Seminar delegates at the Arabian Travel Market 2015, which is currently taking place at the Dubai World Trade Centre, were told that the adventure travel sector is currently valued at US$263bn annually, according to Manal Kelig, Executive Director of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) – having grown 195 per cent within two years.
Clarifying the definition of the sector, she said it spread beyond the traditional view of rock climbers and trekkers, and embraced those seeking physical activity, cultural exchanges and interaction with the environment, from cruising and birdwatching to language learning and attending festivals.
Issam AbdulRahim Kazim, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM) “ATM is the perfect global platform for us at Dubai Tourism to highlight Dubai’s rich offering of exhilarating adventure activities which are suitable for all types of travellers, in particular – families. From skydiving and desert driving to theme parks and water attractions – there is something for everyone, so visitors can have a different adventure each day during their trip to Dubai. We also have a packed calendar of annual events happening across the emirate offering the ultimate experience for adventure seekers.”
“Working with the UNWTO, we have categorised three types of travellers: the Grazers who are ticking off experiences on their bucket list; the Adventurers who look for a mix of soft and hard adventure, and the Enthusiasts, who travel off the beaten track,” she said. “This classification has helped to define marketing to target these different sectors.”
In the Middle East, where annual visitor arrivals are estimated at 101million by 2020 and 149million by 2030, targeting adventure travel offers a platform to extend the benefits of tourism beyond gateway cities, according to Sandra Carvao, Communications and Publications Chief at UNWTO.
“This offers big opportunities for preservation of nature and culture and has considerable commercial development impact,” she said, pointing to the results of the ATTA Snapshot of 2014 which reported that 65.6 per cent of adventure travel trip revenue remained in a destination, compared to just five per cent of the average vacation tour.
Confirming this potential, Dr Aed Al Razzaq Issam Arabiyat, Managing Director of the Jordan Tourism Board, said that adventure tourism was a major growth sector in his country, and the engagement of local residents was one of the major contributors to this success.
“Tourism has changed from sight-seeing to doing – an experience – and we are collaborating with the UNWTO to launch the Jordanian National Trail, connecting local communities and installing the necessary services and products, with the private sector developing accommodation and restaurants,” he said.
“We have to work together to develop this product, foster B2B networking and bring in overseas tour operators to experience the product, as well as developing a platform for FITs to search and book Jordan online.”
Turning to the potential for cooperation in the Middle East to promote adventure travel attractions to a wider audience, ATTA’s Kelig said a programme similar to the UNWTO’s Silk Road could be started small and expanded over time.
“Collaboration on visas, marketing, product development, health and safety standards, training and guides can help to build capacities, and such an initiative can change perceptions,” she said.
“This could be particularly relevant to the Middle East as it can help shape the vision of the region as it is positioned as an adventure travel destination.”
Reinforcing this potential, North America director for the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce, Jessica Herring, said that while city breaks were among the biggest growth areas for international travel, this was often a part of adventure travel, driven by millennials or Generation Z, who wanted more than just a resort vacation.
“Millennials like things to do and are generally more open minded than their predecessors about their chosen destination,” she said.
“In some source markets, Dubai had been perceived as a purpose built attraction, but continuous product development means there is much more to do, from lunch with local Bedu to pearl diving or sky diving over the Palm Jumeirah … and Millennials then tweet their experiences to friends and family.”
- According to study by travel and hospitality consultancy firm MMGY Global, Millennials (those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s) travel more than ever before, are likely to spend more on travel services than any other demographic over the next year and 60 per cent say they prefer spending their money on experiences rather than on material possessions,.
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