Outdoor Economy

What Industries thrive in a recession?

Fishing Sunset









Many would think of industries like healthcare, education, business services, and debt settlement.

When the going gets tough, the tough go camping.

I can remember when the stock market crashed in 2008.  It was clear that this was going to be serious and not some easy thing. I went into a reading frenzy to learn all I could about what was going on and how to prepare.  The bookshelves were filled with doomsday predictions calling for another great depression, inflation, unemployment and so forth.  I gave particular attention to the information that was backed by research and followed patterns of earlier recessions.  It became more and more obvious, that the years ahead were going to be extremely tough.

I called my friends in the outdoor industry to warn them about the predictions.

“This is going to be serious” I said “You better be prepared to tighten up.  It is not going bounce back any time soon.”

I had a conversation with one of the senior guides who had been through a number of recessions and worked around the world for many different companies such as biking, hiking, climbing, kayaking, and outdoor gear companies.  He was calm, and said it was typical for the outdoor recreation industry to do well in hard times.

To my surprise, after a brief lull, business picked up and even began to break records of the numbers of visitors even though the news was full of doom and gloom about the economies around the world.

He was right!

People are not willing to give up their vacations.  Travel and tourism continued to thrive.  We saw an increase in domestic travel rather than longer exotic trips. Studies showed that 72 percent of Americans preferred shorter trips

People seemed to look to the outdoors to sooth their souls.

More than 140 million Americans continued to make outdoor recreation a priority despite all the uncertainty according to the 2012 OIA economic report.

Outdoor industry gear sales came back strong and were up over 8 percent and product sales were over $120 billion in 2012.

A record number of travelers visited the US national parks even with the threats of budget cuts and layoffs looming ever closer.

Adventure travel boomed globally growing over 17% in 2009 and 2010. Adventure Travel accounted for about $89 billion in global spending making up about 16% of all departures from North America, South America and Europe.

There is a lot more to this industry.  Even with Europe facing increasing challenges in 2013 and the fiscal challenges in the US, people’s thirst for adventure in the great outdoors shows no signs of slowing down.

What was your experience with the economy since2008?  What challenges are you facing now?


Empowering Women Through Adventure Travel

Woman South America holding birdThis article on the Adventure Travel and Trade Association about empowering women through adventure really embodies how natural resources can bring prosperity and raise the quality of life of the local populations.

ATTA has been instrumental in encouraging the Adventure Tourism industry to adopt sustainable practices and take into consideration the impacts on local populations.  The organization offers various programs and workshops to help companies grow their businesses while spreading good will and being environmentally conscience.

This article goes through three case studies of women in Africa and Latin America who have had to overcome challenges in order to do what they love and earn a living.  They are truly inspirational stories that show what can be done with determination and hard work.


It also provides a window in the lives of the adventure guides and a provides a model for others facing similar challenges.

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How Learning About The Natural Environment Can Boost Tourism

Tour Hydrangeasoperators that have learned to provide quality outdoor education opportunities are creating a win-win-win situation.

They are providing a positive learning environment for their guests and are attracting families.

They are creating family bonding experiences where both adults and children are having fun learning together and spending time being active outdoors.

They are creating more satisfied customers who will help to spread the news about the operation and the influence that it has had on them.

They are increasing their occupancy and creating a competitive advantage over other similar operations.

They are creating more responsible citizens that will have a ripple effect on the long-term outcomes of the area.

They can attract school, church and other student groups who enjoy the who are looking for the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while they learn about the environment.

Creating the right programs that will attract these families takes some research and talented staff.

Successful strategies for developing environmental education program can be learned by others who have spent years developing and refining their programs and are now reaping the benefits.

There are several keys to developing an environmental education program for your guests:

Do Your Research

Get a good understanding of the most successful programs that others in your field have offered to get an idea of what people are looking for and responding to.

Take inventory of your environment and assets

Think about what you can realisticly offer your guests. Sometimes it is just about adding an education component to what you already have.

Analyze from your client’s perspective

Consider the logistics of how your guests will participate taking into account transportation, space and sitting room.

Think about what you will need to purchase in order to run the program.

