2011 Reaching Out Award

Peter A. Hughes, 2011 Reaching Out Award Winnered. note:  The Diving Equipment & Marketing Association (DEMA) recently selected Peter A. Hughes to receive their 2011 Reaching Out Award, given to individuals for “significant contributions to the sport which have elevated the industry for all”. This landmark award was officially presented to Peter at this year’s DEMA show in November, 2011 (watch video)

Here are some highlights from Peter’s career – presented in three installments prior to his official induction into the DEMA Hall of Fame.

1. The Early Years: 60’s, 70’s, 80’s

Peter A. Hughes was born in Scotland, raised in Trinidad & Tobago, and began diving in Speyside, Tobago,  at age 10.  He continued to hone his diving skills during his school years and took his first full time job as a Director at Camp Crusoe in Tobago (1968 – 71), and earned his first instructor certification from the “YMCA”.  His instructor number?  000-00-0003.

Then, it was on to Anthony’s Key Resort in Roatan (72-75) as a dive master to transform a struggling sailing resort (the business plan was for sailboats going to the Panama Canal to make a stop in the Bay Islands) into a dive resort.  Today – AKR is one of the oldest and most respected dive resorts in the world.

In 1975, a small press release appeared in the then “bible” of dive publications:  Skin Diver Magazine.  Peter and Alice Hughes were coming to Bonaire to work for Teach/Tour, one of the early visionary pioneers of dive travel.

Peter A. Hughes, Teach Tour Press Release, 1975

Unfortunately, Teach/Tour’s vision exceeded their ability to finance it, and they went bust, stranding Peter & Alice in Bonaire.  They acquired the “on island” assets of Teach/Tour in lieu of back pay, and Peter and Alice started their own dive operation at the Flamingo Beach hotel, Dive Bonaire. (1977)

From these very humble beginnings, Dive Bonaire and the Flamingo Beach Hotel would quickly become the largest and most modern dive resort in the world. Even more importantly, the systems and innovations put in place at Dive Bonaire would be copied, world wide, for many years to come.  It was the first truly “dedicated dive resort” to feature all of the amenities divers expect (even by today’s standards).  The modern dive resort was born (pictured below – Peter and Alice in 1982 cover feature story in Skin Diver)

Peter and Alice Hughes, Dive Bonaire, Early Days

Early promotion of dive travel took place at trade shows and in the pages of Skin Diver (usually in black and white). Peter, usually a bit shy when you first meet him or ask him to speak, never minded having his picture taken…

Peter Hughes, Skin Diver Magazine, 70's & 80's

Throughout the early and mid 80’s, the concept of the modern dedicated dive resort flourished, and Peter would put new resorts in Cayman, Cayman Brac,  Barbados, Nassau (New Providence Island), and Curacao, just to name a few.

But the early promotional style set by Peter continued to flourish in the mid – 80’s with this 1986 ad for Dive Bonaire – now a dive classic (we’re not sure if Peter copied Miami Vice or Miami Vice copied Peter).  Gold chains aside, it did sum up Peter’s philosophy, and that philosopy of providing the greatest diving experiences is unchanged to this day.

Peter - Early ad for Dive Bonaire

Peter’s name had become so popular by the mid 80’s that a new manufacturer in the dive industry,  Techni-Pro, hired him to be their “spokesperson”, and he jumped into the endorsement business.  Alas, like Teach/Tour, Techni Pro’s ability to pay their bills did not match their desire for success, and Peter was never paid his endorsement fees!  One good thing, however, was this ad that ran in Skin Diver:

Peter A. Hughes, Technipro

Old friends still ask Peter if he’s got any of those fog-free masks left… and this marked Peter’s last stab at the endorsement business.

2. The Live-aboard Years (1986 – Present)

By 1986, Peter and Alice Hughes had established the gold standard for land-based dive resorts. In fact, divers would ask “Is it a Peter Hughes type resort?” and resorts throughout the diving world copied many of Peter’s innovations (with his permission and best wishes).

So Peter turned to the world of live-aboard diving – where the standard for so many of the live-aboards of the day were that the vessel floated! In general, live-aboards were older vessels past their prime, often not air conditioned, with cramped facilities and shared bathrooms.

