The adventure travel sector is valued at $263 billion annually, according to Manal Kelig, executive director of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), having grown a whopping 195 per cent within two years.
Adventure tourism goes beyond the traditional rock climbers and trekkers, Manal explains. It embraces those seeking physical activity, cultural exchanges and interaction with the environment, from cruising and birdwatching to learning languages and attending festivals.
“Working with the UNWTO, we have categorised three types of travellers: the Grazers who are ticking off experiences on their bucket list; the Adventurers who look for a mix of soft and hard adventure, and the Enthusiasts, who travel off the beaten track,” she says. “This classification has helped to define marketing to target these different sectors.”
In the Middle East, where annual visitor arrivals are estimated at 101 million by 2020 and 149 million by 2030, targeting adventure travel offers a platform to extend the benefits of tourism beyond gateway cities, according to Sandra Carvao, communications and publications chief at UNWTO.
“This offers big opportunities for preservation of nature and culture, and has considerable commercial development impact,” she said, pointing to the results of the ATTA Snapshot of 2014 which reported that 65.6 per cent of adventure travel trip revenue remained in a destination, compared to just five per cent of the average vacation tour.
Dr Aed Al Razzaq Issam Arabiyat, managing director of the Jordan Tourism Board, says that adventure tourism is a major growth sector in his country, and the engagement of local residents is one of the major contributors to this success.
“Tourism has changed from sight to doing, and we are collaborating with the UNWTO to launch the Jordanian National Trail, connecting local communities and installing the necessary services and products, with the private sector developing accommodation and restaurants.”
Turning to the potential for cooperation in the Middle East to promote adventure travel attractions to a wider audience, ATTA’s Manal said a programme similar to the UNWTO’s Silk Road could be started small and expanded over time.
“Collaboration on visas, marketing, product development, health and safety standards, training and guides can help to build capacities, and such an initiative can change perceptions,” she says.
“This could be particularly relevant to the Middle East as it can help shape the vision of the region as it is positioned as an adventure travel destination.”
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