The work of the National Governing Bodies of Sport has been recognised as of vital importance in improving and sustaining participation at a multiplicity of levels. In 2016, 10.86 million Euros will be allocated to 59 NGBs through core grant funding. The NGB core grant covers administration, participation programmes, coach development, hosting events, implementation of strategic plans and the employment of professional staff. (Investment, 2016)

To date, CFT´s capacity for innovation and adaptation has allowed it not only to retain SI´s financial contribution but even more has led to an increase in the amount assigned for 2016

National Governing Body 2015 2016
Irish Underwater Council 56,180 60,000

Source: (Investment, 2016)

In order to keep the founding coming from Sport Ireland, CFT need to be aware of the situations that could determine a suspension or withdrawal of the funding. These circumstances are listed on the website of the SI and include among others: breach of Code of Ethics or Child Protection framework, and financial irregularities and failure to implement the recommendations of Internal Audits (I. S. Council, 2014)

To date, CFT is not receiving any discretionary funding. These funds are earmarked by the Sport Irish Council to support and incentivise sports which demonstrate best-practice governance, innovation in programmes and excellence in operations, as well as sporting bodies who contribute to the tourism agenda of the country by promoting international events. International trips are not fully exploited by CFT, therefore, including a range of international products might increase its financial sources.

  • Programmes ongoing

Another factor affecting CFT,s financial stability, and, therefore, its business sustainability, is the loss of young members (I. U. Council & Report, 2015). To cope with this challenge CFT, s goal for 2017 is to promote snorkel and other underwater team sports. Snorkel gear can be found at a good price in the market, in malls and online. Beginner’s equipment, for pool sessions, consist of mask, snorkel and fins. Wetsuit booties and maybe a thicker wetsuit will be only necessary in open water snorkelling sessions. Prices no higher than 25 Euros, including mask, snorkel and fins, are offered by stores such as: Scuba store and Decathlon

To increase the attractiveness of this activity and to involve parents as well as children or teenagers, CFT might extend the product to include photography. Underwater Cameras for children are on the market for 14 Euros in Decathlon

Combining both elements, snorkel and photography, the product might appeal not only to loyal members but also to young members.

The involvement of sponsors is a strategic decision that might be analysed in depth. Firms such as Speed have in the past included information and promotion of snorkelling. This activity brings fitness benefits for swimmers, such as improved body alignment. The centre snorkel enables a face-down positioning required for freestyle and butterfly swimming, allows the swimmer to perfect body alignment while positioning and, encourages technique focus, as the centre snorkel allows the swimmer to breathe constantly during the training session (Elverysblog, 2015)

  • External funding for Clubs

Clubs are the backbone of CFT. The ability and financial capacity to innovate and include new products depends a great deal of their financial situation. As a consequence of the crisis and although the perspective of economic growth is positive, the clubs still need to develop further capacities to obtain external founds. CFT has provided assistance to the clubs to prevent clubs closing. This assistance may positively address the issue of funding and help clubs to engage with the European Commission’s offer to help small and medium size enterprises (SMEs).

The EU commission in this context takes into consideration three criteria: staff headcount, annual turnover and annual balance sheet. Combining all of them, it is possible to distinguish between micro, small and medium enterprises. The following graph depicts the three types mentioned.

Figure 1. Threshold SMEs. Source European Commission, 2016

Programmes such as COSME, which is the EU programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs, facilitating access to finance, running from 2014 to 2020, with a budget of 2.3 billion Euros, could be studied to analyse its applicability to those clubs that might be considered micro or small enterprises (European Commission, 2015)

The Irish government has also undertaken a number of steps to ameliorate some of the key challenges to micro and small enterprises, such as those facilitated by Enterprise Ireland. Sports clubs must at least cover their costs, but this is rare enough, as clubs need to generate a surplus to invest in facilities or to cover repairs and replacements. Many sports clubs exist with little or no external funding support. The annual membership is the main resource for many of the clubs which makes them vulnerable to fluctuations in membership (Reid Howie & Associates, 2006)

  • Membership issues

The dictionary (n.d.) defines membership as the state of being a member in a society or club, or the total number of members in an organization or society.

