Posted by: Bob Fisher | March 4, 2011

The Grassroots and Niche Market of Outdoor Adventure Travel

Defining Adventure

As Pierre Hersberger suggests in his commentary below, adventure is an escape from the norm of daily life; going beyond the usual to encounter the extraordinary. For many travellers who have discovered (or re-discovered) the joys of adventure travel, it is a both a transition and, to some extent, a way of transcending the commonplace.

Adventure however is also an ethos, an attitude, and a mindset. Like explorers from centuries past, modern-day adventure travellers are committed to discovering new ways of interacting with their world. And in the global travel and tourism market, adventure travel is one of the fastest-growing niche markets, comprising such fields as ecotourism, heritage travel, historical travel, geological travel, voluntourism, agritourism, specialized community-based tourism, and of course nature and wildlife tourism.

There are very good reasons why this form of travel has become, not only increasingly popular, but also a priority; and that, in part, has to do with the fact that a few years ago, Planet Earth passed a tipping point. More humans now live in urban areas as opposed to rural areas. And for sociologists, philosophers, psychologists and many other disciplines, this “shift” has significant implications and ramifications. As our species becomes increasingly plugged in, there is the risk of losing sight of something essential in the human condition. Whereas urban travel has much to recommend it, we do risk becoming detached or even alienated from our very own sense of ourselves as a species when we can no longer see the forest and the trees.

For this reason, the companies and travel suppliers you see in the link below, provide a renewed grassroots approach to not only our collective sense of self but also our individual sense of self. And these are now planetary priorities; as our awareness, for example, of the effects of climate change become more acute. And most outdoor adventure travel companies working in this part of the travel and tourism market emphasize how we can travel and minimize our carbon footprint.

The outdoor travel adventure market, however, is also all about perception. In the post Second World War era, many societies, North America especially, emphasized moving forward, the acquisition of material goods, and stimulating economic growth. And who could argue with those fundamental principles of advancing the cause of human civilization. However, economic bubbles can burst; the “edifice” can grow beyond its own capacity to sustain itself. And sustainability is often at the core of the outdoor travel adventure market. Needless to say — and in this fast-growing market there is still the need to emphasize to consumers the need to judge the source carefully because so-called sustainable travel may not be legitimate — sustainability is a fundamental issue of management in those companies and suppliers who commit themselves to this unique field of travel.


In the United States, tourism is now the third largest retail industry; and in other nations it is the prime source of revenue. According to a 1998 article in Forbes magazine, this part of the travel and tourism market generated $7 billion dollars in the U.S. A few years later, the Wall Street Journal estimated that the market had reached $245 billion. A World Travel and Tourism Council report put that figure internationally at $154 billion and growing annually by 20 percent. In other studies, primarily by National Geographic and the Travel Industry of America, adventure or “active” travel was 20 percent of the leisure travel market. Furthermore the reports suggested that new forms of travel behaviour have emerged; and have referred to that behaviour as “sustainable tourism behaviour” or to the actual participants as “geotourists”. And that pervasive socio-demographic phenomenon known as “Baby Boomers” has contributed significantly to this renewed emphasis on travel, which is both interconnected and interdependent. In addition, another report has show that women represent key consumers of outdoor adventure travel; especially women whose purchasing power and self-determination have increased dramatically over the last decades.

Conceptual travel

This new wave of travel dedicated to going beyond the usual — or the conventional mode of travel — also has an intellectual or conceptual focus to it. Other descriptors that have been used to refer to this form of travel have been “cultural anthropological”, “spiritual”, and “personal skill-building”.

And as many societies age, especially in North America, there is much evidence — linked of course to advances in health care for us “old folks” — that the post-boomers have no hesitation to “go there” in spirit and in mind.

As Robert Frost said:

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

The Outdoor Adventure Show

As a travel journalist, I have been to my fair share of travel trade shows over the years; and most of them have provided super opportunities and well thought-out marketing plans. But the Outdoor Travel Trade Show I attended in Toronto was probably the most interactive I have ever experienced. In part this was probably because both parties (industry and consumers) were talking the same language; and sharing a common vision of this very experiential form of travel.

To explore virtual travel possibilities, click on the Outdoor Adventure Show.

The Exhibitors

To see the full list (with websites) of all the exhibitors at this very active and participatory trade show, click on the link below.

Outdoor Adventure Show Exhibitors List

Exhibitors speak about the diverse Outdoor Adventure Travel industry


(a) Pierre Hersberger is the owner of Mer et Monde Ecotours which is located near the very bio-rich estuary of the St. Lawrence River.

Website: Mer et Monde Ecotours

(b) Brett Moore is Camp Director of Camp Can-Aqua, in Cardiff, Ontario.

Website: Camp Can-Aqua

(c) Chris Scerri is a supplier to the travel and tourism area through the Canadian Outdoor Equipment company and Woolpower.

Websites: Canadian Outdoor Equipment and Woolpower

(d) Greg Davis is Account Executive of Outpost Magazine (“Tan your mind … travel for real”)

Website: Outpost Magazine

(e) Cori Arthur is Tourism Coordinator for Northumberland Tourism.

Website: Northumberland Tourism

(f) Margaret Cunningham is Tourism Development Officer for the City of Kawartha Lakes.

Website: Explore Kawartha Lakes

(In this mini-podcast, Margaret mentions alvars. “Alvar ecosystems are grassland, savanna and sparsely vegetated rock barrens that develop on flat limestone or dolostone bedrock where soils are very shallow. Almost all of North America’s alvars occur within the Great Lakes basin, primarily in an arc from northern Lake Michigan across northern Lake Huron and along the southern edge of the Canadian Shield to include eastern Ontario and northwestern New York state. Most types of alvar communities are globally imperiled, and they support several globally rare species as well.” — Source: The Nature Conservancy

(g) Steve Bruno is Partnership Coordinator of the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation.

Website: Ontario Travel

(h) Alex Wu represents the Friends For Life Bike Rally.

Website: Friends For Life Bike Rally

(i) Jane Baldwin represents Youth Challenge International, an organization of volunteers that promotes international development. Her organization was sponsored at the trade show by Expat Travel Gear.

Websites: Youth Challenge International and Expat Travel Gear

(j) Michael Horbay represents both the Canadian Diabetes Association and Team Diabetes.

Websites: Team Diabetes and The Canadian Diabetes Association

Anyone for a wolf howl?

I recently (but briefly) experienced a wolf howl at the Algonquin Eco-Lodge. By the time, I got my recording equipment out, the wolves who had been calling decided to turn in for the evening. However, what you hear below are humans calling back to their lupus friends. Pretty good, eh? … as Canadians are wont to say.

An outdoor adventure travel experience I recommend


“Among the Whales in Québec Maritime”

Having a good time at the Outdoor Adventure Show

Fiddlers and step dancers from the Ottawa Valley

Images of the Outdoor Adventure Show


To pay a virtual visit to the Outdoor Adventure Travel Show and to see more images, click here.



  1. Combined with new ways to see the world and escaping from the manic city hotspots, agritourism is the perfect getaway. It is good for the individual and the local economy. Brill!

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