Can Design Increase Rural Outdoor Recreation Participation and Travel?
Through extensive user interviews, we have found that Hoosiers are unaware of local outdoor recreation opportunities (e.g., forest reserves, state parks, national parks), especially within a four-hour-driving radius of the Uplands. Simply stated, many people do not consider the Midwest, particularly the Uplands, as a world-class ecotourism destination. Because of the lack of knowledge about local outdoor recreation, ecotourism in the Uplands is relatively low compared to states such as California (140% lower) or Colorado (58% lower). Research has consistently demonstrated that lack of access to outdoor facilities has negative consequences for physical and mental health. Additionally, ecotourism can have positive benefits on local economies.
The area of adventure travel is technologically far behind as compared to mass travel (e.g., cruises, resorts) in communicating the options available and providing a well-designed, positive user experience. One potential reason for this lag is that mass tourism has connected their business model to commissions from reservations. This has dramatically boosted mass travel while simultaneously increasing barriers for adventure travel, primarily through accessibility of information. We argue that without an easy-to-access resource of outdoor opportunities, our goal of increasing tourism in the Uplands by 10% by 2021 will prove difficult. Therefore, we propose our solution through the Adventure Field Guides (AFG) platform. AFG will provide a listing of all the outdoor venues (i.e., parks, lakes, and trails) that are available for outdoor recreation in the Uplands. Additionally, AFG will serve as a data collection tool to assess the relation between design and use of outdoor recreation.