  • The size of clubs

The Irish Underwater Council (CFT) organizes and promotes diving and snorkelling sports. There were only six clubs in the founding year but to date there are 79 clubs, distributed both in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland. However, 84 clubs were formed in 2004, the highest amount of clubs until now. The table below indicates the total number of clubs during the whole period.

 

Club numbers

  1963 2004 2015
Clubs 6 84 79

 

  • Trends in membership

According to Irish Underwater Council 2015 Annual Report, the number of club membership in term of four years trend and with the particular year of 2004 is shown below:

Membership Numbers

  2004 2015 2014 2013 2012
Divers   1662 1659 1788 1956
Snorkelers   208 302 336 345
Total 3000 1942 1961 2124 2310

Source: (Irish Underwater Council Annual Report, 2015)

As we can clearly see from the table that there is a slight decrease in the number of club members over the period from 2012 to 2015. The number of members was 2310 in 2012, declined to 1942 in 2015 by 368. Compared to 3,000 club members in 2004, however, CFT lost 1,058 members, which is a significate decline.

  • Concerns about the new member recruitment

 

Masayuki (2015) points out that how to retain membership in sport communities or clubs is a vital issue for sport marketers. There are clear signs that existing membership is decreasing slightly. The clubs that reported information faced difficulties in retaining existing members, and less people continue the membership every year. This could present a great challenge for existing members in terms of recruiting trainees. As a result, trainees are also declining. The club’s fortunes therefore can be negatively impacted.

  • Perceived reasons for difficulties faced in recruitment or retention

A few years have passed since the global financial crisis, and over this period a flurry of evidence is emerging on the effects of the ensuing economic recession on unemployment and poverty rates in rich countries (Chzhen, 2016). Research by Ferreira & Gustafson (2006) suggests that the total number of members in most clubs has declined and they also suggest that there has been a higher annual attrition rate during economic downturns in America. Ireland is no exception to this situation.  It can be shown and stated clearly that the economic recession has impacted on all clubs in Ireland (CFT Annual report, 2015).

  • Shortage of permanent Staff

CTF has a small but very dedicated permanent staff. The permanent staff are responsible of guaranteeing that the day to day operations are carried out in an efficient and professional manner (I. U. Council & Report, 2015) A restrictive national budget during the period of recession did not help to increase the number of permanent staff. Nevertheless, as mentioned in the financial section, CFT has been traditionally included in the package of founding that Sport Ireland Council earmarks for sport clubs.

The lack of permanent staff is complemented by a pool of eager members that volunteer to help in the promotion and organization of activities, courses and training. According to the 2015 Annual Report volunteers provide an essential service and are considered as the corner stone essential for the survival of CFT. The presence of volunteers in clubs is a major part of Irish culture. According to Sports Irish Council the vast majority of clubs operate on a voluntary basis (Monitor, 2013) and it is an accepted fact that sport accounts for the majority of all volunteering in Ireland

All of the above underlines the huge importance of volunteering, not only in the context of Irish sport, but to Irish society in general. Therefore, CFT should maintain the network of volunteers as they may have a relevant role in boosting the new activities that CFT have foreseen for the next season. According to Sport Irish Council, given their pivotal role it is important that CFT and sports clubs have a good understanding of the motivations and capacities of volunteers.(Fo, Irish, & Council, 2016)

Volunteers may help in the process of creating awareness of the social aspect of practicing underwater sports as a member of a club in order to spread interest and enthusiasm for underwater sports. Regarding the small number of permanent staff, they contribute to the success of CFT by adding new suggestions and ideas. However, it is probable that the promotion and creation of a new range of products and their marketing requires an increase in the number of permanent staff.

A business’s ability to succeed during a process of expansion depends a great deal on the skills and expertise of the staff as well as their ability to communicate effectively with clubs and members, therefore, in order to maintain sustainability CFT volunteers as well as permanent staff are an essential part of the business.

