22 July 2008

Outdoor Sports moving Indoors?

Along the same note of my last whitewater rafting park in KY post, I ran across another article recently, supporting the concept that many of the adventure sports will find counterparts in an indoor/manmade arena.

Jeff Coy on Hospitality.net brought in some interesting point regarding the growing trend of man-made adventure sports. Rafting parks, surf pools and hotel water parks are all the examples he brought to the table. I agree with the emerging trend, and to a degree I personally would like to try the surf pools and surfing wave walls.

However, Coy also says that "sporting enthusiasts say it is hard to get away from work at the right time. It is difficult and expensive to travel to the coast when the perfect ocean wave is breaking or reach the backwoods when the whitewater river is cresting..."

I see these indoor arenas and play areas as a complimentary service within the same industry, and not really a competative force with the true outdoor sport. You will never be able to compare a man-made rafting course with a Grand Canyon rafting trip, or the rush of huge whitewater on the Gauley River. And I don't think any of these "enthusiasts" are looking to replace the real experience with these indoor ones.

The trend of shorter vacations is real. So people looking for a real outdoor rafting trip will look for a 2 or 3 day trip, not a 6 or 7 day trip. The same hold true for skiing. An indoor ski slope acts as a great bunny hill. Man-made ski material in Europe allows skiier to practice even during the summer. But don't think for a second that they will fore-go the mountain slope for a dinky indoor arena.

So it becomes more a matter of vacation time, and less about indoor versus outdoor. Outdoor adventure providers should shift some of their inventory to reflect that of the short-vacation trends, but also support the introduction of the indoor arena, as that may be exactly what the outdoor industry needs; a good introduction to the real deal.

KY Whitewater Park In the Works

WKYT 27 reported recently that officials are considering a whitewater park at the Kentucky-Virginia lines in hopes to boost tourism in the state. Right now, Kentucky is basically void of any decent "river rafting" option (as is the case with most of the Midwest), so this may provide an opportunity for not only the Kentucky residents, but neighboring states as well.

I assume that would be the main focus when officials say "tourism", because I doubt visitors would make a special trip to Kentucky just for a whitewater rafting park. Plus, you have the US national whitewater center down in NC, and a few others across the East.

I would venture to say the most business would still be the local market (at least for the near future). When I was talking to one of the Marketing Directors at the USNWC a couple years ago when they first opened, he told us that their visitors and target market were Charlotte and Atlanta, both legitimate population centers nearest the center.

So a tourism boost? Possible, but the more realistic expectation would be to give the locals of KY and VA something to do.