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Changes in Adventure Tourism in 2023

March 20, 2023
Changes in Adventure Tourism in 2023

While 2020 saw a 20-30% drop in adventure tourism internationally due to the pandemic, 2023 figures project a continuous increase in international travel and adventure tourism. Recovering from the effects of the pandemic, however, requires sustainable leadership, resiliency, resourcefulness, and efficiency. Destination managers, business owners, and other leaders in the adventure tourism and outdoor recreation industries need to adopt critical thinking skills and empower leadership to develop sustainable, innovative, and replicable models for advancing adventure tourism. It is also recommended that leaders collaborate with each other across the tourism industry to better plan, coordinate, and analyze their shared responsibility throughout the industry. With ever-growing world changes due to pandemics, terrorism, climate change, and more, only adventure tourism destinations that are healthy and enact a robust, sustainable management plan can remain competitive throughout 2023.

Climate Change & Sustainable Development

Climate change and its implications will have the greatest economic impact throughout 2023 on adventure tourism destinations that are most reliant on natural resources, such as those used for industrial purposes or ones that are necessary to maintain the vitality of the tourism industry. The adventure tourism industry both contributes to and suffers from the effects of climate change, and the many and varied ways in which climate change develops around the world presents unique and complex business development and policy challenges throughout the industry. Our reliance on natural resources in the outdoor recreation and adventure tourism industry means that we experience more obvious, immediate, and ongoing threats due to climate change, often far before other industries. Any business that offers extreme adventures in polar, marine, mountain, and tropical environments will have to face the effects of climate change sooner rather than later.

Predicting Travel Patterns

When adventure tourists and extreme adventurers choose destinations for their next outdoor adventure, their choice is increasingly dependent on the climate and local natural conditions present in each possible destination. Even more than the cost of travel and dangers presented by the pandemic, travelers look to the natural environments and climate and how it will affect their desired activities. Snow and glacier areas, coastal and island environments, tropical areas, beaches, forests, rivers, lakes, and deserts are all becoming increasingly affected by climate change in varying degrees. Adventure tourism itself contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, thus negatively affecting climate change. The four primary interactions between adventure tourism and climate change include natural and external phenomena, and effects resulting from human behavior:

  • Direct impact - from weather phenomena caused by global warming, such as destruction from floods, storms, fires, drought, glacial lake overflows, disappearance of beaches, etc.
  • Indirect impact - from substantial, long-lasting alteration of the environment of an adventure tourist destination that then contributes to the reduction of its attractiveness to tourists and travel, such as polluted water, receding forests, decreased biodiversity, retreating glaciers and snow caps, etc.
  • Lifestyle impact - reorientation of tourist flows in winter and summer
  • Induced impact - the effects of individuals and public policy aimed at reducing the effects of global warming but that produce consequences for the adventure tourism industry, like energy-efficient technologies, increase travel costs, etc.

Sustainability in Adventure Tourism

The primary purpose of sustainability is to create systems that are open, dynamic, and integrated in order to contribute to maintaining or enhancing a model associated with energy use, environmental issues, and other problem analyses. While sustainable development used to be associated with just energy use and environmental issues, it is now understood that it pertains to three equally important elements that affect adventure tourism: environment, economy, and society. Adventure tourism policies and businesses can make an effort to organize, aggregate, and promote best practices as developed by individual adventure tourism firms. The principles of sustainable development for adventure tourism include the 10 Pillars of Adventure Tourism Market Competitiveness: 

  • Government policy
  • Safety
  • Health 
  • Natural Resources
  • Cultural Resources
  • Adventure Resources
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Humanitarianism
  • Infrastructure
  • Image 

Modifying the Business Model of Adventure Tourism

Adventure companies that have developed close ties to local communities and the environment can take advantage of a strategic market opportunity by developing a business model that is capable of meeting challenges presented by changing travel patterns caused by climate change, and addressing key consumer demands for sustainable, conscientious products and services. These adventure companies can more easily move away from more traditional philanthropic-oriented programs and towards direct integration of development concerns into their core business models than many mainstream tourism businesses. 

Economic Benefits of Adventure Tourism

Throughout the decades, there have been many different means of measuring sustainability success; however, no one method has been universally adopted. The overall approach, called “triple bottom line” or TBL, outlines three key elements for measuring organizational and societal success: economic, social, and environmental. While some measurement tools are industry specific, others are regionally focused. A variety of attempts have been made over the years to develop tools for measuring and monitoring sustainable tourism development projects; however, in adventure tourism, very few policies exist at national levels to link adventure tourism markets with improvements in areas of social and environmental concern.  

Responsible adventure tourism should include the TBL approach to sustainable tourism management; a way of traveling by consumers; a highly specific, tailored solution to particular cultures, places and organizations; transparency to participants in the value chain; and a better experience for all participants. The responsible tourism approach achieves sustainable tourism while creating better places for people to live in and for people to visit. It also recognizes that dialogue, partnerships, and multi-stakeholder processes—involving government, business, and local communities—can only ultimately be realized at the local level in order to ensure that this goal is achieved. 

Notable Movement in Developed and Developing Countries

There has been notable movement in the past few years in developed and developing countries who rely on adventure tourism’s economic benefits. Iceland claims the top spot for the third year in a row as the most competitive developed destination in the world. It is followed closely by Switzerland. The Czech Republic maintains its position as the top destination spot among developing countries for the fourth year in a row. Israel has moved from second place to fifth, due to a decrease in natural resources.

Government Policy Supporting Sustainable Tourism

Most crucial to adventure tourism are government policies that foster sustainable and rural tourism development. These policies foster and safeguard the natural, heritage, and cultural resources inherent to the locations, and provide a positive investment climate to the private sector. 

Continuing Improvement of Adventure Tourism Throughout 2023

There is a shared responsibility among those in the adventure tourism industry to implement sustainable adventure tourism by promoting voluntary integration of environmental and social practices throughout business operations. Government entities can integrate environmental, social, and economic objectives into tourism policies and plans and offer private sector initiatives. Consumers can demand sustainable tourism initiatives and make attempts to be responsible travelers. The majority of businesses that make up the overall tourism industry have not yet implemented sustainability approaches. In the adventure tourism industry, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation mechanisms are still very weak, though guidelines within the industry are emerging. 

Want to Learn More About Evolution & Changes in Adventure Tourism?  

If you’re interested in learning more about continuous changes and the evolution of the adventure tourism industry, then check out our other blog posts here at Advanced Outdoor Solutions. Our goal at Advanced Outdoor Solutions is to help adventure tourism businesses stay on top of the latest trends and info impacting them and their clients. 

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