  • Promotion
    • Challenges to new product development

To launch a new product or service needs a lot of work before they are actually demonstrated or sold to customers. The expected demand may turn out not to be there, the price might be too high, the product might be badly designed, or there might be regulatory hurdles. Much of that work is done in product development. Because product development is underestimated but it is the hard slog that really makes a difference. (Singh, 2013)

Generally speaking, launching on a new product development (NPD) is the complete process of bringing a new product to market. Also, there are two parallel paths involved in the NPD process: one involves idea generation, product design and detail engineering; the other involves market research and marketing analysis. Companies typically see new product development as the first stage in generating and commercializing a new product within the overall strategic process of product life cycle management used to maintain or grow their market share. Here are 11 common challenges that companies may facing when they launch a new product or service into market sector:  global competition, time, market potential, technological change, distribution, new features, price, critical unmet needs, promotion, resistance to change and market size (Singh, 2013)

  • Problems that underwater activity companies might be facing when launching a new service

Adventure sports have a long tradition. In the 19th century exploration of Arctic areas and climbing in the Alps were new adventurous pursuits. Even though this is the case, since the 1970s there has been an increase in adventure sports of various kinds. The rise in adventure sport must be seen against the background of developments inside the sports field itself. (Breivik, 2010)

With the increasing popularity of adventure sports, some companies have started to set new strategies to launch new products and services. Although companies would love to rely on new products to increase their share of the customer’s wallet, erode competitors’ market share, and boost revenue, markets are more likely than not to reject new offerings – or at the very least, accept them reluctantly:  approximately half of all new product launches fail. (Frost Sullivan, n.a)

According to our interviews with customers and a few club owners, we have found that there are a number of barriers and motivators that can either hinder or encourage people to participate in underwater activities as Figure 1 demonstrates.

(Office of the minister for children, 2007)

8.5.3 Safety is the first problem that concerns customers

As an underwater sport, diving is one of the most exciting and challenging sports to take part in. It mixes a range of sports from swimming, gymnastics and trampolining, to bring power and elegance together in an exciting spectacle. But, how to keep this activity safe and enjoyable at the same time is the issue that underwater clubs or industries need to considere. (Swim Ireland, n.a)

8.5.4 Too much to pay for undertaking a diving course

Besides that, the current financial crisis that began in 2007 has created great financial disoruption, as with most industries, the hospitality and tourism sector is experiencing numerous challenges as a result of the global economic crisis. The recession caused serious problems for adventure sports clubs in particular. The industry is feeling the impact of a shrinking capital market and decreased spending by both corporate and individual consumers. (Protiviti, risk and business consulting, n.a)

Generally speaking, most divers must take as a rule a course of about 6 months before they go diving. Setting the right price for the product before introducing it into the market is also a challenge for the organisation. (Singh, 2013)

8.5.5 Lack of interest in going out and joining in outdoor sports

From the interviews that we have done, we have found that the most frequently mentioned barriers to participation is that people only know the word diving, instead of understanding what the concept actually means and entails.

  • Primary Research Analysis
    • Introduction

Saunders et al define research as ´something that people undertake in order to find out things in a systematic way, thereby increasing their knowledge´(Saunders, 20012). Primary research requires a participative observation of the data, which include: recording, description, analysis and interpretation of people´s opinions and behaviour. Primary research may adopt different forms such as, interviews, surveys, questionnaires and focus groups

In order to fulfil the requests of the CFT, two different approaches have been taken. First, six interviews were conducted among potential customers. A semi-structured and informal format was decided on in order to gather valid and reliable data relevant to the research. The questions were developed in order to get an insight into the main goals of the research, which are: factors that motivate or stop people from taking up an underwater activity and specifically snorkelling, factors that maintain club membership and how clubs imagine a snorkelling promotional campaign might develop. A pilot was carried out to test the questions, and as a result, the interview was reduced from 15 to 10 questions.  The pilot and final interviews are included as Annex I. Additionally, in order to try to avoid the traditional limitations of semi-structured interviews, such as bias or generalization, a survey was conducted among potential customers. The questionnaires were created using Survey Monkey. Saunders et al suggest that both methods be used as it may better enable the linking of questionnaires with other methods.

