Saturday, July 2, 2011

Active holidays

When I go on holiday I am not a big fan of spending lots of money on hotels, fancy restaurants or guided tours in an air conditioned bus. Give me the great outdoors, a good pair of hiking boots, a bicycle, a tent, a youth hostel, a local eatery or pub. That is what I like, and I am not alone.
Backpackers and independent travellers and adventure tourists are a major economic force that (in my experience) are eager to try active tourism. I don't know much about the economics of the tourism industry but apparently backpackers spend more, travel further and stay longer than other travellers.

Rachel Smith has written a great blog post on This Big City on the contribution of cycling to the tourism industry. I tried Googling to see if I could find some research or articles on the contribution of cycling, active travel and independent travel to the tourism industry. The Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre have published a paper on cycle tourism in Australia. They highlight that there is limited information available on the size and scope of the industry in Australia. Some interesting statistics from the paper:

  • 1% of all holiday trips in the UK are generated by cycling

  • 9% of international visitors to Ireland are considered cycle tourists (I was one of those. A bicycle is a brilliant way to explore the Irish countryside)

  • 3% of international visitors and 1.6% of domestic visitors to NZ South Island cycle between destinations.

  • Domestic cycle tourists in Australia spend an estimated $213 million per anum and spend on average more per day than other domestic tourists.

  • No data exists on international cycle tourism in Australia.

The Cycling Resource Centre has some links to tools and research on cycle tourism. I really liked the Murray to Mountains web site for the >100km long rail trail in Victoria. The web site is well designed to appeal to all types, from mountain bikers to touring cyclists and day trippers.

I didn't have much luck finding information on walking and hiking and their contribution to the economy. I don't know whether this is due to a lack of research or just that it does not receive the same focus as cycling. Most of the visitors to our state and national parks go for a walk and many of the parks allow camping.

What I have been surprised at is the lack of multi-day hikes providing huts along the route. This type of facility is quite common in South Africa and makes multi-day hiking something that is attractive for a far larger group of people. The Otter Trail is probably the premier multi-day hike in South Africa and it has at least a two year waiting list for a booking.

It appears Australia's hutted multi-day hikes are either in the alpine regions or in Tasmania. I wonder whether there is potential for more such hiking trails in some of our scenic areas.

No comments: