What does 2009 hold for whitewater rafting and the adventure travel industry? It depends on what the adventure is. 2008 provided a roller-coaster ride for the entire nation as we saw outrageous gas prices, the real estate market crash and finally the entire collapse of the financial industry and economy in general.
The direct affect of the economy has not fully hit the rafting industry as of yet. 2009 will be a historic year, and nobody can predict what will happen this season. Since most of the economic collapse happened towards the end of the rafting season last year, most outfitters fared "OK". Everyone took hits with the gas crises, but avoided the major collapse of the market.
Although studies have shown that "vacations" are often one of the last items people cut in their personal budgets, it is beginning to be evident that vacations are not immune to the market downturn.
Advanced bookings are slightly down across the board, and cancellations are statistically higher than usual, as those who booked far in advance are realizing the "extra" vacation cash needs to pay off bills.
That being said, summer vacations and adventure travel will still be a hot ticket on people's itinerary for 2009. One positive that local outfitters may see is that residents will cut back on traveling to distant locations, and try to find fund and relaxation closer to home. Local marketing and local advertising will be important factors for staying above water (no pun intended).
I predict that whitewater rafting will stay strong for those who realize that you will have to spend money to make money. In an economy where businesses are cutting costs, many have the opportunity to rise above the competition as many scale down marketing efforts.
As far as water levels, rivers and geographic issues, it looks like there is still plenty of snowpack and storms to come that should not be an issue for most parts of the nation.
As usual, we will see how things play out...