The concept of ‘adventure sport’ has a wide range of connotations, covering sports that have various names like ‘alternative sports and games’, ‘extreme sports’, ‘X factor sports’, ‘gravity sports’, ‘lifestyle sports’ and ‘action sports’. The growth of adventure sport must be seen both in the context of advancements within sport itself and the environing society.
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Adventure sports have a plethora of things to offer which can be hardly found in sports of other genre, like strong perceptions and threat. They imply a disapproval and objection against a few aspects of modern cultures, but can also be stated to denote key ideas in contemporary and post-modern society like individualism, expertise, self-realization and superiority. Since the late 1970s there has been a rapid increase and inclination towards adventure sports of various varieties.
It is said that in the year 2000, an estimated $476 billion were spent by 700 million people world over, who travelled to a different country in search of health related and quality of life experience. This included sports oriented visits. Sports tourism and adventure tourism is contributing substantial revenues world over. Though there are no clear estimates or scientific studies for the growth rates, the growth rates in this industry is said to be close to 10%.
The face of tourism is changing world over and tourism, more and more, is changing from rest and relaxation orientation to adventure and quality of life experiences. Earlier, for all practical purposes, sports and tourism were treated as different and independent areas of activity. Clubbing of these two was however, pretty rare. Yet, as more and more amateurs started indulging in sporting and adventure activity, the linkages between these two has become extremely strong. Major sporting activities like Olympics, Soccer World Cup, among others have contributed immensely to tourism and likewise, tourism has served as a catalyst for new sport disciplines like snow bowling, among others. This has given rise to a new class of tourism called the ‘Sport Tourism’.
Sports Tourism predominantly refers to travel for the purpose of playing or watching a sport and even a visit to a sport attraction for competitive and non-competitive purposes. In the last couple of decades, both sport and tourism professionals have recognized this new opportunity of growth for sport tourism and are vigorously pursuing various opportunities that this provides. By the year 2020, world tourism arrives are likely to touch 1.6billion people growing at the rate of approximately four and half per cent annually. This is expected to contribute US$ 2 billion by 2020.
As the world as become more and more hectic and the pace of life have increased dramatically all of us seem to be looking newer ways of relaxing and rejuvenation. Many professionals pursuing successful careers have abandoned it all to pursue their dreams. And this is where adventure sports has beckoned many continues to do so.
People globally take breaks and look forward to breaks to recharge their batteries and the style of these holidays has changed. The earlier need for peace, relaxation, rest and recuperation has been replaced with the need for adrenaline to be pumping and improving the quality of life experiences. This has led many to explore and travel in an effort to satiate these needs. Erstwhile pleasures like trekking, mountaineering, bungee jumping, sky diving, parasailing that were restricted to few people who could afford have now moved to a place where the average Joes are also experiencing them in an effort to bring in more pleasurable experiences in their lives. The above list also includes scuba diving that was earlier restricted to the elite few in the society.
The term ‘Scuba’ is actually an acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. It is in Scuba diving that a diver carries compressed air in cylinders with them to provide breathing gases. The other modes of diving are breath-hold diving or air-pumped diving. In the breath-hold diving, a diver is trained to hold breath for sustained amount of time and the diving time is limited by the individual’s ability to hold his breath. In the air-pumped diving, there is a line that the divers carry from the surface through which air is pumped to the divers. Though this allows greater amount of time for diving than the breath-hold diving, the airline is usually the umbilical cord and any damage to it would mean death. The best form of diving is scuba diving and the equipment is classified as either open circuit or closed circuit. Typically, the Scuba Diver moves around under water by the usage of feet fins while, diving propulsion vehicles could also are used.
Scuba Diving can be used for a great number of personal and professional uses. However, recreational diving is purely for enhancing quality of life experiences. Professional divers are hired for a large number of purposes that are required to be done underwater and these trainers are highly qualified and trained to an extent where they can even handle emergency situation. What is relevant to this business plan is diving for recreational purposes and it has a variety of professionals like instructors, dive masters, and dive guides who work either as part time or full time professionals.
SCUBA diving standing for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus Diving is a method of diving where the divers carry breathing apparatus underwater with them that allows them to remain underwater for sustained period of time. Earlier the divers used to either hold their breaths or carry a pipe that pumped pressured air from the boats above. Both these methods were used specifically for professional and scientific purposes rather than for pleasure. Once the scuba diving equipment became safe and easy to access diving has seen a dramatic increase in people indulging for the purpose of pleasure. PADI is the universal standard for pleasure diving certification which offers certifications ranging from basic certification to advanced safety certifications. This organization has tracked the growth of this industry in over last several decades. PADI reports that the number of resort members has grown nearly 20% in the last decade and the number of certifications has risen by a whopping 72% in the last. The following statistics are from the PADI report (PADI, February 2014).
