Last updated: 04:00 PM ET, Mon June 15 2015

Adventure Travel On a Roll

Destination & Tourism | James Ruggia | June 15, 2015

Adventure Travel On a Roll

PHOTO: Hollyford Track Guided Walks will explore the Milford Sound area in New Zealand on a trek in quest of the Fiordland Crested Penguin. (Courtesy of Hollyford Track Guided Walks)

The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, defines adventure travel as “any domestic or international trip that includes at least two of the following three aspects: physical activity, interaction with nature and cultural learning or exchange.” However you define it, it’s a sector growing at an exponential rate.

According to Gergana Niklova, the ATTA’s development leader in Europe, “In 2012 we did a survey and found that in 2009, adventure travel was an $89 billion sector internationally that had by 2012 grown to $263 billion. The average price of a 10-day adventure trip in 2009 was $593 and that reached $947 by 2012.

“The growth reflects an increasing desire among travelers to learn through experience, and for the host destinations it’s extremely profitable. Sixty-six percent of revenue generated by adventure travel stays in the host country, which is a lot more than the 15 to 17 percent that stays from mass tourism.”

Adventure travel industry leaders will convene this October in Chile for the Adventure Travel World Summit 2015. Participants can opt for any of several “Pre-Summit Adventures” being offered around Chile from the Atacama Desert to Patagonia before coming together in Puerto Varas for the summit.

The sector is getting special attention throughout the industry. Adventure travel and social responsibility have become such cornerstones of the industry that they have their own hall (4.1) at ITB Berlin with more than 130 exhibitors from 40 countries.

Virtuoso’s Active and Specialty Travel (VAST) 2015 catalog of adventure itineraries features a range of experiences ranging from iceberg walking in the Canadian arctic to touring dinosaur fossil sites. The catalogue was distributed to 70,000 potential travelers.

This year, more than 500 Virtuoso advisors, 40 suppliers, and five tourism boards are participating in the program. Virtuoso statistics show that VAST members book 18 percent more travel from VAST suppliers than advisors not participating in the program. In 2014, VAST sales grew by 26 percent over 2013.

Virtuoso credits training for the success of the program. As part of its training program, the ninth annual VAST Globe Trotting event will take place Aug. 8 to 13 during Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas. The day-long session takes participating agents on an “around-the-world field trip” of seven-minute meetings with suppliers. Virtuoso is made up of 355 agencies and more than 9,000 specialists in 26 countries throughout the world as well as over 1,700 suppliers and destinations. The network’s member agencies generate more than $14 billion annually in travel sales.

Sample Adventures

The following products exemplify the sort of experiences that are on the cutting edge of adventure travel. Destination Asia’s three-night Tu Lan expedition stays at remote jungle camps and includes swimming in large caverns in Vietnam. Led by a caving expert from the British Cave Research Association, along with a skilled adventure guide and porter team, the 21-mile jungle and cave trek includes dark cave abseiling, bouldering, climbing and swimming through the caves. The adventure takes place in and around Hang Tien Cave, one of the largest in the region.

New Zealand’s Hollyford Track Guided Walks, owned and operated by Ngai Tahu Tourism, is giving travelers the chance to see the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin on three-day Guided Wilderness Experience walks that operate from mid-October until December, though the hiking season lasts through April. The company offers treks with a maximum of 16 participants suitable for anyone of reasonable fitness, including native wildlife encounters, wilderness jet-boating, historical sites and finishes with a scenic helicopter flight to Milford Sound.

Thailand’s Phi Phi National Marine Park attracts divers from around the planet. Phi Phi's pioneering “barefoot” luxury resort Zeavola offers two five-star diving experiences. A hidden gem exquisitely set within Phi Phi National Marine Park, the PADI Five Star member offers dive packages that cater to both the “plunge and play” lifestyle divers, who want some serious relaxation and pampering along with their underwater forays, and the serious divers who want to get straight down to business.

 Aqua Expeditions' Aqua Mekong operates a schedule of three-, four- and seven-day cruises on the Mekong River, connecting Saigon with Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (Angkor Wat). The Aqua Mekong is the Asian launch vessel of the fleet that first debuted on the Peruvian Amazon in 2008.

"The introduction of the Aqua Amazon (and later the Aria Amazon) was a game changer on the Amazon six years ago," said the company’s Galli Zugaro, "bringing an unprecedented level of luxury, cuisine, service and experiential touring to the world's longest river; and the Aqua Mekong will do the same thing for the Mekong."   


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