As the local travel movement gathers pace, and debates rage, we thought it was time to wade-in with the adventure sports perspective and suggest a few other good reasons why participants have plenty to gain from following a ‘go local’ approach.Whatever your interests and motives for travelling, the benefits of local travel are well documented and often screamingly obvious – get to know the real people and places you are visiting, and ensure your trip provides maximum benefit to them too. In the realm of adventure sports, these two tenets of local knowledge and local involvement in adventure tourism become even more imperative.Let us deal first with the importance of local knowledge. Who would set off from home to climb a Himalayan peak without first consulting the local mountaineering community? Surf a new break without talking to the local surfers? Head out on a ski tour without getting the local perspective on current conditions and routing? A guide book can get you so far, but it is only by talking to the local sports community that you can ever discover the best spots, the best times to go, and avoid the local, often unpredictable, dangers. Best still, employing well respected local guides and hosts can turn a great trip into an unforgettable one – allowing you to maximise your available time, while no doubt helping you avoid a few nightmare moments in unchartered territory! This is well known and fairly self evident to all who regularly practise adventure sports, and brings us neatly onto more complex issues surrounding local involvement.’Localism’ – locals becoming aggressive and threatening towards new visitors at their local spot is a problem many have come across (perhaps most widely among surfing communities, though certainly not limited to there). In some cases, this is understandable. As adventure sports uptake continues to grow, and mass adventure tourism herds people into a growing number of ‘must-do’ spots, the locals can often feel crowded out and alienated in their own back yard. This is where ‘going local’ and travelling with well-respected local guides and hosts can get you access and insights into places and people that you simply would not be able to otherwise. It also gives ‘ownership’ back to the locals as proud hosts and stewards of their area, more likely to welcome respectful visitors to share and experience their natural playground. Perhaps less widely appreciated is the importance to conservation of local ‘ownership’ of their adventure travel industry. Adventure sports travel naturally involves interacting with some of the most pristine eco systems on earth, from marine reserves to mountain parks. All other environmental arguments aside, protecting these areas is vital to our continued enjoyment of them – something that no true adventure aficionado can deny. By developing an adventure travel industry with the local population as the main stakeholder and economic beneficiary, you suddenly have the perfect incentive for the local communities to become engaged in the protection and preservation of the natural conditions at these spots.
Experience, access and sustainability. Three very good reasons why the adventure world as a whole – traveller, host and intermediary – should all being looking to go local at every opportunity. I’m sure there are plenty more beyond this quick summary, so looking forward to hearing other peoples thoughts on this.