PADI also reports the following growth in its certifications.
Figure 1: Growth of PADI Resort Members
The kind of growth reported by PADI globally, factoring for the fact that the decade for which the statistics were reported in this report has two years of recession is simply enormous! This offers excellent business opportunity for entrepreneurs to enter the business. Adding the dimension of the free spirit discussed earlier in this report offers an extraordinary business potential.
The sports and adventure tourism also has extremely planned and coordinated and totally integrated sports facilities offering sports and health services which are their primary marketing strategies. Most of these also have accompanying vacation facilities with superior facilities for the adventure tourists. Economies of small countries like Belize are driven predominantly by such facilities. The resort categories comprise of amenities like golf and tennis resorts, spas, snow and water sport facilities, as well as nature retreats and the predominant focus of all these amenities are on outdoor exploration and adventure. Commonly, these categories of resorts are furnished with sophisticated facilities and state-of-the-art equipment while offering the guests or tourists with different levels of adventure opportunities and educational programs that are led by experienced instructors. However, the level of standards of these resorts range from international standards specializing in extreme levels of sophistication to campground services that focus purely on recreational sports. The planners who also have become extremely professional and competent in creating meetings and conventions also find these kinds of facilities extremely attractive because of the facilities that are offered by these resorts and also the kind of ambience that is presented by these. The environments in these resorts offer extremely competitive environments and offers great corporate environment because of the competitiveness in the air. Sports activities at these facilities automatically become part of their meeting agenda and this helps greatly in organizational bonding as well as building great teams. Such facilities also break their strict formality barrier and help building the networks within the organization while also helping people at personal and professional levels. Networking that happens in these kinds of environments also builds nice informal organizations that improves productivity dramatically. The relaxed atmosphere in such kinds of venues serves as a kind of a cushion for teams to accept not so great news readily. People come in and walk away rejuvenated, and this serves more than one organizational purpose. The meeting and convention planners also have lesser issues on how to use free time of the delegates as well as ways and methods of keeping the accompanying family members busy. The Marriott’s Griffin Gate Resort based out of Lexington at Kentucky has a complete department that creates recreational plans in customizing meeting agendas based on sporting activities for all types of meetings.
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There are numerous other resorts that have created state-0f-the-art sporting facilities and an example worth highlighting among them is the Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa in the state of Florida. The Saddlebrook sports resort has at its center a large 3, 300 square feet fully enclosed state-of-the-art fitness center surrounding which are football, softball, volley ball, and boccie ball courts attached to it. It also has an open-air pavilion that is used for conducting classes as well as group activities. Another set of activities in the same classification are sport camps and the American Camping association has an estimate of more than 8, 500 facilities in the United States alone which annually serves a whopping 6 million campers. Economically speaking, 70% of these campers stay overnight and all these facilities employ about half a million adults just during summer camps. In addition, there are more than 2, 500 youth sports camps and more than 2, 000 adult camps listed. In the summer of 2002, about 45, 000 campers registered and participated in 450 Nike Junior Sports Camps. The largest growth rate has been reported in the hockey camps. These sport camps are typically conducted in resorts, Universities, and even in forests, offering conventional sports like baseball, basketball, tennis, golf, volleyball, skating, swimming, gymnastics, hockey, sailing, and other adventure activities that could include bungee jumping, hiking, and white water rafting, and diving among others. Typically, sport camps have been targeting youngsters; however, the targeting has shifted its focus to families and other adult camps. There is a sub-category among these called the fantasy sport camps which allow adults to train with their favorite sporting stars or a coach of a favorite team or even at a great sporting location. The major league Baseball conducts a seven day camp in their Huntington Valley facility, located in Pennsylvania, which allows visitors to play and interact with popular players. This does not come cheap as it has a price tag of more than 4,000 dollars. Similarly, an organization producing baseball cards runs a weekend camp at their Iowa site which charges 2, 500 dollars for the weekend. The Los Angeles Dodger Baseball Fantasy Camp conduct the camp at their vast and expansive 450 acre facility at the Dodger Town Complex located on the Vero Beach in Florida. This package includes three meals a day for five days and six nights, and uses of all facilities including the Championship Golf Course, a welcome party, as well as an exciting game at the end under the lights at the Hallman Stadium, and this costs nearly 4, 000 dollars.
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