A Guide to Adventure Travel

By Hill, Brian J. | Parks & Recreation, September 1995 | Go to article overview

A Guide to Adventure Travel


Hill, Brian J., Parks & Recreation


Old fashioned outdoor recreation has evolved into adventure travel, ecotourism, and nature-based tourism. Spending time in a natural setting to learn about the environment or participate in adventurous activities is not a new concept. But the names given to such experiences have changed dramatically, and some activities and ethics involving outdoor travel have been developed. Nevertheless, the creative marketing power behind private enterprise tourism has pushed outdoor recreation into the consumer consciousness as new and improved "adventure travel" and "ecotourism".

The many facets of adventure travel including the dynamics of the adventure travel market, the motivations for adventure travel, the providers of adventure experiences, the realities of adventure travel, the equipment needs of adventurers, the issues of sustainability and environmental ethics, the economic development potential of nature-based tourism, and the managing and marketing of adventure travel enterprises are introduced here. A brief explanation and commentary are presented on each topic in an encyclopedic format so that the reader might become acquainted with these subjects.

The Adventure Travel Market

More than half of all U.S. traveling adults, or about 73 million people, have taken an adventure trip in their lifetime. A recent study conducted by the U.S. Travel Data Center found that of these 73 million, about three-quarters had taken an adventure trip in the last two years. In fact, the market for adventure travel and ecotourism is considered enormous. And the multitude of businesses and entrepreneurs flocking to these types of special interest tourism are evidence of their popularity. Another U.S. Travel Data Center study on tourism and the environment found that more than 85% of travelers claimed that they are likely to support or patronize travel companies that help preserve the environment. Moreover, these consumers were willing to pay on average 8% more for travel products and services provided by environmentally responsible travel suppliers. This 1991 study suggested that the environmental movement has entered the mainstream of global life and concluded that "the growth in the number of these green consumers and travelers has stimulated businesses to respond to this target audience with an avalanche of image positioning, through advertising and promotion and to change their products, services and practices accordingly."

Adventure travelers are more likely to be married and have children than other travelers. They also are more likely to be female than the average traveler profile. On average, adventure travelers are 40 years old, include two or more wage earners in the household, are college educated, and have professional or managerial occupations.more than half of adventure travelers take their spouses along on their vacations. Children, grandchildren, and non-family adults are also popular companions. Only a small percentage take adventure vacations alone.

The U.S. Data Center study also found that adventure travelers spent on average $871 per trip. Older Americans and those with the highest incomes spent most, while the youngest study participants and those with the lowest incomes spent the least. The range of expenditures starts at less than $500 per trip and grows to over $5,000 per trip.

Adventure Travel Motivations

People take vacations for fun and entertainment and to get away from the stress of work and the tedium of daily life. Sometimes they are motivated by the need to enhance relationships with family and friends, to learn something new, to explore oneself, or to meet new people. The desire to do something healthy or to add to one's self-image also may be motivating factors. Adventure vacations often include all of these travel motivations, but thrill seeking plays a unique and important role.

Many pursuers of adventure travel list thrill seeking as their reason for participating. …

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