SNEWS chats with Chris Chesak of the Adventure Travel Trade Association

Not to be ignored, adventure travel is increasingly relevant to the outdoor industry with both groups sharing many of the same participants. Adventure Travel Trade Association Vice President Chris Chesak shares his insight and how outdoor companies can better tap into the category.
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Throughout the month of February, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 19-22. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

The adventure travel market is yet another growing segment of the outdoor industry where more manufacturers and retailers are finding success in attracting new customers. As we found out from Chris Chesak, head of business development at the Adventure Travel Trade Association, adventure travelers can be as physically active and spend as much time outdoors as backpackers or skiers, even though their treks are mainly throughout the heart of civilizations and culture. According to ATTA, the adventure travel tourism industry now has an annual, worldwide economic impact of $89 billion, and countries are taking notice. At the 2011, Adventure Travel World Summit in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexican President Felipe Calderón was the first head of state ever to address the group, championing adventure travel as a keystone of tourism promotion for Mexico. Chesak is walking the show floor to further strengthen the ties between the outdoor and adventure travel industries.

What’s your best definition for the adventure travel industry and its participants, and how does it relate with the outdoor industry?

We have a rather broad, inclusive definition of adventure travel since it’s such a subjective term. For us though, when the three elements of physical activity, outdoor environment and cultural immersion all come together, that’s true adventure travel. The ATTA really brings together the leaders of this unique and growing industry — the guides, outfitters and tour operators who lead and inspire the consumer into the backcountry. Because of those first two elements, physical activity in the outdoor environment, that means that the majority of adventure travel trips have a direct need for outdoor gear and apparel across a broad spectrum of activities.

What’s fueling the growth of your industry?

The main driver really is the consumer looking for more authentic, more active travel experiences. People want less and less of the “sun and fun” or “fly and flop” type of traditional travel, preferring instead to personally connect with cultures and nature – while continuing to live a healthier lifestyle on the road. The general travel industry has grown about 4 percent per year over the past couple years, while the adventure category has been at 17 percent growth, based on a study by The George Washington University, the ATTA, and VitalWave Consulting.

In what ways do you think outdoor manufacturers and retailers can better serve the adventure travel consumer?

There are some who are already capitalizing on the opportunity, such as Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent, by focusing on adventure travelers just as they would any other passionate, core consumer group: Understand their needs, be involved in their events, engage in their conversation and then pursue them within their core venues via storytelling and social media. Retailers have opportunities to partner with local adventure travel companies to help encourage, educate and then provide the right adventure trips to their customers. This, then, of course, encourages immediate add-on sales, as well as long-term loyalty and further sales as the traveler becomes inspired to engage in more and more adventures.

What are your goals when attending Outdoor Retailer?

We’re really looking to connect these two industries across a variety of fronts, since they are moving forward along such parallel routes. Too many outdoor brands don’t yet understand the adventure travel space or how to access it. We seek to be the bridge for them across that gap, while also exposing some of our key outdoor destinations — such as Belize, Chiapas and Chile — to various outdoor brands for partnerships built around photos shoots, sweepstakes and press trips.

What are some of the most popular places people are visiting in the world today seeking outdoor-focused adventure travel? And where in the world is less popular these days, but you think it should be?

Almost every emerging destination is seeing growth in this area. The great news here is that all the places that the resorts and casinos bypassed for so long are still there, unspoiled and still very much authentic to their core, and yearning for sustainable business development such as adventure travel. Currently, we see substantial adventure travel product development within places like Mexico, the Swiss Alps, Norway, Scotland, Quebec and others. And we’re working with a host of amazing and truly unspoiled destinations to help them develop sustainable adventure travel product that -- when done correctly — helps alleviate local poverty, preserve the natural landscape and inspire future outdoorspeople within places like Bosnia, Namibia, Greenland, Guyana and many more.

--David Clucas

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