Mideast interest in adventure travel grows

Stowell…unifying force

WITH adventure tourism racking up billions of dollars in worldwide sales and an estimated 150 million trips per year, TTN spoke to SHANNON STOWELL, president of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), about what the organisation does and what’s in store for the future.

Please give a little background on the ATTA?

The ATTA was started sometime in the 90s by another man who handed over the reins to me in 2004.  Since then the core team has put a lot of effort into galvanising the adventure industry, which is fairly fragmented.  We went out and listened to what companies in the space wanted and then have been delivering that.  In addition we serve as a spokesvoice to a certain degree and push initiatives such as sustainability.  We’re a hub – a unifying force in the adventure travel market.

What is the membership and is this growing, as seems to be the case with this type of tourism?

We just surpassed 675 members – about half of those are tour operators and then the next largest group is destinations who have an interest in adventure travel.  Yes, we are growing steadily.

Do you have a breakdown of where your members are situated, are there many in the Middle East?

The Middle East is still a bit light, but Visit Jordan has been a member for years and we have members from several countries in the region including Egypt.  Also Palestine was involved in our latest summit.

Is there much interest in adventure tourism from this part of the world?

There appears to be a real increase in interest from the Middle East.  I know that Oman is showing interest specifically and we have also taken a step forward by adding a member to our advisory board who is an industry influencer from Egypt.

Do you have figures for the number of people taking up adventure tourism/travel worldwide and how does this compare to the recent past?

We can tell you that the market for outbound (not including domestic tourism) international adventure  tourism is about $89 billion per year (not including airfare) and that 16 per cent of all departures are for some sort of adventure travel. We do know anecdotally that adventure tourism is growing rapidly.

Was the sector effected by the economic downturn and are there now signs of recovery?

Yes, it was, but while a lot of the tourism industry saw 30 to 40 per cent dips in business at their lowest, the adventure industry average was about half that, so it appears to be more resilient. The signs of recovery are everywhere now.

And what do you see as the future for the sector are there particular trends being established?

I’d say the trend we see for tourism overall is an increased demand for authenticity of experience and also sustainability.  Smaller groups are of more interest than large groups as a continued trend.  And we see that people like to adventure during the day and have a nice place to stay at night with a good meal.  A bit of softening of the consumer.

What will be the coming destinations ‘ones to watch’ for tomorrow’s adventure traveller?

There are so many to choose from, so this is a little difficult to answer, but Mexico, Brazil, Norway, Jordan, Montenegro and Greenland come to mind immediately.  There are literally dozens of others that are emerging more and more as well in the adventure space.