As the CFT was also interested in potential providers of snorkelling, a questionnaire was prepared to address scouts, adventure centres and hotels. This research found a limitation in relation to the answers that were received. Several providers were contacted, first by email, then by phone, nevertheless, a reduced sample was finally received from only one group, the scouts. Three people, who represent several groups of scouts around Ireland, answered the questionnaire. The questionnaires were created using Survey Monkey.

This report will interpret the data gathered from the interviews and the two surveys and report on the key findings.

  • General Result Analysis and Discussion

In general, the results showed that four out of the six interviewed people had been or were currently members of clubs that offer underwater sports activities. One of the interviewees who had not previously participated in snorkelling or other underwater activities showed the least interest in his responses, mostly being negative, showing that whatever marketing plan that may be implemented after this project would still need a lot of work to convince people like him to take up these activities. Even in all his negativity, however, this interviewee – Brendon – made some very helpful points that would contribute to implementing the new plan. The points are well discussed in the last section of the analysis.

  • The Reasons why People Practice Snorkeling

While conducting the interviews, three out of the total number of questions asked explored and thus provided the reasons as to why people participate in snorkelling. The first reason found was that people enjoy the life associated with the sea; its wellness and the freshness of it all. In general, it’s a relaxing activity. Three of the interviewees pointed this out as a reason for participation. Another reason given was that snorkeling is an activity that compliments dieting in order to achieve weight loss. Many of the people interviewed talked about the physical and mental health advantages provided by snorkelling. The third interviewee even pointed out what a good stress reliever the activity is, successfully countering the effects of work pressures. The potential for socialization provided by snorkelling also seems to encourage people to take it up. The third interviewee considered the activity as a way to make some new friends while the fourth one said that it was an interesting activity to share with family members and friends. Such reasons were reiterated by answers given by the sixth interviewee. The final reason given was as a hobby or pastime activity. Three out of the six people interviewed gave this as a reason for participation.

  • Constrains on participation in underwater sports and snorkeling

DeFrance (1995) suggests that members join sport clubs because they share common believes. The first recreational diving clubs started in Ireland in the early 1960s (CFT Annual Report, 2015). Before that date they did not exist. Some respondents, according to the research, point out that there is no culture history in the underwater sports in Ireland and hence snorkeling is a new idea for them, it is not a culture thing. Therefore, a number of barriers have been noticed that impact on participation in underwater sports and snorkeling amongst young people in Ireland. The research carried out suggested that:

In general, young people do in what they are interested to have fun.  And their choice is based on what is important to them. Usually, they do not do it if they lack of interests. Normally, young people do not have much idea about either underwater sports and snorkeling or clubs where practice them. The weather conditions also play a discouraging role when deciding about the kind of sport to take up. Concerns about safety are also important. Many young people are worried about whether the equipment is safe, or if they have experienced instructor during the training. Price is another factor mainly among the youngest, in particular students.

The time factor also deters students from take scuba or snorkel. After 5 days on studying or working, student prefer spending two hours on physical practice in gym for relaxing themselves during the weekend instead of two days.

To sum up, the most frequently highlighted constrains are structural barriers. Such as lack of interests, lack of information, difficult access on clubs, the cold water condition, safety concerns and high costs, as well as time consuming. The findings are illustrated as follows in Figure 1 Constrains to involvement

 

  • Factors that impact on the club’s memberships

All six interviews provided generally good information on the factors affecting memberships in clubs such as CFT. Analysis of the results revealed eight major reasons affecting not only club membership but also participation in club activities such as underwater activities.

The first of the factors is affordability. Interviewee number four admits having noticed that the number of memberships in his club had decreased, and he attributed this to the probable financial crisis. Number three points out that clubs would increase their membership if they were more affordable, especially for young people, who are most likely to have an interest in the type of activities that this project seeks to promote. The last interviewee, too, points out that there are many such clubs available, but they are expensive. It might be a good solution, therefore, for such a club to review its prices, and, so as to avoid making losses, they could introduce various cost packages, making such activities affordable and still increasing their margin of profit, and all in all attracting more members.

