Adventure travel gains allure in depressing economy

Fri Feb 27, 2009 9:21am EST
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By Laura MacInnis

GENEVA (Reuters Life!) - Cheaper airfares are compelling increasing numbers of people to book African safaris, Vietnamese bike tours, and Moroccan desert trips as a way to escape news of the depressed -- and depressing -- world economy.

Adventure travel companies have witnessed an unusual bump in demand in the midst of the global crisis that in recent months has devastated stock markets, slashed jobs and gouged savings.

Many travelers are booking trips at the last minute that are typically planned months ahead of time.

"Beyond belief, we had a record month in January," said Tim Greening, director of KEI Adventure Travel, a British-based trekking, climbing and mountain biking specialist. "It's not all doom and gloom out there," he said.

Canada's G.A.P. Adventures, whose most popular trips are to Peru, China, Egypt, Costa Rica, and Vietnam, benefited from a 40 percent increase in business in the first two months of 2009.

"Our numbers are up," G.A.P. chief executive Bruce Poon Tip said by e-mail from Australia. "The mid-range and lower-end product is very strong. We are seeing that the younger professional market is still traveling."

Several operators said airline seat sales have spurred quick holiday decisions on the part of professionals whose employment is not at direct risk from the recent economic fallout.

"People who still have jobs have a lot to take advantage of at the moment, with cheaper gas and cheaper mortgages as a result of the recent interest rate cuts," said Jeff Willner, the head of Kensington Tours, which also recorded higher bookings in January and February.   Continued...