The magnificent Shanghai Exhibition Centre was the venue of China’s 1st ever dive show in late September 2005. This dive expo was organised by Suntec Integrated Media and East West MICE who for the past 11 years also organised the largest dive show in Asia , ADEC. Amongst the exhibitors at the show were equipment suppliers, certification bodies, dive travel related companies, dive clubs and dive associations based in China . There was even an external pool constructed for people who have never dived before to experience the sensation of being underwater using scuba. I was told that over 20,000 people visited the show. The show was much smaller than what you would have expected from a city of over 20 million people and it was definitely one of the smaller dive shows in Asia . However the turn out was encouraging, with trade visitors probably constituting half of the people who attended.
The usual suspects were there to show their wares. Scubapro, Mares, US Divers, Seaquest, Sunnto, Oceanic and others were all out in force. There were also a few local Chinese and Hong Kong companies exhibiting their products—- most of which were engaged in the making neoprene related products like wet and dry suits.
There were no underwater camera equipment manufacturers or stores at the show.
2. Dive clubs
To my surprise there were a few dive clubs from Shanghai at the show. Their membership, not surprisingly, comprise to a large number by expatriates working in Shanghai . Most of them offer and organise dive trips to dive locations outside of mainland China such as the Philippines , Indonesia and Malaysia . This was somewhat disappointing for me as I was hoping to do some diving along the vast coastline of China or in some of the massive lakes further inland. Mako ( Shanghai ), a Singapore based dive travel/club who has recently started an office in Shanghai , are in the process of organising dive trips within the shores of China . Some of their number have dived submerged portions of the Great Wall and are planning trips to submerged cities in parts of inland China which have been flooded as a result of the dam building project along the path of the three gorges. All very exciting stuff.
3. Dive travel
Dive destinations aren’t the mainstay of the local Chinese when it comes to choosing holiday destinations. However, it is a fact that Chinese leisure travel business generally is one of the fastest growing industries in China . Recognising this, the Malaysian, Philippine and Cambodian tourist boards (a first for Cambodia ) had representatives at the show.
It is a little known fact but Hainan Island , which is about the size of Ireland and the largest of the Chinese islands, is currently the mecca for diving in China . I was told that over 1.2 million people visit the island to dive each year (of which 30% are from Shanghai ).
Unfortunately some of the locals at the Shanghai dive club expressed that even the best diving in Hainan is only of average quality in terms of visibility, quality of the coral and big fish action.
4. Cetification bodies
Most of the certification bodies (including SSI, PADI, NAUI, TDI etc.) were represented at the show. However, speaking with their sales reps there, many of them have only just managed to translate the English instruction manuals to Chinese and were in the process of translating the other audio visual training aids into Mandarin for use in China . Although most of the people I spoke to admitted that only a handful of divers in China had been certified under these certification bodies, all of them had ambitious plans to expand into the Chinese market this year.
It is obvious that diving in China still has a long way to go before it becomes a form of sport such as that in the West (or even South East Asia ). There is little infrastructure in China to support this sport at present. But one thing is certain – sport diving is here to stay in China.