Three industry experts see enormous potential and opportunities for agents in the adventure travel market in Mexico.
Their expertise comes from different quarters, but all agree that the market is undersold and somewhat misunderstood from the travel agent perspective.
"Adventure travel, a $89 billion global market, is defined by the consumer as a combination of physical activity, interaction with the environment and cultural exchanges," said Antonio del Rosal, executive director, Latin America, for the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA).
However, "soft adventure" is the core of the market, according to del Rosal.
Although 68% of ATTA's 800 members from 60 countries include tour operators, hoteliers and travel agents, less than 2% of that mix is agents.
"We have to bring more agents into the mix and have to train our ground operators how to work more closely with agents, and vice versa," del Rosal said.
ATTA's demographics also include industry partners, such as gear and outfitter companies, which comprise 19% of the total membership. The rest includes tourist boards, 9%, and association partners, close to 5%.
Inbound operator Chris Pesenti, founder and director of Red Sustainable Travel in Mexico's Baja region, works closely with ATTA members in offering programs that he describes as "conservation adventures and nature-based travel."
The company, formed in 2009, donates a percentage of its revenues to the local Community Conservation Fund.
"It's important to give back to this community, which offers such opportunities for travelers in terms of cultural exchanges and natural attractions," he said.
Red trains and uses local guides, hosts and cooks on all its expeditions.
"Our infrastructure enables us to offer and design individual tours, customized itineraries, academic outings, family and multi-generational travel or anything that the client wants," Pesenti said.
Trips range from three to seven days in length; visitors are picked up at one of the three airports in the area (La Paz, Loreto and Los Cabos) for tours that feature whale-watching (in season) in Magdalena Bay, helping with sea turtle nesting and hatching, kayaking in the Sea of Cortes, paddling through mangroves, visiting deserted islands and fishing communities and touring the vineyards in the countryside.
Pesenti described accommodations as "high-end camping. We use four-person tents for up to two people each."
The highlight for many travelers is the "great cuisine we offer, which we call 'gourmet with a local twist,'" Pesenti said."The menus surprise many travelers. They don't expect it on an adventure travel itinerary."
Del Rosal's wife, Rebecca, is founding partner and director of the Muddy Boot, an adventure travel specialist whose mantra is "Leave a Trace."
"We intend to leave a positive trace not only in the communities we visit and support but also in the hearts and minds of our customers," Rebecca del Rosal said.
The Muddy Boot offers six destinations (Chiapas, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Michoacan, Baja California and Real de Catorce in the state of San Luis Potosi) with departures throughout the year and a range of activities on each tour.
Trip leaders accompany each departure; all itineraries are customized and begin with client conversations to determine what the customer wants to see, do, visit and experience.
"We offer these trips for individuals, friends traveling together, small FIT groups and families. We are completely flexible, use specialist guides and offer door-to-door service," she said.
Agents who book a group of eight can accompany the group free of charge. Trips range from five to 10 days with accommodations in small inns, haciendas and at campsites.
For details on ATTA, visit www.adventuretravel.biz; for Red Sustainable Travel, visit www.redtravelmexico.com; for the Muddy Boot, visit www.themuddyboot.org.
For Caribbean and Mexico news, follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.