Adventure travel on the rise

Adventure travel on the rise
Costa Rica has been a popular destination in the last decade. Visitors come for the “soft adventure” – encounters with wildlife, hikes up recently erupted volcanoes, photographing exotic flora, and rides on zip lines through the rain forest. (Photo by E’Louise Ondash)

 

Parisian cafes, Tuscan towns and Bavarian countryside will always be favorite destinations for travelers. But recent trends in world travel indicate that those who want to explore the roads less-traveled are choosing with greater frequency to see the minarets and madrassahs of Iran, the Northern Lights of Iceland and the mountain gorillas of Rwanda.

Spectacular coastline and quaint villages are part of the new Mighty Saint Lawrence Cruise, which travels northeast up the river into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The trip is offered by Adventure Canada. Passengers go ashore on remote islands and estuaries to view wildlife and learn from expert guides about the area’s natural history. The ship, the Ocean Endeavor, carries 198 passengers. (Photo Courtesy Adventure Canada)

Spectacular coastline and quaint villages are part of the new Mighty Saint Lawrence Cruise, which travels northeast up the river into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The trip is offered by Adventure Canada. Passengers go ashore on remote islands and estuaries to view wildlife and learn from expert guides about the area’s natural history. The ship, the Ocean Endeavor, carries 198 passengers. (Photo Courtesy Adventure Canada)

It’s called adventure travel. How popular is it?
Between 2009 and 2013, the industry’s annual rate of growth, according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, has been 65 percent, and today the industry is worth $263 billion.

Visitors at Glacier Bay Lodge in Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve kayak on Bartlett Cove. The park, a 3.3-million-acre treasure of natural wonders and wildlife near Juneau, is a World Heritage Site. The attractions include glaciers, mountains, abundant wildlife and a pristine coastline. The lodge is the only accommodation within the park. (Photo Courtesy Glacier Bay Lodge)

Visitors at Glacier Bay Lodge in Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve kayak on Bartlett Cove. The park, a 3.3-million-acre treasure of natural wonders and wildlife near Juneau, is a World Heritage Site. The attractions include glaciers, mountains, abundant wildlife and a pristine coastline. The lodge is the only accommodation within the park. (Photo Courtesy Glacier Bay Lodge)

What defines adventure travel?
Three elements, according to the association: physical activity, cultural exchange and interaction with the environment.
This doesn’t mean that you have to climb Mount Everest, drag a supply sled across the polar ice or kayak the Amazon. But it does mean that you must step out of your comfort zone to see places-less-traveled, appreciate our place in the universe and perhaps raise your heart rate a bit.

The proliferation of adventure travel companies has also been great, and some aim for niche markets.

 

“We specialize (in taking people to) a part of the world most people consider adventurous — destinations at the crossroads of Europe and Asia,” explained Annie Lucas, vice president of MIR Corporation, in a phone interview from her Seattle office. “We focus more on cultural touring rather than hard-core adventure. People want to go to Uzbekistan, but they don’t want (to go alone).”

Temporary dwellings for visitors who come to Greenland's remote east coast  feature private verandas, full length mirrors and generous bedding. Running water is available in another building. Natural Habitat Adventures removes the sustainable huts after the short Arctic summer. (Photo by Eric Rock)

Temporary dwellings for visitors who come to Greenland’s remote east coast feature private verandas, full length mirrors and generous bedding. Running water is available in another building. Natural Habitat Adventures removes the sustainable huts after the short Arctic summer. (Photo by Eric Rock)

Some of MIR’s destinations include Mongolia, where visitors meet the locals and explore the Gobi Desert; Iceland, where visitors take in the dramatic landscape by bicycle; and Iran, where travelers discover that there is a difference between the country’s government policies and the hospitality of its citizens.

While adventure tourists want to go into the wild, they also like their creature comforts, according to surveys. This has prompted companies like Natural Habitat Adventures of Boulder, Colorado, to offer lodging in ultra-remote places.
Founded in 1985, the company offers “eco-conscious expeditions and wildlife-focused, small-group tours to … remarkable nature destinations.”

“There’s definitely a growing market for a novel experience,” said Wendy Redal, editorial director for Natural Habitat Adventures. “People are interested in going to places off the beaten path and be active, but they don’t necessarily want to sleep on the ground.”

Natural Habitat Adventures takes participants out in Zodiacs to explore Greenland’s remote eastern coast near the edge of the Greenland ice sheet.  Called the Arctic Riviera, the east coast offers what experienced travelers say is some of the best hiking and kayaking in the world. (Courtesy photo)

Natural Habitat Adventures takes participants out in Zodiacs to explore Greenland’s remote eastern coast near the edge of the Greenland ice sheet. Called the Arctic Riviera, the east coast offers what experienced travelers say is some of the best hiking and kayaking in the world. (Courtesy photo)

That’s why Natural Habitat is offering a new tour called Base Camp Greenland, which offers sustainable “deluxe” accommodations just south of the Arctic Circle on the island’s east coast. The huts allow visitors to stay in the once-inaccessible area in relative comfort.

Travelers who want to explore remote islands in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence can enjoy the comfortable trappings of Adventure Canada’s ship, Ocean Endeavor, in between wildlife-viewing trips on Zodiac rafts. The recently upgraded 198-passenger ship, able to access isolated fjords, offers passengers a swimming pool, sauna, hot tub and gourmet meals in addition to fully guided tours by area experts.

Why are travelers choosing adventurous rain-forest treks and helicopter skiing over vegging out on a beach?

“ … some (want) to experience new things, see new sites and get away from the frenzy of everyday life,” said Fernando Salvador, general manager of Denali Park Village, the only lodging within the boundaries of Denali National Park in Alaska’s interior.

Visitors at Glacier Bay Lodge in Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve kayak on Bartlett Cove. The park, a 3.3-million-acre treasure of natural wonders and wildlife near Juneau, is a World Heritage Site. The attractions include glaciers, mountains, abundant wildlife and a pristine coastline. The lodge is the only accommodation within the park. (Photo Courtesy Glacier Bay Lodge)

Visitors at Glacier Bay Lodge in Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve kayak on Bartlett Cove. The park, a 3.3-million-acre treasure of natural wonders and wildlife near Juneau, is a World Heritage Site. The attractions include glaciers, mountains, abundant wildlife and a pristine coastline. The lodge is the only accommodation within the park. (Photo Courtesy Glacier Bay Lodge)

“Others crave adventure due to an insatiable curiosity for discovery. Adventure doesn’t have to be dangerous, but rather a reason to do something you haven’t done before … and Alaska is the perfect place to throw caution to the wind and test one’s sense of adventure.”

Denali Park Village visitors can take guided hikes, wildlife tours, raft trips and jeep safaris. Also available: biking, fly fishing, riding ATVs and perhaps most thrilling of all, helicopter rides for a bird’s eye view of the vast Alaska wilderness.

Other emerging destinations, according to the 2016 United States Tour Operators Association’s survey, are (in order of popularity): Cuba, Myanmar, Iceland and Colombia. Ethiopia and Japan tie for fifth place.

The association also reports that 55 percent of their members’ customers are 51 years and older — people who can afford these trips of a lifetime, which generally cost from $3,000 to $25,000.

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