MEDUSA: Adventure Tourism as a Solution to Boost Tourism Sector in Catalonia
This article forms part of a series of publications under MEDUSA project to promote less-known natural and cultural touristic assets in our partner territories Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Puglia (Italy) and Catalonia (Spain). Enjoy reading and hope to welcome you soon to one of the wonderful places you will get to know here.
Anna Parcerisa Santandreu, tourism expert and CEO and founder of Biterna Tourism&Culture, analyzes the potentialities and limits of adventure tourism in Catalonia. In this sense, Catalan territory presents an ideal playground to set adventure tourism activities: the real challenge will be to introduce them to the international business.
What is the role of adventure tourism in the current tourist offer of Catalonia?
We should first define the concept of ‘adventure tourism’, as it can be interpreted in different ways. In MEDUSA project frame, it follows the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) definition. In concrete, the ATTA, which is the world’s leading community in terms of adventure tourism, defines it as "that tourist activity that includes 2 of the following 3 elements: physical activity, cultural exchange and contact with nature". Now, the offer of adventure tourism in Catalonia is wide and varied. There is an important network of specialized companies and first-class infrastructures, which represent a high potential for the destination. Then, it is in line with the current Tourism Marketing Plan of Catalonia, especially in terms of sustainability and development of the 4Ds features (products that manage to deseasonalize, diversify, deconcentrate and increase the average visitor expenditure). Anyway, there is still a long way to go. In fact, Catalonia is currently starting from a weak position as an adventure tourism destination, especially at an international level.
What are the strengths of Catalonia as an adventure tourism destination?
Catalonia has an ideal playground for adventure tourism: among them, we can mention impressive natural resources or an incredible variety of landscapes, from the Mediterranean Sea to Pyrenean peaks of 3,000 meters. It also has an internationally recognized infrastructure for adventure activities, which are distributed throughout the territory and for all audiences. In any case, the main strength consists of a large network of small or medium enterprises, offering quality services and presenting a high capacity to adapt to change. In terms of strategy and promotion, the Catalan Tourism Agency has a specific plan for this tourism sector in the region. For example, it takes part in international projects and collaborates with organizations of reference, such as ATTA. In this sense, the objective is to reinforce the position and notoriety of Catalonia as an adventure tourism destination, mainly from an international perspective.
How has Covid-19 affected, or can it affect adventure tourism?
Adventure tourism satisfies many of the needs and new customs of visitors, a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, it is mostly developed in a natural environment and in the open air, which is one of the main consumer requests since the summer. Then, the activities can be individuals or in small groups, and they take place in non-crowded spaces, which increases the feeling of security for visitors. It remains to evaluate how the general situation will evolve to adapt supply to the needs of the new demand.
What are the challenges of adventure tourism in Catalonia?
As mentioned, the sector needs to improve to become more competitive. For example, one of the fields to develop concerns its regulations. Generally, there is a lack of regulations to manage activities in the natural environment. Then, another question is the absence of a supply categorization system. To resume, there is no system like hotels and stars or rural accommodation and ears, applied to adventure tourism companies. On the other hand, the small dimension of most of the companies can also make them more vulnerable in situations like the ones we are experiencing today. It may also be necessary to have a larger volume of specialized accommodation agencies. Finally, the main challenge is to recognize Catalonia as an adventure tourism destination, not only nationally but also among international markets.
How do you see the future of this type of offer in Catalonia?
We are in uncertain times, with new situations and problems. However, the improvement of adventure tourism may be able to solve the current challenges, with new solutions that give a further boost to the sector.