Jerry Mallett discusses adventure travel and ecotourism with
contributing editor Marilee Crocker.
TW: What issues regarding adventure travel are
on your mind these days?
Mallett: Trying to standardize the business end
of it. We kind of grew like topsy. We're trying to get it so it
really is a good solid business for all the players -- from
operators who for a long time felt, 'Build it and they will come,'
through to the developing countries. A lot of the outfitters still
are trying to figure out how to market. [We need to] show them good
Also, we're working through the World Bank with two indigenous
communities in Bolivia and in southern Albania [to help develop]
ecotourism and nature-based tourism. There's a new project in
Ontario where they're shutting down the spring bear hunt. We've
been asked to help them go into more canoeing, kayaking,
TW: Is adventure travel continuing to grow or
has the growth leveled off?
Mallett: We don't see any leveling off. We see
the spectrum expanding [to include] more and more families. The
grandparent thing, I think, is going to be tremendous; so far it's
only 10% of its potential. I just took my 8-year-old grandson to
Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. He was just ballistic. We're getting less
quality time as a society; grandfolks have a little extra time and
this is a super memorable opportunity.
We're finding that adventure travel is becoming much more
mainstream, more of a daily opportunity for leisure travelers.
Princess Cruises is now the largest supplier of adventure to
Alaska. They're getting them off the boat -- kayaking, whitewater
rafting, fishing -- giving [travelers] a taste of soft adventure.
Resorts are doing the same thing.
TW: With the maturing of the adventure travel
industry, how do you see the product changing?
Mallett: We're finding a lot of the operators
are customizing trips so it's almost one-on-one marketing. Ten
years ago, they had a group of 30-40 trips; now they're asking what
kind of trip [travelers] would like. There's a lot of corporate
team building going on, story telling, wine tasting, gourmet food.
We're finding a lot of alternative medicines being discussed, a lot
coming in on shamanism, native religions. [Operators] are keeping
current with the public's interests.
TW: How can agents position themselves to
capitalize on the ongoing boom in adventure travel?
Mallett: Have an interest in it first of all.
They have to have a good understanding so they won't be scared when
they send a client on a river trip. Do their homework so whether
they're doing a brown bag lunch [presentation] for the director of
human resources at a corporate client's office or putting a press
release in the local newspaper they can say they're offering a neat
Work on partnerships with the outfitters, doing outreach to
those folks that do a horseback trip or a dive trip. Spending a
while with the Specialty Travel Index will give you 600 really
qualified outfitters. One of the hard spots outfitters run into is
when they've got a few seats left on a trip leaving in three or
four weeks. If an agent has an e-mail list of 200 clients and can
let them know this trip will be discounted on short notice, the
clients are going to like that and the outfitter is going to finish
that trip off.