WASHINGTON – Could jungle tours, whitewater rafting or birdwatching help a country’s economy? Researchers at George Washington University’s International Institute of Tourism Studies think so. GW School of Business researchers found that the adventure tourism is a rapidly growing tourism market and a viable economic opportunity for countries seeking to develop tourism.
“Instead of being seen as a small, niche market, the study shows that adventure tourism is a sizable market with the potential for significant economic growth opportunities,” said Dr. Kristin Lamoureux, director of George Washington’s International Institute of Tourism Studies. “Additionally, adventure tourism often relies heavily on the natural and cultural resources a destination already has to offer. For many developing destinations without the resources to build infrastructure, adventure tourism is a realistic alternative and provides a strong argument for preserving a destination’s resources.”
The George Washington University study, which was conducted in partnership with the Adventure Travel Trade Association and Xola Consulting, estimates that consumers spent more than $89 billion (excluding airfare and gear/clothing purchases) worldwide on adventure travel in 2009. The study also estimates that approximately a quarter of those traveling from the three regions studied took holidays involving adventure activities and spent $53 billion on just on gear purchases. Researchers say the growth in adventure tourism is good news for both the public and private sectors, which include governments, state or national tourism offices, tour operators and gear and apparel manufacturers.
“This initial market-sizing study on adventure tourism is crucial for future research and for entrepreneurs working in this sector,” said Dr. Phillipe Duverger, assistant professor at Towson University and GW School of Business Ph.D. graduate who worked on the study. “It shows where and how big the opportunity is and provides future researchers a baseline for comparison with other quantitative studies.”
The study surveyed people from countries in North America, Latin America and Europe and discovered that adventure travelers tend to be affluent and educated. These travelers typically are environmentally and culturally aware consumers and lean towards adventure travel due to its focus on responsible and sustainable development.
Results of the study are expected to aid the adventure travel industry, destinations seeking to grow or enhance its adventure offerings and adventure tour operators who serve this growing segment of tourists.