It may be a good idea to consider building a dedicated interpretive center and central place for promoting and booking.

Hire the right people

Your staff will be critical to the success of your program. Make sure you do a thorough vetting process to make sure your staff  has both the knowledge and personal skills to educate and entertain while being patient and professional. Personal skills and professionalism are most important.

Knowledge can be gained through training. The right staff will increase their knowledge for themselves overtime.

Leave a comment with your questions if you are interested in providing environmental education opportunities for your guests.

If you already run or are involved in successful environmental education, please add your expertise so as to help others who are creating their own.

If you are interested in providing environmental education programs for your guests. Please leave a comment or contact me.


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Hidden Treasure in Nature: Overlooked Renewable Resource

I was thinking back to the many gifts that the natural areas around where I grew up had given me. Wonderful memories hiking with my father and family in the Angeles Crest Forest, playing in the rivers and canyons
behind the city where I lived, camping and body surfing at the beach, and just playing in the empty lot behind my house.

Looking back, it was hard realize the value of those things.

I lived near the foothills of the concrete jungle of Los Angeles.

The hills gave me education.  I learned more about leadership, perseverance,
friendship, natural processes, physical education, and other subjects than I ever did at school. My brothers and sisters grew up basically healthy and strong.

We never wanted to go back inside.

As I look around today, now that we see so many youth growing up indoors,
plugged in, and away from the natural world, I wonder what the price
will be?

I worked at a summercamp up in the Seqouia National Forest for a couple years and developed a love for teaching outdoor skills.  I was sold on being an educator when I worked with young people who struggled with coordination. We would work together for hours until suddenly a light would go on and they were able to do something they thought was completely out of the reach

of their abilities such as sail across the lake by themselves or do a canoe stroke correctly.  This was a thrill for me and a confidence builder for them.

The stories in the forest are a hidden revenue generator!

Taking what I learned from the natural curiosity for nature and history and
sharing it with others has provided my family and I with a nice home, education and a healthy lifestyle.

This all came from the overlooked renewable treasures hidden within the
natural resources and the people.

There was no need for back hoes, chain saws, or giant drilling machines.

The real treasure was hidden within the stories of the plants, animals, and people.

These stories had much more value than any of the other things that could
potentially be extracted.

These treasures are abundant and available for everyone to use.

The first steps to begin to harvest can also be done by simply developing a genuine curiosity and willingness to study and learn about the world around you.

Then develop the skills to market and present the stories to a hungry
market that will happily consume all the information you produce and
encourage all their curious nature lovers to dine as well.

There are specific techniques for doing this that can be learned.

In the following posts we will discuss the top strategies used by
most experienced interpreters and direct you to where to find out

There are Numerous Opportunities for the Purpose-Driven Entrepreneur

The outdoor economy offers numerous opportunities for purpose driven entrepreneurs. 

The focus of this website is to look at opportunities within the following three areas:
 exploration, education, and scientific innovation.

Exploration: includes  travel and tourism, outdoor recreation, adventure sports, and other outdoor activities.  There are opportunities not only in these activities, but also in supplying the gear and accessories for them.  It also includes exploration of culture and history.

Education: has to do with environmental education and experiential learning opportunities.  We will also explore the growing trends of education travel and outdoor leadership development. Three are also opportunities for existing businesses to add a

Scientific Innovation: has to do with taking what we learn from nature and history and creating products and systems to solve human problems.  This may also include looking into the field now commonly referred to as biomimicry.

 These areas were chosen because I have some background or interest in each of them.  Since each of these topics are too broad to write any focused articles on individually, they will be broken down even further. 

For the next several months, I intend to concentrate on travel and tourism trends and narrow in on the outdoor recreation industry.  The plan is to aggregate information that will give an overview of industry trends and help purposeful entrepreneurs identify niches. Then provide tools and insight to make them more successful.

I have spent a lot of time researching over the last several months and have identified some pretty exciting information that could be very helpful for those that are just starting in the field or looking to expand their existing businesses.

Over the next several months I will be posting information that I hope will be useful.  Please comment on topics that you would like to learn more about. 
The ultimate goal is to collect specific information on topics that are important to the industry.