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  • Writer's pictureDavid Thibodeau

Active Tourism

Every year millions of people travel around the world.. Tourism is a huge global industry. COVID-19 has disrupted a lot of international and domestic travel and will for the foreseeable future. During the shutdowns we have all been reminded of the importance of being physically active and being outdoors. Around the world more people have flocked to bikes as a mode of transportation, Paris is keeping new cycling lanes beyond the pandemic, many bike shops in Canada have said that they are running low on stock because everyone has bought bikes. There is clearly a craving to get outdoors, active tourism will be key to building back better and helping the global economy reemerge from this. Tourism will be impacted for the foreseeable future, but focusing on active tourism can be a sustainable way to grow tourism when borders open back up.

This is not to be confused with sport tourism. Sport tourism is when people will travel specifically for sporting events. What I’m talking about is people travelling for the sole purpose of skiing, biking canoeing on their own vacation. Travelling for sport and recreation on its own is a huge draw for many people and is a huge economic driver for many places.

Last week I was watching the Smart City and Sport Summit and this very topic came up. The Municipality of Langeland has an Active Tourism strategy that was presented at the summit. I think that municipalities and tourism departments around the world can market all of their sport and recreation in a way that attracts adventurers from around the world.

In the summer tourism strategies can focus on things like biking, canoeing, kayaking, hiking mountain biking, paragliding, surfing, golfing, white water rafting, rock climbing, tree climbing, and snorkeling. (In some locations in the Alps or other mountain ranges you could still market downhill skiing during the summer). In the winter tourism strategies should focus on cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, hiking, ice climbing, ice sailing, or even dog sledding.

All levels of government can prioritize active tourism by marketing their natural environments and what adventures they have to offer. Promoting national parks and hiking trails is a great place to start, and can expand that to offer many different unique experiences for visitors.

Some organisations have even been created to help people be active during their vacations. Runnin’ City is an app that creates special running routes for travellers with an audio guide, and even has built in green routes (a feature that gives you data on real-time air quality and allergen before you start). It even plants a tree for every 100km users run. In an earlier article on sport social business I also highlighted MY Adventure that use their revenues from outdoor adventures for various community projects, including free guided bike tours of Edinbrugh.

An important part of these strategies is making them accessible. In many places in Europe, mostly because of population density, hiking, skiing and any other recreation is accessible to everyone by public transit. Some places like Zermatt, Switzerland even banned cars and makes everyone take the train in to keep the air clean and clear (this decision was made by referendum). In places like Canada, especially northern Canada, where the population is very spread out, having places accessible by alternative means of transport other than cars, is much harder. However, making these places accessible is important, people want to enjoy their vacations and not have to worry. When I am on vacation, I do not want to have to drive anywhere. I want to be able to sit back and see the sights from a train. Tourism strategies need to include transport for visitors so they can be stress free.

Setting aside more natural environments will also help conservation efforts. By making more land and sea available to people, the more funds you can raise to protect and conserve that area. People want to enjoy the pristine environment and we can help protect more of it by making it accessible through the tourism industry. There needs to be strong regulations and policies in place to counter over-tourism, as this can have a negative impact.

There are a lot of opportunities for us to expand our sport travel. This is a largely untapped market and we can do a lot of expansion to help build back better after the pandemic. This will mean growth, new jobs and a focus on being active and healthy.

Tourism strategies should focus on rebuilding our tourism with a stronger focus on active tourism. Everyone has been reminded of the importance of being outdoors and reconnecting with nature during the pandemic. People will be looking for these adventures when international travel resumes. The tourism industry should be ready for this.


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