Thriving Adventure Tourism

█ By Ramesh Tiwari

Travelling is becoming popular in all the countries of the world, whether they are least developed, developing or developed countries. Tourism industry has played a major role in economic growth, development and employment generation in most of the countries. International tourist arrivals have exceeded 1,035 million in 2012 whereas it was 25 million in 1950.

New destinations in the world tourism map, expansion and diversification of the fastest growing tourism industry, increased investment in the sector and development of new and attractive tourism products are some of the factors for rapid growth of this industry. It is estimated that international tourist arrivals will increase by 3.3 percent a year from 2010 to 2030 to reach 1.8 billion by 2030.

According to recently released UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, destinations around the world welcomed an estimated 494 million overnight visitors in the first six months of 2013, an increase of 5 percent, or an additional 25 million international tourists, compared to the first half of 2012. The study reveals that growth is stronger in emerging economy destinations than in advanced economies.

Asia and the Pacific region experienced high growth boosted by the increase in arrivals to South-East Asian countries. The success stories of tourism mainly on ASEAN countries accelerated the pace of travel and tourism in the world tourism map.

International tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) worldwide exceeded 1 billion for the first time in 2012 and international tourism receipts reached US$ 1,075 billion worldwide last year. China is the most preferred destination in major tourism markets.

China’s expenditure on travel abroad reached US$ 102 billion in 2012, making it the first tourism source market in the world in terms of spending. As a result, most of the countries are vying to attract more Chinese tourists and making strategies to welcome them. More than 57.7 million Chinese tourists visited different countries of the world in 2012.

The UNWTO findings show that tourist arrival results are positive in all parts of the world this year despite global economic problems and challenges. Asia and the Pacific experienced robust growth boosted by increase in arrivals to South-East Asia, a sub-region marching ahead to become a top regional destination in the world. World’s top tourism destinations continue to be France, United States, China, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Germany, United Kingdom, Russian Federation and Malaysia.

As the international travel scenario is positive in terms of arrivals and receipts, adventure tourism is being more popular in recent years. According to the recently released Adventure Tourism Market Study – a consumer report by The George Washington University (GW), conducted in partnership with the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), showed growth in the adventure travel market has accelerated at a 65 percent annually since 2009.

The study estimates the value of the adventure market for outbound travelers from Europe, North America and South America to be $263 billion excluding airfare. When this $263 billion is combined with the estimated $82 billion spent for related gear, apparel and accessories, adventure travelers spent more than $345 billion in 2012 for travel related to adventure.

“Adventure tourism’s steep climb is attributed to growth in the global tourism industry, a significant increase in the percentage of adventure travelers, and an increase in the average amount spent per adventure travel trip,” opines ATTA President Shannon Stowell.

The ATTA defines a trip as ‘ adventure travel’ if it involves two of the following three elements, with the core of an adventure trip involving all three: connection with nature, interaction with culture, and a physical activity. Adventure travel is a sector of tourism increasingly recognized for attracting environmentally and culturally aware consumers and its focus is on responsible and sustainable development.

Mountain Biking has become popular among adventure seekers coming to countries like Nepal. (Photo Courtesy: Trip Himalaya Mountain Bike)
Mountain Biking has become popular among adventure seekers coming to countries like Nepal. (Photo Courtesy: Trip Himalaya Mountain Bike)

In process of study of various issues of adventure travel the travelers were asked specifically if they had participated in an adventure activity that included soft adventure options such as hiking, kayaking, rafting, volunteer tourism and archaeological expeditions and hard adventure options such as caving, climbing, heli-skiing, kite surfing, trekking and paragliding in the market study.

Mostly, European, North American and South American travelers, considered as main adventure travelers, were asked their opinions on adventure travel issues. Average spending by adventure travelers globally is estimated $947 per trip in 2012.

The ATTA/GW findings state that adventure travelers are younger than non-adventure travelers, with an average age of 36; the average length of a soft adventure trip was ten days in 2012 compared to eight days in 2009 and 73 percent of adventure travelers plan to participate in an adventure activity on their next trip.

“Information available in the Adventure Tourism Market Study is expected to aid the adventure travel industry, destinations looking to build or enhance their adventure offerings, and adventure tourism operators seeking to better understand their target market ,” the study states.

Adventure tourists are attracted to both soft and hard adventures. Adventure tourism activities include  mountaineering, trekking, hiking, bungee jumping, rock climbing, white water rafting, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, jungle safaris, hang gliding, paragliding, mountain biking, skiing, ski mountaineering, scuba diving, wind surfing and so on. Most of the tourists prefer risk free soft adventure tourism like hiking and bird-watching.

UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai opines, “The fact that international tourism growth confirms that travelling is now part of consumer patterns for an increasing number of people in both emerging and advanced economies. …Adventure tourism is what tourism should be today and definitely what tourism will be tomorrow.”

Though Nepal is popular among the tourists from traditional markets as an adventure tourism destination, Nepal lags behind in promoting the theme in the world tourism market. According to the Nepal Tourism Statistics 2012 published by Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, tourist arrival by purpose of visit in 2012 was holiday/pleasure (47.3 percent), pilgrimage (13.7 percent), trekking and mountaineering (13.1 percent), official (3.8 percent), business (3.1 percent) and so on. Out of 803,092 tourists visiting Nepal in 2012, 105,015 tourists visited for trekking and mountaineering.

As the international travel trend is in favor of adventure tourism worldwide, Nepal is not in a position to lure large number of adventure tourists despite being home to hundreds of Himalayan peaks and adventure products. Nepal has varieties of adventure products – trekking, mountaineering, rock climbing, mountain biking, mountain flights, paragliding, ultralight flights, rafting, kayaking , canyoning, boating, bungee jumping, hunting, honey hunting, jungle safari and bird watching .

Nepal, once considered the most popular adventure travel destination in the world, needs planned international promotion of these adventure products to get benefit from flourishing adventure tourism in other parts of the planet.

As most of the travelers around the world are no longer satisfied with traditional tourism products and eager for adventure experiences, Nepal needs to promote adventure products keeping in mind the needs and expectations of modern travelers.

(The writer is editor of online news portal – Travelbiznews.com and former editor-in- chief of Gorkhapatra Daily.)

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