Last Updated: February 8, 2023
The scuba industry isn’t a regulated one and many dive companies keep their records private, so determining exact numbers is difficult. However, based on the statistics available, it’s generally agreed that there are about 6 million active scuba divers in the world.
This article explores the various statistics about scuba diving and the industry, and the difference between active divers, professional divers, and tourist divers.
Scuba Diving Statistics
The statistics for the scuba industry are difficult to determine. However, researchers have reported the following data:
- There are an estimated 6 to 9 million active scuba divers worldwide
- It’s estimated that 1 million people a year become certified divers
- PADI has issued over 27 million certifications since 1967, though how many are still active is uncertain.
- In 2019 there were 137,000 recorded certified professional divers (divers who are active instructors as well)
- Estimated 1-3 million dive fatalities each year, according to the Diver Alert Network (DAN)
- According to Undercurrent, there are about 1.2 million active divers in the US
- The University of South Carolina claims there are 500,000 new divers certified in the US each year
Reported Numbers for Europe and America include:
Most of these statistics are estimates, given the nature of the industry, and they don’t generally include people who make one-time tourist dives.
How Big is the Scuba Diving Industry Globally?
Because there’s not a solid set of statistics on the numbers of divers, there aren’t exact numbers for the size of the industry. But when considering its size, most researchers look into the following categories:
Tourist Dive Industries – for people who go on dives once or twice for the thrill of it, but don’t go for dive certification.
Certified Divers – who pay for certification, and the equipment to go diving regularly.
Professional Divers – who teach others how to dive, and may take others on tourist dives.
Destination Dive Shops – dive shops which offer destinations for certified and tourist dives.
Origin Dive Shops – who provide training, equipment, and day trips.
Equipment Shops – places where you can buy the equipment, and restock supplies like air etc.
Scubanomics – Economics of Scuba Diving
According to those who study the economics of scuba diving, or scubanomics, some of the recorded and estimated statistics are as follows:
- Local dive shops in the US are estimated to have an income of $500k a year
- PADI reported an estimate of $3.5 Billion in worldwide dive sales in 1994-1995
- PADI also reported an estimated $1 Billion in US dive sales in 1994-1995
- Average dive center revenues were approx. $500K in 2011
- Extrapolated data suggests that the US has a dive revenue of $750 Million
- Same data suggests a worldwide revenue of $2.2 Billion
- According to studies, equipment accounts for about $375 Million in sales in the US, and $600 Million worldwide.
While these are some estimated results, a few of the dive gear manufacturers have released their sales revenue for 2018 and 2019:
These are just some of the recorded estimates and numbers available. And these are only numbers for Europe and the US.
Statistics from Asia are difficult to collect. China has the largest dive resort on Hainan Island, with over 1 million dive tryouts a year, but the reported revenue is only $12 million.
It’s estimated that a new diver will spend about $1500 for training and equipment. Experts in scubanomics estimate this is the source of 40-50% of the revenue of the diving industry.
What Percentage of People are Scuba Divers?
Assuming the estimate of 6 million certified scuba divers is accurate, that would make scuba divers less than 1% of the global population.
According to demographic studies, ~70% of scuba divers are male, and ~30% are female.
In terms of the US population, it’s estimated that 0.7% percent of the population are active scuba divers. Europe has similar numbers and percentages.
How Many People in the World are Certified Scuba Divers?
There are an estimated 6 million to 9 million active scuba divers, but not all of them are certified.
PADI certifies approx. 1 million new divers a year, since 1967, though not all of them are necessarily active.
How Many Scuba Divers are There in the US?
The estimated number of active divers in the US is about 2.6 million. By active divers, most experts refer to divers who regularly dive, and make about 5 dives a year.
There is no recorded number for the people who are uncertified, or who go on dives once in a while for fun.
It’s estimated that there are millions of uncertified divers who go diving every year, who are not recorded by PADI or any other organization.
Which State Has the Most Scuba Divers?
Ironically, Colorado – a landlocked state – has the most certified scuba divers on record. They enjoy not only traveling to oceanside diving spots, but exploring deep lakes all over the country.
How Many Dive Shops in the World?
The number of diving shops in the world is difficult to estimate, for the same reason as the number of divers.
In 1995, PADI reported 2,000 dive centers in the US, and about 4,000 worldwide. However, RSTC reported 3,558 dive centers in Europe in 2015.
Officially, PADI has 6,600 dive centers and resorts worldwide. 187 of those are located in the US.
There is no recorded estimate for shops that are not registered by PADI, or for shops and locations that sell scuba equipment independent of certification.
There are also locations like Costco, which may sell limited equipment, but have no official connection to the diving industry.
How Many PADI Dive Instructors Are There?
In 2019, PADI reported 137,000 certified professional divers.
All professionally certified divers for PADI are required to have an active teaching status.
The most recent recorded number is about 128,000 certified and active dive instructors.
How Many Dives Does the Average Diver Make?
Numbers vary according to whether they are tourist divers, recreational divers, or professional divers.
On average, a certified recreational diver makes about 8 or 9 dives a year.
A recreational diver can make up to 5 dives in a single day, depending on their equipment and where they are diving.
Professional divers may log thousands of dives in a year.
Tourist divers or people taking dive trips without certification, are likely to log much fewer dives annually.
What Locations Are Most Popular With Divers?
Outside of the US, popular locations include:
- Coral Triangle – Richest marine environment to explore, near the Phillipines
- Hainan Island – Largest Dive Resort in the world, in China
- Many Caribbean Destinations – e.g. Cozumel or Riviera Maya (Mexico), Ambergris Caye or Turneffe Atoll (Belize), and Stingray City (Cayman Islands)
My unbounded love for the oceans and everything it has to offer motivated me to pursue my passion and become a professional scuba diving instructor.
I keep reading, exploring, and learning more about scuba diving and the underwater world all the time, so I’m excited to share my knowledge with fellow scuba enthusiasts and hopefully contribute a little to your development as a diver. I want people to fall in love with the oceans with as much passion as I have. Read more about me here.