Adventure travel is a booming niche that many agencies would be wise to take on. Given the trends for retirees to live longer and healthier lives and for millennials to search for unique experiences, this segment of the travel market is just getting started.
Specialists in adventure travel are seeing massive growth as clients are seeking out alternatives to the traditional beach resort vacation.
“Every year we have more clients and more travelers who are willing to stay away from resorts and who want to be active and enjoy the outdoors,” said Emmanuel Burgio, president of Blue Parallel, a luxury boutique travel agency in Potomac, Maryland, founded in 2003.
This important trend is fueled by travelers of all ages who are pursuing unique and unmanufactured experiences, according to Christina Beckmann, senior director of strategy and impact for the for-profit Adventure Travel Trade Association.
Eighty-six percent of respondents to the 2018 Adventure Travel Trade Association survey logged year-over-year growth in adventure travel sales in the last three years. More than half of their adventure travel customers were ages 41 to 60. The survey, which was emailed November 26, was sent to more than 1,000 adventure tour operators in the association’s database. Respondents received a $50 credit for completing it.
Over the past three years, 47 percent of adventure trips booked by travel agents ranged from $1,000 to $3,000 per person, excluding airfare, according to the study. Twelve percent of those trips were booked for $4,000 to $5,000 per person and another 13 percent were for more than $5,000 per person.
The study also noted that some of the hottest destinations in the past two years for adventure travel include Eastern Europe, Southern Africa, Scandinavia, and Southeast Asia.
Redefining Adventure Travel
Adventure travel, once thought of as a risky pursuit such as rock climbing, has transformed in recent years to be defined as travel that combines nature, culture and activities, Beckmann said.
Most travelers seeking out these types of trips are looking for an “expanded worldview,” “learning,” and “time in nature,” she added.
Story Kirshman, director of digital marketing for GeoEx, a San Francisco-based pioneer adventure travel company launched in 1982, also sees a shift.
“I think that adventure travel is kind of evolving. People are looking for more ways to disconnect and be offline,” Kirshman said. “We are seeing a younger generation coming to us wanting to find some geographically different places to expand some of the boundaries around us instead of just going to a beach resort.”
The boom is also due to demographic changes, including an increase in the number of travelers living longer and healthier lives, according to the adventure travel experts we spoke with.
“People are healthier now. The way they eat is healthier,” Burgio said. “They want to be active. We definitely see a trend of people who are retired and still active embracing the healthy lifestyle and having an interest in our product.”
Older travelers are among those especially interested in adventurous, off-the-beaten track destinations, Kirshman said.
“Going into Ethiopia and interacting with cultures — as an older traveler, that is still really appealing,” she said. “They are very active, they are very interested and curious of the world. We are definitely seeing our older travelers choosing these really edgy destinations.”
Young travelers are also a factor in the popularity of adventure travel, Beckman noted. She said that Millennials surveyed in the U.S., UK and China rank traveling as more or as important as purchasing a home or paying off debt.
Two other big trends in adventure travel are women traveling solo and multi-generational family adventure trips, Kirshman said.
“We have seen such an emergence of it that we developed an all-women trip to Egypt,” she said. “We wanted to fill that emerging segment for us.”
Photo credit: Tour operators and travel advisors are seeing clients looking for adventure vacations rather than staying at resorts and run-of-the mill activities. Bloomberg