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on adventure travel ❖

christopher doyle

THE TOURISM INDUSTRY is in serious transition. And, the rate and complexity of such change furrows eyebrows and is forcing industry execs worldwide to re-tool, re-invent and re-structure. A whole new era of leisure tourism has arrived; the rules of engagement are changing; technology is upending the very foundation of travel; legends in the industry are retiring, enabling a whole new wave of innovative thinkers to build on their predecessors’ successes; and expectations for responsible practices from both trade and consumers are at all-time highs. Driven in part by sea changes in the ways which people become aware of and access information, coupled with complex global social, political, economic and environmental factors – and the way in which the media treats and delivers it all –tourism professionals must adjust and conduct business differently to realize sustainability. The buzzword of the day, “sustainable,” is

P. Tomkins/VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint

Adventure Travel Emerges as a Vital Force in the Industry

A group of winter walkers explores Cairngorms National Park in Scotland.

in which we might conduct ourselves for the good of the people and places we send our clients. So, for those who are selling packaged leisure tours for traditional destinations and attractions with traditional (proven) approaches, we share here some of the developments, observations and experiences from within the adventure tourism industry. Adventure

Know that “adventure” is a truly subjective concept—one that doesn’t have to strike fear into potential clients likely (and rightly so) here to stay. In the adventure tourism community, despite our forward leaning and oft-progressive approaches to responsible and sustainable tourism development, we must continue to investigate new ways 12 August 2010

tourism, like the very products we sell, tends to reside at the fringes and ahead of what’s new, different, real, unusual and transformative and may be telling of what leisure travel can anticipate in the future.

Because distinctions between adventure tourism and the mass travel industry in terms of products and services are blurring, it may prove useful to provide background about adventure travel and to convey what we at the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) are tuning into these days. And, as traditional leisure and luxury travel increasingly migrates toward the “adventure” travel spectrum, it’s important to have the proper context and for our two sectors to share learnings along the way. “Adventure travel,” at its core, includes a combination of physical activity, cultural immersion and engagement in nature. And, know that “adventure” is a truly subjective concept – one that doesn’t have to strike fear into potential clients. What’s adventurous to one Christopher Doyle is vice president of Seattlebased Adventure Travel Trade Association ( Christina Heyniger, of Xola Consulting, contributed to this article.

on adventure travel ❖ person may be a “walk in the park” for another; it’s simply the notion of extending beyond one’s comfort zone through special activities. Adventure tourism, once considered a “niche,” is becoming a more powerful factor in the overall travel and leisure market because: • It’s resilient when other sectors flux… and rebounds faster • It’s bigger than most people realize, so it has real impact ($52 billion in 2009) • It’s transformative and turns customers into passionate evangelists and advocates • It’s a driver of economic development where it’s often needed most – It’s the life system for the non-urban areas, propping up multiple industries • It’s focused on nature, activity and culture; it focuses on the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit The lead indicators we’re monitoring closely these days to help us further pursue creative, collaborative and diverse approaches to serving travelers include the: • Continuous evolution of micro-segments of consumers and markets • Emergence of the global middle class • Increasing importance of “sustainable tourism” and climate/environment • Agri-, rural, community-based, indigenous, culinary and arts/crafts tourism • Pricing pressures and the value equation • Expansion of the number and types of source destinations, many offering more structured and higher quality of adventure tourism products • Growing awareness/recognition of entrepreneurship and small business’ importance to markets • Increasing adoption of new technologies, social networking tools, channels to access news, information, products, services & resources 14 August 2010

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orking together to influence the manner in which adventure travel is introduced, executed and sustained in any given destination worldwide will drive the core content of the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s (ATTA) seventh Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS), the annual global assembly of adventure tourism executives Oct. 4-7 in Aviemore, Scotland. For the 2010 ATWS, the gathering is themed “Share & Inspire” to stimulate further partnership throughout the industry and to inspire innovative ideas and future leaders to build for the industry’s sustainable future. The event is brought to tourism industry leaders by the Seattle-based ATTA (, a privately held, global membership organization dedicated to unifying, networking, professionalizing, promoting and responsibly

Changing lifestyles and values among the U.S. populace also are figuring prominently in how we address the industry with their: • Increasing importance of “green” products and services • ”Enlightenment” …more mature and informed views emerging on sustainability, climate change, environmentalism • Increasing demand for immediacy and customization • Change in personal and household consumption spending patterns (shift from material to experiential purchases) • Increasing emphasis on health, wellness and recreation • Shift toward more education, experience and global perspectives • Emphasis on taking control, assuming responsibility for personal impact on the world, increasing self-reliance,

growing the adventure travel market. ATTA’s Summit programs connect delegates (primarily tour operators, destination marketing organizations, tourism boards, media, agents, adventure lodges and service organizations) with speakers, journalists and sessions designed to help adventure travel organizations turn challenges and opportunities into results-oriented endeavors. Delegates participate in executive-level networking, business and professional development programs, educational seminars and emerging adventure destination product review opportunities. Host destination of the 2010 Adventure Travel World Summit is Scotland. Major Sponsors include Eddie Bauer, Global Rescue, Cairngorms National Park Authority and VisitScotland. (

thinking small, local and sustainable • Fragmentation into “micro-segments” as a result of pronounced shifts in demographics, attitudes and behavior patterns, with both trading-down and trading-up changes in spending patterns So, on behalf of the ATTA, well supported by our 600-member network of tour operators, destinations, agents, journalists, and accommodation and service providers, we share these insights to help our industry as a whole. We’re working to establish industry best practices and ethical standards across our operations, across continents. And, in the broader context of industry efforts, we view ourselves as a vital part of a global community of businesses proactively working to solve local economic-development issues. Perhaps our shared experiences here might offer the overall leisure travel market some ideas to ponder. LGT

Adventure Travel  
Adventure Travel  

Leisure Group Travel magazine explores trends in the adventure travel industry with Chris Doyle from ATTA.