Safety was another reason that cut across all the answers given by the interviewees. The first interviewee, a member of the Omanis club, suggested the need for improvement of safety facilities as a factor that would make them join an underwater sports club. Interviewee number 5 pointed out that safety in a club makes the club more trustworthy.

The presence of qualified staff in a club also plays a role in attracting members according to the interview results. This applies especially to clubs providing sporting activities. The fifth person to be interviewed pointed out the need for professional instructors as a factor that would encourage him to join such a club. This factor goes hand in hand with the safety issue and also with training for such activities that, he felt, should also be provided in the club.

Flexibility in terms of time also came up as a factor affecting membership. Three out of the six people interviewed commented on making customer times more flexible so that such activities and especially their training might be accessed when people are free.

All of the people interviewed suggested the creation of awareness as a means of attracting more members to the club. This was perhaps the well-answered question in the interview, with people suggesting various ways through which the club could create awareness. The first interviewee suggested the creation of awareness through a focus on the physical and mental health advantages brought on by taking up such underwater activities in a club. The best suggestion was probably by the second interviewee who suggested that, just like swimming, these activities be introduced in schools, creating awareness and thus encouraging them to join clubs in future. The provision of activities that provide customer satisfaction would also increase membership.

One of the interviewees talked of monthly membership gatherings, and this could fall under the provision of incentives to encourage membership. Another incentive that would encourage potential members to join is liaising with other organizations to provide a competitive environment for customers who would like to compete.

  • Other underwater sports suggested in the research by interviews.

Underwater sports can be identified as a large group of sports using different underwater diving techniques such as breath holding, snorkeling or scuba, using various equipment such as diving masks and fins in underwater environments such as open water, lakes or swimming pools. Those sports include aquathlon (i.e. underwater wrestling), fin swimming, freediving, spearfishing, sport diving, underwater football, underwater hockey, underwater ice hockey, underwater orienteering, underwater photography, underwater rugby, underwater target shooting and underwater video.

Recreational diving activities such as scuba diving and snorkeling are perfectly suited to Ireland due to its nature condition as an island. According to our research, we have found that the most popular and acceptable underwater sports in Ireland consist of water polo, scuba diving, underwater hockey, underwater photography  and snorkeling. The following indicates the ranking of underwater sports in terms of young people’s preferences based on our findings. We found that the most attractive underwater activity is Scuba diving, which occupies around 35%. The second one is underwater photography.

Underwater photography allow to explore the sites without physically going there, records the intimate details of the site for future generations when the wreck may have been moved or suffered further deterioration, and allows scientific study away from the wreck site using high-resolution images. In the last 60 years, underwater photography has taken off. This has allowed greater interaction between maritime archaeology and a fascinated public. (Government of Western Australia, 2015)

  • Expectations about the new Snorkeling plan

One of the questions asked during the interviews sought the opinion and expectation of the interviewees should a new snorkelling plan be promoted. Some of the things that came up were time flexibility, affordability, the creation of awareness, training and introduction of new activities.

The first interviewee, Zakria, a 28-year-old Master’s Degree student, was very specific on what he would wish the new plan to contain. He suggested provision of flexible time for customers, lower fee cost making it more affordable and also attracting as many people as possible, a more enjoyable plan, increased safety, especially for new members, provision of professional trainers, displaying clips of the underwater process to show customers what to expect during the activity and provision of activities that meet the customers’ satisfaction.

Brendon, a father of two, was not too interested in snorkelling, but he suggested that the plan might involve the creation of awareness through the introduction of this sport in schools to allow children to build up interest. In doing this, Brendon suggested, more and more young people would join the activity. He also suggested that the plan should take into consideration the weather and the cold water conditions as this discourages participation in such activities.

The third interviewee was a 25-year-old factory worker who also suggested that creation of awareness be a part of the new plan as there is not enough information about snorkelling in Ireland. Delen compared the information on this sport to information about football and rugby, which is everywhere, in schools, on television, and in newspapers.

