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Adventure Travel Numbers on the Rise


The phrase "adventure travel" might be a new term for some people, but its popularity is on the increase worldwide. With the increase comes concerns about travel safety. VOA's Carolyn Presutti takes a look at the dangers and what you can do to protect yourself for your next vacation.

"Aron loved adventure. He was open to people, ideas and open to places," says Aron's mother Rochelle Sobel. Aron died when his tour bus emerged from a tunnel, swerved into oncoming traffic and carreened down an embankment.

His Turkish adventure vacation ended in tragedy. The bus driver and 21 other tourists also died. Aron Sobel was two weeks away from graduating from medical school.

Last month, a cruise ship in Anarctica struck an iceberg.

"We were moving through an ice field actually when it happened," said one survivor.

Eli Charne and other survivors spent four hours in lifeboats, waiting for rescue. Another adventure vacation gone wrong.

"I thought I was going to lose my toes," said Charne. "I was freezing out there. I did not have a hat. I did not have gloves, and I was freezing and seasick on the lifeboat."

A Norwegian ship picked up the 154 people. Earlier this year, the same Norwegian ship rescued passengers aboard another cruise ship in Antarctica. Tourists to the frozen continent have more than doubled since the beginning of this decade.

More and more travelers look to remote, adventure spots for vacations, typically in other countries, in other continents.

United Nations World Tourism Association figures show international tourism rose 6 percent over last year. The main areas of growth are in Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa.

The U.S. Department of Commerce says American travel abroad is up 5 percent over last year.

One travel agency touts China as a destination: "China is becoming a very, very attractive destination. Especially with the Olympics. Yes, the Olympics this summer."

Some say the travel industry is reluctant to notify customers of global dangers to avoid scaring them away from vacations.

"If you are cautious and intimated by all this, you are not going to travel," says Bill Goldstein, who oversees five travel agencies in the Washington area. "But I think you need to do your homework and be cautious."

The World Health Organization says road crashes account for 1.2 million deaths a year, whether people are traveling abroad or at home. The WHO predicts that by the year 2020, crash deaths will surpass the annual numbers of AIDS deaths, unless something is done.

After her son's death, Sobel started The Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) to fight for universal regulations, much like those covering planes and ships. "A road no longer belongs to an individual or an individual country," says Sobel. "Roads are global. You are on my roads, I am on your roads, so what we really need is a global concept of road safety."

Her plea is being heard. The United Nations passed a resolution setting up the first Global Road Safety week. The U.S. Congress followed with resolutions supporting a world day of remembrance for victims and families.

Sobel questions, "You would provide this to a school? Yes, to a school along with road travel reports."

Sobel's organization publishes handbooks for students studying abroad. It also offers free road reports to travelers, detailing risks and road conditions for 150 different countries. ASIRT also has these pocket-sized safety guides in five languages. They tell passengers how to say "Does this taxi have a seatbelt" or "Please stop, I have to get out now." ASIRT believes an aware traveler is a safer one.

It is a global effort in the name of the son who embraced life....and adventure.