Adventure Travel in an "Era of Meaning"
By : Cynthia La Grou
Compathos recently had the opportunity to attend the Adventure Travel Trade Association World Summit in Quebec. This included three days of full on pre-summit adventure - a total blast!. Among some great offerings, I selected the Jardin des Glaciers, which included visits to a multi-media glacier exploration center, guided treks to Seashell Valley (a one of kind shell bank left behind when the sea of Goldthwait receded from the land 8,000 years ago), a Maritime Adventure Park and Adrenalin Zone with 8 zip lines, rappelling, "Via ferrata Grooves" rock climbing, zodiacs and free exploration circuits through some of the most ruggedly gorgeous and unspoiled scenery on the planet.

To those unfamiliar with the current breadth and depth of this fast growing market, the term Adventure Travel may conjure up images of spirited mountain climbers, river rafters, backpackers, and those enamored by the beauties and challenges of pristine natural environments. So what's different?

Most adventure aficionados, service providers and outfitters have realized their responsibility and potential to protect that which they value and enjoy most. A significant segment of this movement was originally spawned in the non-profit sector and has proven its viability by uncovering opportunity and creating value in marginalized and underserved markets.

It now spans a diverse and globally fragmented compilation of options with a plethora of descriptions: ecotourism, geotourism, voluntourism, sustainable, philanthropic, experiential, meaningful, authentic, altruistic and responsible travel all of which can include volunteering, cultural immersion, sports immersion, holistic community development programs, and environmental protection programs for starters.

Most are responsible forms of tourism that strive to sustain or enhance the geographical character of a place - its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and well-being of its residents, the best models being designed by local communities themselves.

Memorable adventures that are brimming with challenge and appreciation for nature's beauty, people and place will always be central. Cultural immersion, adventure and fun - the prerequisites. But the days of traveling anywhere without being faced with the imminent possibilities of some type of endangerment are over. Travel now informs, broadens our scope and appreciation, and keeps us engaged whether it be an eye opening transformational experience or a major life change of direction.

Stories of both are in abundance. The next generation of adventure travelers could easily redefine travel altogether by producing and participating in world changing adventures of global citizenry, human rights advocacy, environmental protection and international development.

Interestingly, both travelers and travel supplier's in this space, often fit the description of savvy social entrepreneurs who measure success not only from good business practices, but who have a passion to help protect environmental, wildlife and cultural heritages as well as to benefit local resources and economies. This makes perfect sense. By nature, this intrepid travel tribe has little aversion to risk, challenge and cross cultural thinking.
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