Who doesn’t like a good adventure? Turns out, very few. Adventure Tourism is roaring into the new decade with unprecedented growth and new opportunities materializing daily. The recent launch of new operators, like Airbnb Adventures and Arc’teryx Trips, provides clear evidence. But alas, there are also many challenges facing the industry such as climate change and overtourism. As of this writing, fires are ravaging across Australia and adventure tourism is one of the casualties. Now more than ever the industry needs professionals that can maximize the benefits for travelers, while minimizing the impacts.
The Graduate Certificate in Adventure Tourism at Colorado State University was created to enable AT professionals to do just that. The program is a 12-credit online certificate that focuses on topics like how to build an adventure tourism business, how to plan and lead adventures, how to brand, sell, and distribute outdoor gear, and how to market it all. And best of all, the contributors to designing and teaching the program are all from the adventure tourism and outdoor recreation industries.
Where’s Captain Planet when you need him?
Spoiler alert: Captain Planet doesn’t exist(yet), but we can still combine our powers to help the planet. Carbon offsetting will really take off this decade with the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation program(CORSIA). International aviation has flown under the radar as a major carbon culprit for too long. Now, airlines from 192 countries have agreed to cap their aviation emissions beginning with 2020. This should make a much larger impact than hoping individuals will offset their carbon. Remembering the neck pillow is hard enough, let alone remembering to offset carbon. We are not off the hook though and travel professionals should take it upon themselves to reach out to airlines and encourage them to do more. Natural Habitat Adventures, one of the world’s leading adventure tourism operators, just announced they would offset a customers carbon for the entire year if booking a trip with them. Look for more companies to take this approach as they seek to reduce impacts and appeal to customers.
We know what you are thinking, “Doesn’t adventure tourism take place in nature?” Nature to you might mean far flung peaks in remote wilderness but with most travelers coming from cities, nature is anything outside. Faculty within CSU’s program highlight the growth of man-made whitewater parks on rivers throughout Colorado as an example of urban adventure growth. The city of Fort Collins just completed a $2 million whitewater park on the river adjacent to downtown that will certainly beckon travelers on hot summer days. Soft adventures like tubing the river are sure to blow up. Family friendly? Check. Low cost? Check. Accessible? Check. Businesses lining up to serve these travelers? Check. Entrepreneurs should be keeping their ear to the street and organizing early to serve these future travelers.
Urban adventures can also help alleviate overcrowding on public lands or waters. Permits and parking lots capacities certainly limit users on trails or at crags, but we should be developing alternatives too. Ideas that seem fringe may become reality, such as dirt single track bike trails along paved bike trails in towns. Or more bouldering parks where artificial rock is placed in city parks to challenge climbers. An indoor ski area just opened in New Jersey. Need we say more?
Demand, meet supply. The people want adventure and companies big and small are jumping into the mix. Airbnb Adventures method of crowdsourcing adventures will certainly be a trend to watch this decade. Small companies will surely emerge in growing markets. Partnering with Airbnb to offer trips seems like a great way to utilize their network and advertising to increase traffic. Partnerships aren’t new but who would have imagined back in 2010 that we’d be advertising trips on a website that rents out houses. We expect those that have name recognition in the space of adventure or travel will continue to grow the industry. REI Adventures has expanded into new markets by partnering or outright buying smaller companies. Companies should think short and long term. Perhaps you obtain permits on public lands offering great trips for 10 years, and then a bigger company rolls in and buys your company because you hold the permits. Small scale partnerships can reap similar rewards. A small winter ski and ice climbing outfitter might gain the traction it needs by partnering with another small company that serves summer adventure travelers to advertise each other’s trips.
So where will we be in 2030? Hopefully flying carbon free to enjoy adventures that may be in a vast wilderness or a city park. Tourism professionals, like those studying adventure tourism at Colorado State University, will surely help us get there.
CSU’s AT program provides students with the theoretical, managerial, and entrepreneurial, knowledge and skills required for successfully developing and managing adventure tourism ventures. It is uniquely positioned within one of the most comprehensive natural resource colleges in the world and delivered by The Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources (HDNR), which has 90+ years of educating and collaborating with diverse publics and practitioners in natural resource tourism. HDNR has the most extensive natural resource tourism program in Colorado, with a UNWTO affiliate program – Master of Tourism Management, an Online Graduate Certificate in Ski Area Management, and an undergraduate degree with concentrations in global and natural resource tourism.