Peter and Alice envisioned a clean, sturdy new vessel that would feature private cabins, a luxurious interior, fine dining, and a spacious dive deck.  This was a radical idea in 1986 – yet many, even if not all of the features were designed, built, and launched in the M/V Sea Dancer to immediate and overwhelming success.

Peter Hughes transformed the dive industry with the M/V Sea Dancer.

In 1991, Peter turned his full time attention to Peter Hughes Diving, Inc, a pioneering live-aboard company which grew in size and quality through the years.

Peter’s most significant launch was the M/V Wave Dancer in February of 1992 – which became the gold standard for the live-aboard diving industry. This was the first live-aboard designed specifically with the female diver in mind with en suite facilities in all staterooms.  The spacious vessel was also the first to offer twin, queen, and king-sized beds rather than bunks, open light views/windows for all staterooms, and the industry’s first rigid “deco bar”. Wave Dancer also pioneered a true “fine dining” experience, offered all inclusive beverage service, and evening stateroom turn-down service.

The diving industry had been waiting for just such an innovation – but didn’t know it. Instead of a guys only vacation, couples began enjoying the new live-aboards, and the term “luxury-liveaboard” was coined by dive media to distinguish the new vessels from their older counterparts.  The modern live-aboard was born.

All in all, Peter A. Hughes would introduce 14 live-aboards to the diving industry in a variety of diving destinations around the world.

Sea Dancer – Turks & Caicos, St. Marten, Saba & ‘Statia

Wave Dancer – Belize

Sun Dancer – Palau

Wind Dancer
– Bay Islands, Turks & Caicos, Bahamas, Tobago, Grenada, St. Vincent & Grenadines, Dominican Republic.

Sun Dancer II – Palau, Belize

Sun Dancer re-named Star Dancer – PNG (Papua New Guinea)

Moon Dancer
– Egypt

Sky Dancer – Galapagos

Komodo Dancer – Indonesia

Antares Dancer – Venezuela

Island Dancer
– Grenada, St. Vincent & Grenadines

Ocean Dancer – Maldives

Island Dancer II – Fiji

Paradise Dancer – Indonesia

Peter continued to own Peter Hughes Diving, Inc until March of 2008 when it was sold to a new owner, and Peter continued to work with the company until 2010.

In 2010, the transition to new ownership successfully completed, Peter left the company and started the DivEncounters Alliance to help “level the playing field” for independent live-aboards and to continue the tradition of delivering world class diving through luxury live-aboard experiences.

3. The 2011 DEMA Reaching Out Award

In 2011, DEMA (the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association) honored Peter with its most prestigious lifetime award, the DEMA Reaching Out Award.  Peter will officially receive the award and be inducted into the DEMA Hall of Fame at the 2011 DEMA Show in November.

Peter was selected for this singular achievement due to numerous accomplishments in many fields of diving:

A.  Resort Development: Peter single handedly created the concept and execution of the modern “Dedicated Dive Resort”, starting with Anthony’s Key Resort in Roatan (1971), and then Divi Flamingo in Bonaire (1975).  Resorts in Cayman, Cayman Brac, the Bahamas, Barbados, and Curacao would soon follow.  Peter transformed the diving industry by streamlining and modernizing the “old style dive resort” (a run down hotel with a beach dive operation) into the modern “Dedicated Dive Resort” where all services (hotel and diving) were combined and delivered to our diving guests in comfort and style.

While other diving operators on different islands were beginning to explore the benefits of dedicated dive resorts,  Peter was the first to deliver high quality, modern, diving services coupled with excellent hotel facilities.   This approach has been copied hundreds of times since Peter put it into play nearly 40 years ago!

Innovations included: Divers no longer had to lug tanks or haul their own dive gear (and great boon to the emerging female dive travel market).  The gear was waiting for them on new, custom designed dive vessels.  High Pressure air was delivered to the boats, making refills easy, a system still in place in most resorts today.  Time schedules for diving and meals were integrated, and billing for all services at the resort was standardized.  Radio communication (a rarity at the time) installed in all vessels, updated tracking systems for diver head counts, and consistent development of new dive sites and dive offerings (free buoyancy control and photo buoyancy control workshops, for example).

