In 2022, the adventure tourism market raked in $366.7 billion worldwide. By 2032, experts say it will scale Everest level heights – gaining more than 28% a year to hit $4.6 trillion.
For some people, the idea of vacationing to sit on a beach for two weeks is unappealing. Their bucket lists involve activities that explore the natural world to its fullest, whether hiking in the wilderness, mountain climbing, white water rafting, or cave kayaking.
While this type of tourism is rising, especially among younger generations, over-tourism can create negative environmental impacts. Many are implementing measures to ensure the growing adventure-based tourism industry does not leave a noticeable human footprint behind.
The Threat Of Adventure Tourism On The Environment
“The shift towards sustainable and ecological tourism is a notable change within the industry,” says Balaram Thapa, Director of Nepal Hiking Team. “Travelers are progressively aware of their carbon footprint.”
The threat of over-tourism has been a growing concern in places like Venice, Italy, where the city put measures in place to limit the number of tourists within the city. The impacts of tourism here have seen a change in the overall culture of the area, pollution levels, and the environment. While this might be seen as progressive, the fundamental reasons people enjoy Venice in the first place are slowly eroding away. In the same way, the growth of adventure tourism can pose similar threats to the natural environments that attract people to them in the first place.
“Adventure tourism poses human threats to the environment, such as disturbed animal habitats, poaching, and death of plants and animals,” says Zoe Wallace, Head Travel Author of Culture.org. “It is possible to transfer local plant and animal pathogens and diseases to previously uninfected areas because people carried them through their clothes, bags, and bodies.”
Creating awareness about the tourism industry’s impact is helping people choose more sustainable travel practices. Wallace says many people on adventure tours will opt for “environmental activities such as forest and shore cleanups.”
Demographics Of Adventure Tourism
Many people want to leave their comfort zones and challenge themselves to something more profound than exploring a city’s historic sites or lounging by a hotel pool. These people drive the growing adventure tourism industry and come from various backgrounds. Balaram Tharpa of Nepal Hiking Team says there’s an emergent over 50s population, “who are becoming more adventurous seeking challenging and rewarding experiences.”
Still, travel industry experts notice that younger generations tend to make up most travelers driven toward these more active adventures. This is beneficial because Gen-Z tends to be much more aware of their environmental impact than other generations.
Supporting Local Communities
Finding places that are good for your budget can be very appealing. Still, it’s good to remember that many destinations geared towards tourists rely heavily on tourism to keep their economy flourishing. “On one hand, adventure tourism can create jobs, support local businesses and incentivize people to protect natural wonders and resources,” says Kristin Kastelic, Marketing Director of the Nantahala Outdoor Center. “On the other hand, it could lead to pollution, littering, and damage to natural habitats. The key to ensuring the impact is more positive than negative is creating awareness of our environmental impact and putting nature at the forefront with a ‘Leave No Trace’ approach.”
The world is vast, and the number of destinations to explore and add to your bucket list couldn’t be achieved in a lifetime. However, travel industry experts suggest the following places are among the most popular with clients. The last few in the list are less well-known, making them more appealing as destinations not subjected to over-tourism. When adding any of these to your bucket list, it’s wise to check out the information around current environmental concerns and see what you can do to help create less impact on your travels.
Queenstown, New Zealand
If you’re looking for a place with all the adventure tourism activities rolled into one, this is the place to go. If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings franchise, you’ll already know the staggering scenery, including snow-capped mountains and intricate winding rivers. Queenstown offers various adrenaline-pumping activities, including bungee jumping, skydiving, skiing, jet boating, and whitewater rafting — to name a few.
Nepal has been a favorite of adventure-seekers even before active vacations were a thing. Trekking with a sherpa through the Himalayas has been a goal of many travelers, some with disastrous results — so it’s always essential to go with someone who knows what they’re doing. Nepal’s diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage make it a unique destination for those seeking a thrilling vacation.
Because half the monkey population has depleted because of tourism, travelers must be careful when considering their adventure choices here. With various terrains, this Central American destination offers adventure tourists zip-lining through lush rainforests, whitewater rafting, exploring volcanoes, and surfing. Choose your tour company wisely.
Even the thought of the Swiss Alps is enough to get your adrenaline pumping. Interlaken is a paradise for adventure enthusiasts where you can indulge in activities like paragliding, canyoning, skydiving, and skiing in the winter months.
Banff National Park, Canada
Banff National Park is one of the most famous regions in the world for outdoor enthusiasts in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. With breathtaking scenery, you can engage in hiking, skiing, snowboarding, canoeing, and wildlife spotting.
Iceland has gained much popularity as a vacation destination in the past decade — especially as many of its features gained a worldwide audience in Game of Thrones. Adventure activities include ice cave exploration, glacier hiking, snorkeling between tectonic plates, and exploring volcanic landscapes. The country offers adventurers a unique and thrilling experience with its geothermal wonders and rugged terrain.
Cairns is home to thrilling aquatic and rainforest adventures on the doorstep of the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. Scuba diving, snorkeling, skydiving, and exploring the lush rainforest on all-terrain-vehicle tours are some of this region’s exhilarating activities. The delicate ecosystems here need to be respected, so find groups and guides that encompass this philosophy in their tours.
Cape Town, South Africa
While Cape Town offers the impressive Table Mountain as a backdrop and activities like paragliding, shark cage diving, hiking, and surfing thrive, it’s important to remember the impact over-tourism can have here. Explore the scenic coast, conquer mountains, encounter wildlife, and immerse yourself responsibly in the vibrant culture for an unforgettable adventure in this captivating city.
Located in the desert, Huacachina is a small oasis town surrounded by massive sand dunes. It’s an ideal destination for sandboarding and dune buggy rides. While visiting, support local businesses — especially those that prioritize sustainable practices. You can also check out the ancient mystic Nazca lines here — a collection of geoglyphs etched into the soil of the Nazca Desert. Ancient inhabitants crafted these intricate designs between 500 BC and 500 AD.
Between Iceland and Norway, you’ll find the Faroe Islands. Travelers can hike through scenic villages, go bird watching, or explore the rugged coastline. This location isn’t as well known as some other places mentioned — which is good for responsible tourism because instead of having to reduce our footprint, we can take care to leave it as we found it.
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.