Trends in demand for outdoor recreation

Observers of recreation management over recent decades will have noticed two things: first, that demand for outdoor recreation has grown continuously, and shows no sign of stopping; and second, that the types of recreation that people are using have changed in several ways.

This could mean that existing destinations may be having difficulty in coping with increased numbers of visitors, and that the facilities and opportunities provided may not be meeting people’s desires and expectations. A car park built to accommodate 30 cars may have to be doubled or trebled in size if people are not to be turned away; the advent of a newer activity such as all-terrain biking may mean that conflicts with existing users arise, and special trails may have to be created to segregate uses and reduce wear and tear on the ground.

There are several key factors shaping the changing trends in recreation demand in

developed countries that can be identified and their influences analysed.

Demography

The population structure of most developed countries is changing. The proportion of children and younger people is declining while that of older, retired people is expanding. This trend is likely to increase during the lifetimes of everyone living today. Older people have more free time, which may extend up to 20 or even 30 years beyond working age, given greater life expectancy.

Of course, not all elderly people are affluent, fit or live in places where access to the outdoors is easy. They may not have cars. However, a great many take up at least some of the opportunities presented to them. Many are active walkers (with or without a dog), and may visit the same area up to twice a day. Many participate in nature-watching activities, enjoying driving into the countryside at any time of the week or season, and this helps to keep them active and feeling fulfilled. Senior citizens in great numbers go on coach trips to visit scenic attractions, and enjoy the chance to see wild and natural places, albeit briefly.

Older people also have particular requirements. They may need easier, smoother paths, shorter routes, more seats, more access to toilets and fewer steps or stiles. They may appreciate a chance to drive to a viewpoint rather than having to walk to it. They may prefer places where wardens or rangers are nearby to help them if they are worried about getting lost.