By creating and delivering the first “dedicated dive resorts”,  Peter established a benchmark for the entire dive travel industry, and created a positive environment for the rest of the travel industry to grow and expand geographically (to hundreds of new locations for dive resorts) and  demographically (more up-scale traveler, plus women divers).

B.  Live Aboard Development: After setting the standard which all successful land-based resorts would follow till this day, Peter then turned his attention to creating the “Modern Live-Aboard Dive Market” with the launch of the M/V Sea Dancer in 1986, and then the industry changing M/V Wave Dancer.

The Sea Dancer was one of the first live-aboards that established passenger comfort and amenities on the same level as great diving and diving safety.  It challenged the majority of live-aboards of the day (nearly all older wooden vessels with no AC, dive platforms, or guest amenities) to upgrade their vessels.

Then, with the M/V Wave Dancer (the most luxurious vessel of its time) Peter took the live-aboard experience to a completely new level of guest comfort.  Spacious, integrated dive decks with camera tables, rinse tanks, and showers.  Easy ‘on/off” dive platforms with ladders.

The impact of Peter, and Peter Hughes Diving, on the live-aboard dive market dramatically and significantly increased the size and demographics of this market segment, and created one of the most innovative and sustainable segments of dive travel.  All of these efforts dramatically opened up the dive market to women divers, and helped enhance and expand the photography and video markets.

C.  Safety and Marine Conservation: Peter has made several significant innovations in dive ladder technology and created the first rigid deco bar.  All of his innovations in dive safety technology have been shared (without license or fee) with the dive travel community.  He has also been the industry leader in exploring and equipping his live-aboard vessels with innovative satellite based diver tracking systems.

Long before it was fashionable to do so, Peter embraced  conservation based, sustainable diving practices which have been copied worldwide.  Indeed, his pioneering work in installing innovative and secure boat anchoring systems (permanent moorings) in more than 25 different locations in the world set a standard which has been copied hundreds, if not thousands, of times and has become one of the signatures of responsible diving practices.

Peter has also been very actively involved in marine conservation at the island level in all destinations, as well as being the industry spear-head of multiple conservation campaigns, including one where he formed a coalition of global divers which convinced the Disney Corporation to end its practice of selling “Shark Fin Soup” (the major economic motivation for the slaughter of millions of sharks annually, worldwide).

D.  Promotion and Dive Travel Industry Leadership:   In every destination that Peter has had a resort or live-aboard, and at the regional level (Caribbean, South Pacific, Indo Pacific), Peter has been a tireless advocate and spokesperson for the diving industry.   While it’s a bit hard to believe today, during Peter’s first twenty years in the diving business, islands and tourism groups were not convinced that diving was a good market for them.
Thanks to Peter’s help and leadership in the early days, and his unstinting work with island governments and NGO’s, diving has become one of the best niche travel markets in the world today – a foundation on which to continue to grow our industry for the future.
Peter’s track record of the promotion of diving (to divers, new divers, non-divers, and live-aboard divers) is unmatched by any person or private travel entity in diving today.  Every new resort, destination, and live-aboard were aggressively marketed and promoted to divers both in the U.S. and world-wide, creating millions of positive impressions for the sport of diving.

As a dive travel leader, Peter is simply acknowledged as one of the most experienced, thoughtful, and hard-working individuals ever to have graced our sport.  He continues to serve it as one of the world’s best dive travel authorities as entrepreneur, ambassador, and spokesmen.  He is also one of the most experienced divers in the world, with more than fifteen thousand dives in 60 different countries around the world.

4.  Peter & Alice @ DEMA

In early November of 2011,  Peter was inducted into the DEMA Hall of Fame and given the 2011 Reaching Out Award at the annual trade show presentation.

Pictured here is Peter receiving the award from DEMA Executive Director Tom Ingram in the jammed ballroom.

Pictured below are Peter and Alice Hughes directly after the award presentation.

To see a  video of the award presentation, click here.