By: Wayne Brown, CEO Aggressor Adventures
Innovations come from unexpected disruptions. That is a broad sentence, but I want to put it in real world examples that we at Aggressor Adventures have experienced. History has taught us that most innovation comes from legacy companies and not new entrants. New companies rarely have the real-world experience to know what innovation is needed, expected and or accepted by their customers. A great example is Apple and the iPhone. The internet was the disruption that brought that invention to life. Some might say that a new entrant to electric vehicles (EV), Tesla, created a major innovation. The first EV was built in the 1800’s when the first electric motor was invented. The limiting factor was battery technology. Tesla used the disruptive lithium-ion battery technology to innovate the automobile. I am not taking you down a rabbit hole but wanted to put some context into what and how we learned to navigate in and out of a pandemic.
Our seemingly endless meetings on how to reopen our first destination centered around the spread of any illness. We knew it would not be a matter of if, but when, a guest came down with Covid. Traveling through multiple airports and flying in an enclosed tube for hours with hundreds of others tested everyone’s immune system, no matter if there was a pandemic or not. We took this as a challenge to invent methods and protocols that we could use for years to come, pandemic or not. Reviewing our destination cleaning and sanitizing procedures was first up. Just because we had been using a supposedly great name brand product for years, was that actually the best in preventing the spread of any illness? Operating in so many destinations around the world, there is never going to be one name brand that we can source. We broke the best products down to their active ingredients and then used that to find the ones that were available locally. These products are now part of our permanent cleaning and sanitizing procedures and will stay for the future.
Not only are surfaces a potential issue in the spread of illnesses but air quality is a major factor also. We sourced UV lighting for our A/C systems that kills 99.9% of airborne pathogens. Not every A/C system we have in the varied destinations are the same so just placing an order for one style was not going to work. We had to request detailed information to ensure money was well spent and the system worked as planned.
Of course, there was also the plans needed when someone did come down with a serious viral illness that could carry over as part of our worldwide SOP. With some liveaboard destinations hundreds of miles and many hours away from land, we needed an onboard isolation course of action while ensuring they were comfortable, served meals and the staff was as protected.
Born out of this disruption was enhanced services we could offer guests. One example, since over half of our guests dive Nitrox, we did not want everyone passing around the Nitrox analyzer. We had one staff member check each guests Nitrox and show them the percentage. We quickly realized that this should be a new ‘Concierge’ service we could add to our ever-expanding list of 5-star offerings.
I hope every adventure company, whether an almost 40-year legacy one as ours or the new entrant, came out of 2021 stronger, better equipped for handling illnesses and enhancing the experience that travelers expect. By the way, this was not an endorsement of Apple and iPhones, which I love, or a slam on Tesla, even though I have a Rivian— wink, wink.