Ever since there was tourism, visitors have been drawn to nature. Early resorts in America were established for visitors to get out of the smoke and smog of the city and into the fresh air of the countryside. Many “took the waters” at elaborate Victorian establishments to improve their health. As more people were able to travel, tourism to natural areas became an even larger component of the industry and Covid pushed the envelope even more as families confined to their homes just needed to get out of the house.
Nature-based tourism simply describes a type of tourism where nature is the attraction. Since it can be both observational and active, it includes activities as varied as strolling in botanical gardens, bird watching, visits to national parks, hiking, and other moderately active pursuits in the outdoors. Wildlife watching, a major category of nature-based tourism includes observation of animals in their natural habitats. Nature-based tourism has been increasing between 10-30% a year, while overall tourism has grown at a rate of 4 percent annually. In relationship to heritage and cultural visitors, this is not the most lucrative visitor market to attract, but it can generate major visitor volume.
Outdoor recreation, on the other hand, is not a subset of nature-based tourism, it encompasses a completely different set of activities that includes physical activity or exercise in the outdoors. Any community seeking to either get into promoting outdoor recreation resources or expanding that promotion must understand that outdoor recreation is extremely competitive. A myriad of places in the United States have astounding outdoor recreation environments. What is being promoted must be special in order to get on the radar screens of visitors.