I recently read that five million golfers have left their sport in the last ten years, and it piqued my curiosity. Some of this attrition is driven by economic factors and growing time constraints. It’s not so easy these days to carve out time from family and work for a leisurely eighteen holes. There may also be some underlying demographic and lifestyle shifts driving recreational traffic away from the links and into alternative outdoor pursuits. What used to be the backbone activities and infrastructure associated with luxury resorts- tennis, golf, spa and beach time- find themselves competing with more adventurous and off-the beaten-path experiences like hiking, kayaking, bicycling and wildlife viewing.

This is not your father’s luxury resort

The Outdoor Foundation’s 2011 Participation Report supports a shift in recreational trends for today’s Baby Boomer and Gen X experiential travelers, who want to be challenged and entertained in new ways-

America’s Favorite Adult Outdoor Activities (By Frequency of Participation, Ages 25+)

1. Running, Jogging and Trail Running- 86.1 average outings per runner, 2.6 billion total outings

2. Bicycling (Road, Mountain and BMX)- 50.5 average outings per cyclist, 1.2 billion total outings

3. Birdwatching- 42.0 average outings per birdwatcher, 464 million total outings

4. Wildlife Viewing- 27.2 average outings per wildlife viewer, 453 million total outings

5. Fishing (Fresh, Salt and Fly)- 22.4 average outings per angler, 692 million total outings

Cycling, like golf, is a lifestyle choice

I’m not suggesting those classic beach, ski and golf resorts have lost any of their majesty or passionate following, but the range of opportunities which guests demand are becoming far more adventurous, inventive and learning driven. These changing expectations are good news for hotel owners and operators, as the investment required to provide outdoor recreation is far less than conventional anchor amenities. And their upkeep is practically cost free.

One key here is to look beyond the conventional concierge strategy for delivering activities, such as foraging though local brochure racks and websites for reputable service providers. Discerning clients are seeking exclusivity, flexibility, door-to-door service and exceptional interpretation. Building a signature collection of tours will require a commitment to expert guides, in-house staff training and some outlay in specialized equipment, but the resulting experiences can define a resort’s connection to active engagement with its environment. So when a guest inquires about the range of private activities available on site and in your area, you can confidently direct them to a lifestyle choice of which they are likely very familiar.