When the Pacific Northwest rain begins to fall and the winter months slyly creep into our daily lives, the whitewater rafting industry does not hibernate. Granted, it does get some much needed rest. The industry simply shifts into evaluating, planning, and brainstorming for another season.
This period of reflection begins in early December with the annual American Outfitters Association industry tradeshow in Reno, Nevada.
River rafting outfitters, kayak schools, and manufacturers of rafting and kayaking equipment benefit from this natural break in the cycle of business. The time enables the industry to evaluate and improve upon our services.
For our guests, this means the whitewater experience is likely to get better every year.
The American Outfitters Association, AO, makes this process easier for the entire whitewater rafting industry, helping to spread successful ideas and ultimately get more people out on their rivers.
As an international trade association, AO’s members – international adventure travel outfitters, tour companies, outdoor educators, and their suppliers – benefit from a vast and experienced pool of knowledge. This winter, Wet Planet dispatched three representatives to glean insight, inspiration and motivation.
Nicole Lynch, Wet Planet’s Sustainability Coordinator and River Guide, sights one evening’s keynote speaker as a turning point for her focus within the whitewater rafting industry. Michael Berry, President of the National Ski Areas Association, is more qualified than just about anyone to talk about our big brother ski industry. His speech centered around the actual experience of river rafting, noting that a true connection to an outdoor activity comes from the magic of being in a spectacularly beautiful place, feeling comfortable and safe, and connecting the action and excitement with pure joy.
Basically, it is the actual experience that transforms a day trip into a life-long whitewater passion.
Berry reminded the crowd of river enthusiasts that the ski industry had it’s best year ever in 2010-2011, indicating a stable recreation economy. Additionally, he reminded each company – many of which appear to be competitors at first glance – that working together as an entire network of whitewater enthusiasts will benefit everyone in the long run. Instilling that magical experience in a guest may cause an entire lifestyle shift. This individual could then become a customer of any number of outfitters or retailers in the industry. It all starts with the experience and getting people out on the water.
Wet Planet also had the chance to compare and order brand new rafts, helmets and other equipment to maintain the high standards that make the Wet Planet “experience” so enjoyable. Not to mention new helmets look better in photos.
As winter moves on, Wet Planet has already begun to implement new ideas garnered from the AO conference. From our most popular trips, like the White Salmon or Wind River rafting trips, to our unique offerings, like multi-day kayak courses just outside of Portland, start looking forward to improvements on all fronts next season!
Author Susan Hollingsworth writes for Wet Planet Whitewater, Canoe & Kayak Magazine, American Whitewater, and any other river-related publication she can find.