There’s travel, with its routine host of restaurants, hotels, shopping, and the occasional dose of jet-lag. And then there’s adventure travel: equal parts tourism, adrenaline rush, communion with nature, and possible spiritual ecstasis. Climbing, biking, camping, rafting, obstacle-coursing – these are all activities the everyday adventure traveler may find on his or her itinerary.
Adventure traveling occupies its own niche in tourism culture, and Adventure Travel is one of its chief proponents. Recently, (via miller-mccune.com) the ATTA banded together with George Washington University’s International Institute of Tourism Studies (who knew?) to release the annual Adventure Tourism Development Index, which is an organization of data collected from international advisory boards such as the Mongolia National Tourism Board, Fazendin Portfolio (USA/Africa), Explorades (Peru), PEPY Tours (Cambodia), DMR Consulting (Canada), and about a dozen others.
The Tourism Development Index is a catalog of assembled data from these organizations to determine what countries rank best for the budding ventures of adventure tourism. The list (see PDF here) is broken into two sub-lists, one of developing countries (mostly eastern European, South American, and African), and one of already developed countries (mostly Western European and South Pacific). Though they list top tens in both categories, they actually included 28 developed countries and 164 developing countries in the data, and all countries were rated on categories like the sustainability of their development, assortment of natural resources, political infrastructure, health, adventure entrepreneurship, and so forth. The assemblage of data is better explained on the PDF, but, for example, the USA’s ranking fell 18 spots from 2008 because of its decrease in scores in the Infrastructure and Image categories.
The top three destinations for developing countries were the Czech Republic and Israel in the #3 and #2 spots, with the Slovak Republic topping the list. As for adventure tourism in developed countries, Iceland ranks at #1 (considering their recent admirably nationalistic tourism exploits, this is no surprise), followed closely by Switzerland and New Zealand, respectively.
The politics surrounding the report are partly tourism-centered, but also serve as an inspiration to host nations. Especially in developing countries where safety and health are often big concerns, to know from reliable data that one place is safer to visit than another is helpful information for the burgeoning adventurer. Additionally, these statistics may help bolster the struggling economies of some developing nations, which will further raise their scores in the future.
There are, of course alternate forms of adventure tourism, but it’s best to take the high road, which is often the road less traveled, and nothing is more appealing to the adventure tourist than the prospect of unranked destinations.