NEW YORK: When Carole Rosenblat was growing up in the 1970s, her parents’ idea of an adventurous vacation was “driving cross-country from Michigan to California in a non-air-conditioned car with three kids.”
Her idea of adventure is a little different: “Jumping out of planes — things like that. Parasailing, hot air ballooning. These things make you know you’re alive!”
And the balloon accident in Egypt that killed 19 people Tuesday is not likely to deter her from future adventures. “It does not give me pause at all,” said Rosenblat, a freelance writer and tour guide based in Gilbert, Ariz.
Rosenblat’s attitude is part of what’s fueling worldwide growth in adventure travel. It’s an $89 billion industry, according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, and it has grown 17 percent in each of the past two years, according to the group’s president, Shannon Stowell. That’s four times the rate of the overall tourism industry, which grew about 4.6 percent in 2011.
But while travelers may think nothing of bungee-jumping or whitewater rafting as the perfect way to bring home bragging rights, these types of activities are not risk-free. Indeed, while statistically rare, accidents involving adventure vacations happen on a regular basis. To cite just a few recent headlines: This past weekend, a woman was swept away and drowned in Hawaii on a hiking trip with 55 people. Recreational diving deaths have been reported this month in both California and Florida. A woman parasailing in Florida last summer died when her harness gave way, one of 70 parasailing deaths in the past 30 years. And 54 skiers and snowboarders died in accidents on U.S. ski slopes last season, according to the National Ski Areas Association.
The industries that promote these activities are quick to note that driving is by far the most dangerous thing you’re likely to do at home or on vacation. An estimated 36,200 people died in motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. in 2012.
In contrast, in the past decade, only 15 people have died in ballooning accidents in the U.S.