The market niche that encompasses adventure or active travel,
nature, tourism, ecotourism and expedition travel represents a
phenomenon that, as they say in the advertising industry, has legs.
Clearly here to stay, these market niches and their products are
To help agents stay abreast of current trends and look around
the corner into the future, Crossroads asked wholesalers and
industry experts to share their insights regarding current and
upcoming trends and pored over catalogs to see what's on tap for
the year ahead. Here's what we learned.
Family Travel: A growing number of operators
are offering adventure and nature trips tailored for families. Next
year, for example, Backroads in Berkeley, Calif., will offer 121
special departures for families to 21 destinations, a 68% increase
in family departures over 1999. In Angels Camp, Calif., O.A.R.S.
has expanded its line of family programs and now schedules special
departures on trips for mother-daughter, mother-son,
father-daughter and father-son trips. Other players in the arena
include Thomson Family Adventures, an offspring of Thomson
Adventures in Cambridge, Mass., and Abercrombie & Kent in Oak
Brook, Ill., which publishes a brochure of family holidays.
Multisport Trips: Adventure trips that
incorporate various activities such as biking, kayaking, river
rafting and hiking continue to gain in popularity. For example, for
2000 Backroads has developed 13 new multisport aquatic adventures
that focus on water sports in places like Belize, the Galapagos
Islands, and Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Specialty Cruises: Small ship expeditions are
strong sellers, popular in part because they make nature travel
accessible to clients who might not otherwise visit remote
destinations. Among the many options are trips offered by
International Expeditions, Helena, Ala., to the Amazon, by Lindblad
Special Expeditions to Baja California's Sea of Cortez and by
Clipper Cruise Line to China, Japan and the islands of the North
Special-Interest Adventure Travel: Operators are introducing
active vacations with a theme. In combination with hiking, biking
and walking vacations in a destination, travelers are being offered
the chance to take cooking classes, learn about regional
wine-making or visit with a local practitioner of traditional
Volunteer Travel: Many consumers drawn to
adventure travel, ecotourism and expedition travel also want to
make a difference. Holbrook Travel of Gainesville, Fla., has been
successful enough with its turtle tagging programs in Costa Rica
that it is developing additional volunteer programs. Global
Volunteers (800-487-1074) in St. Paul, Minn., has been increasing
opportunities for volunteers by about 30% a year and offers about
150 (commissionable) trips annually. Earthwatch Institute
(617-926-8200) in Watertown, Mass., (which negotiates commissions
individually with agents) has seen a growth of interest in its
Student trips: Educational programs with an
environmental focus are gaining in popularity, especially to
destinations such as Costa Rica and Belize and even Kenya.
UP & COMING DESTINATIONS
Look for a boom in nature travel to Panama rivaling that of
Costa Rica. The country is equal in natural beauty to Costa Rica,
offers great birding, is home to indigenous peoples and is in the
midst of formulating a national park plan for the canal zone that
holds great promise.
Central and South America continue to gain in popularity. In
particular, Olaf Malver, director of business development and
operations at Mountain Travel*Sobek, anticipates a rebound in
travel to Bolivia, a destination that he calls "underutilized."
International Expeditions of Helena, Ala., is looking to introduce
a natural history trip to Patagonia, an area traditionally reserved
for more adventuresome travelers.
The mountains of Central Asia -- destinations like Turkistan,
Kirghizstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia and Mongolia -- are the "new
frontier in adventure travel," Malver says. "They're going to be
Big Five Tours & Expeditions has positioned itself on the
cutting edge of travel to new destinations with the introduction
this fall of a 10-day tour to Ethiopia, where attractions include
the churches and monastery at Lalibella and the palaces of the
Queen of Sheba at Axum.
Look for Canada to emerge as a major destination for adventure
and nature travel, says Jerry Mallett, president of the Adventure
Travel Society in Salida, Colo. "Canada is a sleeper. It has
tremendous natural resources and is cultural too. There's lots of