Conor O’Neil, a restaurant owner and fan of diving sports, recommended improved safety equipment and well trained instructors be part of the plan. On a personal note, he said that this would convince him to take up the new snorkeling activity.

The same goes for Bohyun Song, an undergraduate student, who believes that snorkelling sports are kind of risky and the promise of provision of safety equipment and professional instructors would be beneficial if included in the plan.

The final interviewee suggested that the plan be inclusive of new activities such as underwater treasure hunts and water polo to make it less mundane.

In conclusion, factors such as improved prices, advertising, training options, provision of equipment so customers do not have to buy or transport their own, flexibility in time and duration of activities, availability of professional instructors and improved safety would go a long way to ensuring the success of the implementation and adoption of a new snorkelling activity plan. The CFT should put most of their focus on the creation of awareness and customer satisfaction; these two seem to have the most influence on peoples’ opinions of underwater activities. This, coupled with the assurance of safety, would bring in more and more people who do not know or do not partake in the said activities, encouraging them to join clubs and also achieve the purpose of creating environmental awareness, one of the principle aims of the CFT.

  • Result Analysis and Discussion

The questions were created to support the main objectives of the interviews and research, which are: motivations for, and restraints to, taking up an underwater sport and specifically snorkelling; factors considered when deciding to continue in or to join a club and, finally, what other sports could represent an opportunity or a competitor. The sample used includes middle age couples with children in primary or secondary school. The questionnaire was sent through social networks and google groups. A limitation of the result is the reduced number of answers recieved by the date of presenting this report.

  • Question 1. Which of these factors would motivate you to take up snorkel?

 

 

Considering the weighted mean five the most important motivating factors are: explore nature, try new things, relax and hobby, family friendly and photography. These results reflect rather similar motives that those collected through the semi-structured interviews. In the interviews one of the first reason found was that people ´enjoy the sea life, its wellness and freshness´ as a relaxing activity and the fact that it helps find a mental balance. Also the factor of fitness, with a weighted average of five arise in the survey answers, as it did in the interviews. Therefore, the main factors pointed out in the interviews are confirmed by the survey. No too far from the five first, the survey shows that travel abroad and get friends have also a relevant average. This reason were coded as social factors as the potential for socialization provided by snorkeling also seems to encourage people to take it up. Therefore, the data offered a good insight about the main motivations that might drive potential customers to take up snorkel. Some of the answers has to be interpreted cautiously as the standard deviation was significant, that is the case of family friendly.

  • Question 2. Please rate the factors that would restraint you to take up snorkel

Considering the weighted mean there are five principle factors that would restrain people taking up snorkelling, these are: weather, distance to the club, safety, price and time. These main factors are followed by lack of equipment and lack of information as lesser factors. From the results of the interviews and the survey we can state as the main factor is price, this factor would include as a major issue lack of equipment. Both together show that neither young people nor families are interested in activities with high entry fees. The factor of lack of information is important as well, because with better information about the price the number of people interested could significantly increase.  Lack of information is pointed out in the interviews as significant: ´normally, young people do not have much idea about either underwater sports or snorkelling or clubs ´. Weather, linked to safety conditions, plays a discouraging role when deciding about underwater sports. Concerns about safety are rather relevant. By improving the issue of lack of information, these two relevant factors might be reduced causing a more positive score in the number of people interested in snorkelling. Therefore, the survey confirms the structural barriers pointed out in the interviews.

  • Question 3. Please rate the factors that would influence your decision to keep up your membership in an underwater sport club

 

In view of the weighted mean, there are five influential factors that would determine whether or not people keep up a club membership. These are: flexibility, price, weekend (social) activities, friendship and family friendly. These main factors are closely followed by the offer of trips abroad. As a foregone conclusion the social aspect that a club may offer plays a fundamental role for the sample. The social aspect, which has been split into family friendly, social activities and friendship, is the crucial factor to be considered when dealing with the sustainability issue faced by CFT and the Clubs. The social aspect was also a frequently raised issue in the interview answers, as well as the affordability of the activity (price), and concerns about the quality of the coaches. This needs to be linked with the necessity of providing adequate and complete information in order to increase the membership of clubs.

