Washington, Sep 17 (ANI): In search of an experience beyond mere thrills, more and more people are registering to get a closer look at tornadoes in the Tornado Alley in the US.
Sonja Wilhelm Stanis and Carla Barbieri of the University of Missouri found that most of these travellers, labelled 'Tornado Tourists,' aren't just looking for risk; rather, they are seeking a unique and unconventional opportunity to enjoy nature's power and beauty.
"With the help of movies like Twister, storm-chasing has become an international phenomenon.
"While more than half of the surveyed travellers lived in North America, 11 percent came from Australia and nearly a third travelled from Europe to get a close encounter with a tornado," said Barbieri.
Handling three to 10 tours per season, experienced meteorologists and trained storm chasers are serving as tour guides using sophisticated equipment to track the severe weather on the road.
Typically costing between 3,000 dollar and 5,000 dollar, not including food and hotels, the tours last one to two weeks as tour guides drive among tornado watch areas in a van.
The study found that most of the amateur storm chasers were happy with their experiences.
One-third of the tourists experienced a tornado, while 50 percent spotted funnel clouds and more than 95 percent reported seeing a significant atmospheric event.
Most respondents were so satisfied, they said they would take another tour and recommended tornado chasing to their friends.
"Although tornado tourism is a small niche market, the market continues to grow with help from television shows and movies.
"Storm-chasing tours continue to develop as a part of the Midwest's tourism scene, with tours filling up as much as a year in advance," said Stanis.
"Tornado tourists were found to be primarily middle-aged, single, highly educated and wealthy. With this information, storm-chasing tour guides will be better able to cater to their market," said Babieri.
The findings were presented at the 2010 Northeaster Recreation Research Symposium in New York. (ANI)