The face of tourism is changing. There is still a big market for the packaged beach holiday or the Disney extravaganza but younger people are pushing the boundaries and into new directions. This is the generation of Facebook and National Geographic TV. The images of exotic adventure, fun, adrenalin and doing something different are pasted and posted on all formats of new media.

In a recently released consumer behaviour report by George Washington University, adventure tourism has increased from $89billion in 2009 to $263billion in 2012. If you add in the value of adventure equipment purchased at $82billion, you get a total market of $345billion. Those are big numbers in anyone’s book and represent an annual growth rate of 65%.

But what exactly is adventure tourism? The report defines it as follows: as travel outside a person’s normal environment for more than 24 hours and not more than one consecutive year.
A trip may be classified as an “adventure” trip if it involves two of the following three elements:
* interaction with nature
* interaction with culture
* a physical activity,
while the core of adventure is a trip which involves all three elements.

Certain countries, New Zealand for instance, are positioning their main tourism efforts on adventure tourism. Typically adventure tourism would include some of the following  activities:

Offroad driving, adventure flights, bungee jumping, canoeing or kayaking, climbing, diving or snorkeling, horse riding and treks, hot air ballooning, mountaineering, rafting, surfing or kiteboarding, tree canopy hopping.

Voluntourism is seen as an adjunct of adventure tourism and is defined as follows:  travel which includes volunteering for a charitable cause. The growth in this particular sector has also been impressive and is almost recognised as a rite of passage for many western students leaving school and looking to fill a gap year before further studies or work. Numerous companies have sprung up to cater solely for this type of activity. Voluntourism does have its detractors. Many individuals and NGOs are concerned that the benefits of this activity are more for the volunteers than the recipients. They point to the constantly changing personnel, people coming with little experience or understanding of local culture and habits, over generosity by many individuals which leads to false understanding and over expectations by the recipients.  For anyone contemplating this activity, we would advise careful research into both the area you propose to visit and the impact and effectiveness of the project you will be involved in.

Africa has not been vociferous or focused in attracting adventure tourism but the reality is that increasing numbers are coming anyway. The major beneficiary has been South Africa with its advanced infrastructure and multitude of professionals operators. Certain other areas have noticed the trends and have focused on this tourism with Livingstone in Zambia (abutting the Victoria Falls) being prominent amongst them.  Who can forget the video which went viral of a girl bungee jumping of the Victoria Falls railway bridge and belly flopping (happily she lived to tell the tale)!

So it is the younger generation setting the trends but there are signs that their elders are following. If you go on safari today, you will be offered many activities from game walks to riding and not just the traditional game drive in a Land Rover

One thing is sure, this new type of tourism is set to continue and grow and entrepreneurs and adventurers will continually come up with developing diverse set of products in ever more exotic and faraway destinations.

Rise of adventure Tourism and Voluntourism by Nicolas Edwards

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