Benefits of Adventure Tourism

The hiker parade at Trail Days 2006 in Damascu...
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This post is directly out of the Governor  Beshear’s four-year development plan for Appalachia the report is Report entitled, Appalachia Tomorrow 2009 -2013 and can be found here.

“There are numerous studies and articles on the economic benefits of adventure tourism.  Every study shows that trail development attracts and restores businesses, generates new jobs, and raises public revenue.  But trail development and adventure tourism also lead to increases in property value, provides health benefits, and many other immeasurable advantages.  This holds true whether the trails are hiking, biking, ATV riding, or horseback riding trails.  Trails increase a community’s sense of pride as residents begin to appreciate the area that they had taken for granted for so long.

Nationally, trail-related expenditures, depending upon the mileage covered, range from less than $1 per day to more than $75 per day.  Further, a trail can generally produce about $1 Million in annual revenue for a community, so long as the town accepts and supports the trail system.  A wonderful example of how a small town has boomed with the development of a trail is Lanesboro, Minnesota, population 800.  The difference between pre-trail and post-trail Lanesboro was the addition of “12 B&B’s (with year-long waiting lists), 8 restaurants, an art gallery, a museum, and a thriving community theater…  The visitors are people who are having a good time, want it to continue, and are willing to spend the money to spend quality time on the trail.  This kind of ‘impulse’ purchase bodes well for retailers along our trails.”  In this Minnesota town, the economic impact of the trail is more than $5 Million per year.[1]

Arizona State Parks conducted a yearlong economic study in 2002 on the economic benefits of off-highway vehicle recreation.  The study showed the total economic impact (direct and indirect) from recreational off-road vehicle use was $4.25 Billion to the state as a whole.  This recreational industry alone generated over $3 Billion in retail sales and added $187 Million to annual state tax revenue.  Further, off-road vehicle recreation supported 36,591 Arizona jobs and generated household income of $1.1 Billion.  21% of Arizona’s population participated in the recreational activity, totaling 1.1 Million people.[2]

“[W]ell-managed trails running through communities can foster substantial, sustainable economic activity through business development and tourism.  Trails encourage the establishment of ‘clean’ industries and business, such as cafes, bike shops, and bed and breakfasts in communities along the trail.”  The recreational and leisure industry is a $311 Billion industry and has increased from 6.5% of total consumer spending to 10.5% in 15 years.[3] In a study conducted on the Greenbriar River Trail, it was determined that the average trail user was highly educated with a household income of more than $60,000 per year and that 60% of trail users were out-of-state visitors.  Of those out-of-state visitors, 90% of respondents said that they were highly likely to return to the area.  Visitors primarily spent money on food, travel, and lodging when visiting the Greenbriar River Trail.  58% of visitors spent between $100 and $500 during their visit.  Those who spent less than $100 all lived within the corridor and the 39% of visitors that spent more than $500 virtually all lived outside of West Virginia.  Of the visitors surveyed, 47% said that they were first-time visitors and the same percentage of visitors said that they were influenced to visit by word of mouth.  Also, 48% of the respondents said that they were planning on visiting another recreational area in the West Virginia corridor on that trip.[4] The creation of trails provides new opportunities for small towns, with increased demand for lodging and restaurants.  Trails, whether advertised or not, bring out of town visitors.  Trail visitors have money and are willing spend it on recreational activities.

Trail development increases property value and makes the community more appealing.  According to the US National Parks Service, the value of property that is located adjacent to trails and greenway increases from 5% to 32%.[5] In a survey conducted by the University of Nebraska, 65% of respondents thought that their home would be easier to market and sell because it was near a trail and 42% said that their home was easier to sell because of its location near a trail.  When polling homeowners who purchased their home after the trail was constructed, 63.8% said that the trail positively influenced their purchase decision.[6] When asked to rate the importance of community amenities that would seriously influence your decision to move to an area, keeping in mind that the amenities may increase your costs, 44% of respondents said that highway access would influence their decision.  36% said that walking/jogging/biking trails would sway them, followed by 28% ranking sidewalks on both sides of the street.  26% of respondents wanted parks, 21% wanted playgrounds, 19% wanted shops within walking distance, and only 8% said that amenities such as golf courses, tennis courts, club houses, and baseball/softball fields would influence their decision on moving to the area.[7] Studies show that 70% of landowners believe that an adjacent trail is a “good neighbor” and there are positive effects including being more in tune with nature (64%), recreational opportunities (53%), and health benefits (24%).[8]

The development of trails and spread of adventure tourism will have beneficial effects on the health of the population.  Many adventure tourism activities are physically challenging, such as hiking, biking, rock-climbing, canoeing, and kayaking.  Studies have shown that participating in activities such as these several times a week can improve a person’s health and lower health care costs.  The US National Park Service conducted a study on this topic and compared people who lead sedentary lives with those who exercised regularly.  “The exercisers filed 14% fewer healthcare claims, spent 30 fewer days in the hospital, and had 41% fewer claims greater than $5,000.”  For instance, in the United States, each year 1.5 million fractures are associated with osteoporosis.  Participation in activities such as hiking results in increased bone mass which slows the osteoporosis deteriorating process, leading to fewer fractures and lower medical costs.  “The anticipated national benefits of increased participation in physical fitness include reductions in both the direct and indirect costs of illness and disease, improvement in lifestyle and a reduction in genriatric costs.”[9]

[1] Sjoquist, Gary, “The Economic and Social Benefits of Trails,” February 2003

[2] “Economic Benefits of Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation in Arizona:  Statewide Motorized and Non-motorized Trails Plan” November 2004, Arizona State Parks.

[3] “The Economic Benefit of Trails,”  American Hiking Society, Silver Spring, MD.

[4] “Maximizing Economic Benefits from a Rails-to-Trails Project in Southern West Virginia:  A Case Study of the Greenbriar River Trail.”  October 2000.

[5] Sjoquist, Gary, “The Economic and Social Benefits of Trails,” February 2003

[6] “Omaha Recreational Trails – The Effects on Property Values and Public Safety,”  report conducted by the University of Nebraska, June 2000.

[7] “Economic Impact of Trails,”  2002 Consumer Survey by the National Association of Realtors and National Association of Homebuilders.

[8] Sjoquist, Gary, “The Economic and Social Benefits of Trails,” February 2003

59           “The Economic Benefit of Trails,”  American Hiking Society, Silver Spring, MD.

60           “Kentucky Energy Consumption Information,”

61           “Shrinking the Carbon Footprint of  Metropolitan America May 29, 2008, The Brookings Institution.

[12] “Kentucky Adventure Terrain:  Eastern Kentucky Comprehensive Adventure Tourism Plan,” Pros Consulting, LLC.

[13] Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet Accomplishments,, December 14, 2008.

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