  • Question 4. What others sports would you be interested in?

Finally, a question related to different sports was included in order to analyse new opportunities and possible threats. Arising out of the question, surfing and sailing appear as the main competitors to underwater sport. Although surfing scores high the fact that it requires equipment that may be expensive reduces the danger of its threat. Sailing might be a stronger competitor as in Dun Laoghaire port there is a well-known organization that includes camps for young people. Finally, Underwater Hockey and Underwater Rugby arise as an area of opportunity to study for the future. The interest in underwater team sport is also highlighted in the interviews, where underwater Hockey and Volleyball also appear as an opportunity to develop.

In conclusion, both the interviews and questionnaires have shown similar results which points to the reliability of the research and minimizes the limitation caused by the reduced answers in the sample.

  • Result Analysis and Discussion

Price, promotion, place, product and profit are considering the five ´marketing mix’ elements that have come out of the research. All these elements need to be analyzed before launching any product. Therefore, a business needs to have an insight into the interest shown not only for customers but also for potential providers in relation to the product. To provide an insight into the interest of potential CFT providers a survey was launched. The providers considered were scouts’ groups and adventure centers. Clubs abroad were also contacted to explore the option of trips abroad. All groups were contacted by email and by phone, nevertheless up to the date of this report the answers have been limited to the scouts’ groups.

The adventure centers and foreign organizations contacted are included in Annex III. It would be expected that with more time contact might be reiterated and therefore some further input acquired.

The scouts’ groups were found through their web page – http://www.scouts.ie/- Emails and phone calls were made to ten national scout’s representatives. As some emails resulted in failure, phoned calls were made; all of them show interest in the survey, nevertheless answers were received only from three of the national representatives. The representatives that answered the questions covered the center, south, south-east and south-west of the country. The scouts’ representative individual answers are included in Annex II.

The scouts have members of different ages and they usually organize outdoor activities for their members. The questions were addressed to test the interest of scouts clubs and their members in underwater activities, specifically in snorkeling and underwater hockey. They were done in order to establish the factors that constrain the undertaking of these activities, to understand the kind of information or support they would like to have from CFT, and, finally, to ask about preferences in relation to underwater sports.

To the question “Have you ever considered including underwater activities?”, two of the representatives answered that yes they had, and, specifically, snorkel and scuba diving were mentioned. The third respondent expressed the idea that to date it had not been considered as a regular activity, which does not involve a lack of interest, but, judging by the other answers, seems to be due to lack of information

To the question about whether their members have ever shown interest in snorkeling or underwater hockey, two of them said no and only one of the respondents specified that they usually do it but in warmer countries in trips abroad. So here there is interest, but the weather is a major limitation.

In relation to the main constraint to the practice of snorkeling the most common answers were insurance, cost and availability of equipment, training of leaders, weather and water temperature. Apart from the weather and water temperature, the other constraints might be overcome with information and support from the CFT and clubs respectively.

The three respondents agree that to take the decision about including snorkeling as a new activity they would need information about safe locations to practice, costs –including equipment hire and insurance- and training leaders. The representative from the south west cost mentioned their interest in having ´images of the promotion’. In all of them, the information that the CFT might provide them in relation to the new product, it seems, might have a relevant effect on whether or not they would decide to go for it. This is reflected in the answers to question five.

Finally, when asked about which underwater sport they would most seriously consider, all of them answered: snorkeling.

In conclusion, the three representatives showed interest in snorkeling, it being essential to them in relation to this to receive information about insurance, safe locations, options to hire gear at affordable prices and, in some cases, the offer of trips abroad might be appealing. A promotional activity with detailed information about snorkeling as an enjoyable, affordable and safe activity, as it does not require going to extremely depth points, would be really well.

10.0 Conclusions and the Recommendations

 

SOURCE: WWW.ROYALRESEARCHERS.COM
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