Thursday, March 4, 2021

Sports & Adventure Travel

A sense of adventure
February 2021 1780

Valued at $683 billion, the adventure tourism market remains relatively optimistic as it remains one of the fastest-growing categories of tourism that attracts high value customers, supports local economies, and encourages sustainable practices

A new Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) report, QuickLook: Adventure Travel Business Health, has found that the industry’s 2021 outlook remains relatively optimistic. In a survey that took place in late 2020, tour operators, accommodations, travel agencies, and other adventure travel businesses shared their current business outlook and future plans.

Of the 237 respondents surveyed, 25 per cent are confident in their ability to weather the storm without any external intervention, 50 per cent expressed interest in being acquired by another company or receiving investment, and 34 per cent would be interested in merging with another company. On a positive note, 23 per cent of respondents indicated that they are interested in acquiring or investing in another company. 30 per cent of this group has $250,000 or less to invest, and 20 per cent has $10 million or more.

There is a lot of uncertainty about the changes in the behaviour of the post-Covid-19 traveller, Dr Manal Kelig, Executive Director, Middle East and North Africa, Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), tells TTN in an exclusive interview. “It is exceptionally difficult to predict what the post-Covid-19 traveller will be like as the crisis is not over and can bring more surprises.”

“Destinations that prioritise wellbeing, physical and psychological characteristics and weave it across the travel journey will be in high demand”
– Dr Manal Kelig


Dr Kelig, who was an Egyptologist in the early 1990s, explains, “Adventure tourism contains essential elements that make up the entire experience – nature, activity, and culture – which are used by the travel trade to understand if a specific product can be classified as ‘adventure travel.’ These elements come together to deliver specific types of experiences for travellers who are motivated by goals such as transformation, challenge and wellness. Adventure travel minimises negative impacts, brings economic benefits to host communities, and preserves the cultural and natural resources of destinations.”

Adventure tourism has been valued at $683 billion, one of the fastest-growing categories of tourism that attracts high value customers, supports local economies, and encourages sustainable practices. While adventure travel data is not readily available for the Mena region, the area is ripe to reap the benefits of adventure travel. “The Mena region fits most travellers’ idea of an adventure. Each destination has certain unique pillars to develop adventure tourism through its arts, heritage, culture, outdoors activities, nature, and architecture while supporting responsible, green and travel smart concepts and steady tourism development that aims to score excellence and quality rather than quantity.

“Some Mena destinations such as Jordan prioritised adventure tourism for market growth, because it recognised its ecological, cultural and economic value. Pre-Covid-19, Jordan had been seeing increasing growth in consumer demand and it is expecting this demand to resume again as travel restarts. Other destinations such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia are creating new adventure tourism products and crafting public-private strategic partnerships to unlock their adventure tourism potential.”

The Adventure Travel Trade Association and George Washington University International Institute of Tourism Studies (GW IITS) have created the Adventure Tourism Development Index (ATDI) to assess adventure tourism competitiveness of countries around the globe. The analysis for this year’s report occurred while the world was in the midst of the global pandemic.

The ATDI does not capture visitor numbers and is not a ranking for volume of tourists, explains Dr Kelig. The ATDI ranks countries instead in these 10 categories: Sustainable Development Policy; Safety & Security; Health; Natural Resources; Cultural Resources; Adventure Activity Resources; Entrepreneurship; Humanitarian; Tourism Infrastructure and Image.

“The 2020 ATDI calls for analysing not only the adventure tourism competitiveness of destinations but also its overall resilience. The ATDI 2020 ranks 191 countries. The top three ranked developed countries are Iceland, Switzerland and New Zealand. The top three ranked developing countries are Czech Republic, Chile and Slovak Republic.”

As a new world emerges post the pandemic, we are starting to see some of the changes in attitudes and expectations that will be shaping decision making and consumption of future travels, Dr Kelig tells TTN.

“Travellers are eager to travel, but they will want to be away from crowds, in the outdoors and physically active. Destinations that prioritise wellbeing, physical and psychological characteristics and weave it across the travel journey will be in high demand. Some destinations already know that care does not only relate to the traveller, but also to the industry workers, the local businesses and the local residents.

“Outdoors businesses and destinations have a chance to flip the crisis into an opportunity by investing in innovation and redesign that will position them to be among the winners when markets recover.”  

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