Experts say that even if the United States economy sags, outdoor recreation will continue to grow in years to come.
Why? Mature Americans are redefining "old age" and retirement with vigorous attitudes and a desire to participate in challenging activities.
They are in good physical condition, know more about world events, and have more money to spend on travel. And younger Americans, particularly women, are physically fit and supportive of adventure travel that protects the environment.
According to a 1994 report by the Travel Industry Association of America:
* Some 73.5 million adult travelers participated in adventure vacations at some time in their lives.
* Camping tops the list of adventure vacations, with 85 percent of adults aged 18 to 65 having participated. Hiking follows at 74 percent, and skiing is third at 51 percent.
* Among 18-to-24-year-olds, hiking, skiing, and sailing are the top choices for adventure. Tied for fourth choice is biking and rock climbing, followed by kayaking or whitewater rafting.
* The average amount spent on adventure trips was $871.
* Senior citizens spent an average of $1,461.
While adventure travel is growing, most travelers today still are seeking sun and relaxation.
Costa Rica, for instance, reports that in 1994 about 73 percent of the tourists visiting the country were traveling there for pleasure, with an eye on "sun and sand" first. Third choice was "tropical adventure," at 37 percent.
A 1992 US Travel Data Center survey indicated that 8 million American travelers had taken at least one recent "ecotourism" trip, and 35 million claimed they would take one within the next three years.