One of our primary missions at Sea TREK is to make the underwater world accessible. We like to tell people, “if you can walk and breathe, you can Sea TREK”– it’s our way of expressing the ease of the experience and the broad demographic that can participate. Recently however, we’ve had to revise this statement to say, “if you can breathe, you can Sea TREK,” thanks to a new wheelchair Sea TREK experience in Lanzarote, Spain. The Sea TREK team at Native Diving Lanzarote caught our attention with this program, as they’ve completely raised the bar for what it means to offer an accessible Sea TREK tour. This innovative thinking along with a high level of customer service feedback has set Native Diving apart from other Sea TREK operations and earned them the prestigious Sea TREK Operator of the Year award for 2016….and all the bragging rights that go along with it!
Native Diving is an established business in Lanzarote (located in the Canary Islands), with over 20 years experience and two PADI 5-star dive centers. The business also maintains a 5-star rating on TripAdvisor and a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. Several years ago, owner-operator Jose Luis Garcia Blanco was looking on the internet for the latest underwater activities on the market. He came across the Sea TREK tour offered by Sea TREK Spain in Gran Canaria, and immediately booked a trip to try it firsthand. He was hooked after the experience, and within a few months became the proud new operator of two Sea TREK POD systems. “I loved it so much that I wanted to offer it as soon as I could,” shares Jose Luis, “it is a unique and different experience that is appealing to everyone. Not to mention, Sea TREK also helps Native Diving stand out from local dive shop competition.”
To help establish Sea TREK on the island and familiarize the sales channels with the experience, Jose Luis and his team spent several months offering free Sea TREK pool demonstrations at hotels and resort properties. This was only semi-effective and the team knew they could do better. They changed their strategy and started focusing on contacting hotel administrators, receptionists, tour agents and sales reps and inviting them to come try Sea TREK for free. There is no better way to sell something than to try it yourself and speak from firsthand experience. After a couple months, the business started to see results; the Sea TREK word spread– more reps came to try the tour and more customers arrived as a result. The business was on track and allowed the team to expand their Sea TREK equipment, adding two new POD systems, while expanding their market reach, innovating, and developing ways to give back to the community.
One of the most innovative (and incredible) programs developed by Native Diving is the specialized underwater wheelchair for taking guests with limited or reduced mobility on a Sea TREK tour. Jose Luis describes the first underwater trek with the wheelchair as his most memorable Sea TREK experience. “The guests’ faces after the activity were amazing,” says Jose Luis, “…we can’t describe their feelings nor our feelings that day. And even more so when we realized that we were the first ones in the world to do Sea TREK like this.” He goes on to say, “our goal is for guests with limited mobility to have the best experience of their lives. With Sea TREK, that is what we do… we make them happy.” And that is exactly what the team at Native Diving did for this historical trek– the wonderment and sheer joy on the guests’ faces tell the whole story better than words ever could. Native Diving is collaborating with a local Spanish manufacturer, who builds wheelchairs designed for use on the beach, to design and fabricate a custom underwater wheelchair specifically for Sea TREK. The first prototype will be tested at the end of the month, and Jose Luis hopes to share this resource with Sub Sea Systems so that other Sea TREK operators can start similar programs.