Rural Adventure Tourism and
Practices and Trends
BEST Educational Network Think Tank
June 22, 2007
Christina Heyniger, Xola Consulting
Kristin Lamoureux, George Washington University
Understanding the unlikely pairing of adventure and social
Market Statistics indicate continued sectoral growth
Overview of study participants
Emerging business models
Emerging Best Practices
Defining “Social Entrepreneurship”
Social entrepreneurship defined:
Social entrepreneurs use entrepreneurial principles to organize,
create, and manage a venture to make social change.
Whereas business entrepreneurs typically measure performance in
profit and return, social entrepreneurs assess their success in terms
of the impact they have on society.
In recent years social entrepreneurs have begun leveraging
tourism to help attain social improvement goals.
The organizations in this study are blending social
and business goals in a variety of ways.
We examined tour operators and NGOs blending adventure
tourism with initiatives aimed at improving social and
Protect the Earth, Protect Yourself (PEPY) - Cambodia
Explorandes - Peru
Global Sojourns - South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana
Relief Riders International - India
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Generosity in Action - Global
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Blending tourism with social causes is a trend that
continues to build.
24% of travelers are interested in taking a volunteer or service-
based vacation - TIA report, 2005
Baby boomer are a key demographic; 47% of respondents age 35-54
International Institute of Peace through Tourism estimates 7% of all
trips in 2005 had a service component.
United Way partnered with Cheaptickets.com to launch a website
for people planning holidays with a service component in 2007.
ASTA and Global Volunteers launched an initiative late 2006 to
promote volunteer service travel as “a unique way to experience
new places, people and cultures while making a positive
Youth and educational tourism accounted for 20% of global
tourism market in international travel in 2002.
Though it may seem like an unlikely pairing, natural
synergies exist between adventure tourism and
Social Entrepreneurs Adventure Travel
Often look to serve rural and Rural, remote
Increasingly takes people to
Seek to address issues in poor travel in developing countries
and developing areas of the
world Tries to engage travelers in
Are creative people, pushing cultural Interactions
limits of known solutions to
issues Involves people pushing
perceived limits of experience
sources of funding due to the Expensive, attracting travelers
often unconventional projects with disposable income (largest
they launch segment is baby boomer
The adventure tourism industry has a long history
of aiding local communities.
Two examples: mountaineers and river runners pioneer “best
1960s in the Himalaya:
The Khumjung School established by Sir Edmund Hillary
Educates students to read and write in their native Sherpa language and
to learn skills appropriate to their environment.
Local teachers were trained and employed.
In 2005 Mountain Travel Sobek and The Nature Conservancy
partner on the Upper Mekong in Yunnan, China, teaching local
Chinese to operate their own river trips with MTS support.
Increasing levels of traveler participation
Increasing number of companies doing community projects
Findings: Today’s Emerging Business Models
1. The Interwoven Itinerary
Tour operators take an adventure tourism itinerary - bike, horseback
riding, hiking/trekking - and include volunteer visits to villages along the route
(PEPY, Explorandes, Relief Riders International)
2. Adjust Standard Procedure to Include Tourists
NGOs and other aid or research-focused organizations (church groups for
example) invite tourists to join in their work for short periods (Los Ninos)
3. Innovations to Support Donors in Direct Giving
A general backlash against “big business” has led many philanthropists to
want to give to small projects and know precisely where and how their
donation is applied.
Donor-brokers focused on the adventure tourism sector take traveler
desires to donate and help establish aid projects or vet existing projects
(Global Sojourns’ Giving Circle, Generosity in Action)
Findings: Primary Challenges
The best intentions may sometimes have unintended consequences
Tour operators may establish dependencies they may not be in a position to
serve long term; sustainability is an issue
“Voluntourists” may over time put local communities in a welfare state of
mind when self empowerment, not a welfare state should be the goal
Giving what we think they need rather than what they actually need/ cultural
Balancing traveler expectations with the realities of humanitarian and
environmentally oriented field work is difficult
For companies, balancing short range profit needs with the longer term
results horizon required for social projects is difficult
Findings: Emerging Best Practices
NGOs and Tour Companies alike can benefit from these lessons
Appropriately identify community needs
Create a shared investment - communities and the traveler-volunteers
must both contribute in some way
Start by identifying organizations who have history in the region before
launching new initiatives that may be duplicative; seek partners
Follow up; maintain a presence in the regions you visit
Findings: Compelling Success Stories
Even with the challenges, the benefits to communities, travelers and
businesses are compelling enough to warrant continued exploration.
Tour operators and NGOs
In leveraging community assets for tourists, assist destinations in enhancing and
preserving their natural and cultural aspects and strengthen product offerings
NGOs are able to attract funding more easily when people can experience in-
country the benefits of their donation
Receive aid for common needs – medical, educational, infrastructure
May develop businesses catering to tourists
Add the emotional benefits of “giving back” to the standard list of tourism’s
intangible benefits: rest, relaxation, cultural exploration, adventure
Episodic type of volunteer experience combined with travel attracts people who
may not typically volunteer in their home setting 10
Continue learning and guiding students in designing practical tools for
leveraging tourism to benefit social and environmental causes
Industry practitioners -
Look across industries for lessons learned
Christina Heyniger Kristin Lamoureux