Today, it’s called “Tangible Tourism,” and it is defined as a destination vacation experience that is “authentic and immersive.”
More simply, it’s a memorable vacation where you do exciting stuff and have lots of fun. What makes a vacation “authentic?” That’s when the core attraction is an outdoor environment such as a river, lake, forest, desert, beach or a mountain ... or in other words, natural environments that have been around for a long time, and humans have not overcommercialized it.
But to be safely enjoyed by the average family, it’s OK that authentic attractions might be appropriately enhanced with basic creature comforts such as parking, signs, food and beverage offerings, restrooms, programming and site management. At least it’s not a mega-theme park, and it still scores as “authentic.”
Many of Durango’s visitors come here to experience a plethora of authentic outdoor activities of sightseeing, river rafting, skiing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, climbing, photography, camping, off-roading, ziplining, fishing, boating, hunting and more.
These activities, whether enjoyed in organized groups, families or done on one’s own, put people in natural outdoor environments generally unavailable to them in their home areas and everyday lives.
Interestingly, all the above authentic activities can be replicated in theme parks, shopping malls, movie theaters or video games. However, a real vacation becomes tangible when you can smell the forest, witness the wildlife, feel the river mist and breathe the mountain air. Gratefully, there are no commercialized substitutes for real outdoor adventures.
What about the term “immersive?” I’d define that as “get in there and participate or you’ll miss out on all the fun.” Again, average tourists who immerse themselves in authentic outdoor experiences generally prefer they be safe, organized and certainly family-affordable. That’s a good thing. So when a vacation location is authentic and the participants are actively engaged, the experience cannot be duplicated in theme parks and video games.
The growing interest in tangible vacations is because we have visited the mega-theme parks, climbed the wall at the recreation center, rode the little train around the city zoo, and become tired of video entertainment. Parents and grandparents in particular have nostalgic recollections of family camping trips, catching fish and visiting national parks. Hooray for a return of the American-style family vacation.
This being the 100th anniversary of our national parks, the authentic and immersive experience is getting a lot of extra attention.
We at the tourism office expect public interest in re-discovering our national parks to continue for the next several years.
Our area is well-positioned, having a plentiful inventory of authentic outdoor adventures.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Bob Kunkel is executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.