Ah, adventure tourism.
White knuckle thrills, adrenaline-fuelled moments, extreme sports - all are elements of a trip that will give you memories that last a lifetime. Why sit on a beach when you can paraglide over it? Why have a relaxing spa facial when you can abseil down a waterfall?
In a strange change from the norm, travellers are beginning to use adventure holidays as a method of relaxation, as a way to get away from it all. After all, a dreary 9to5 becomes so much more bearable when your holidays involve dangling off a cliff or jumping out of planes.
Each week we've been taking a closer look at a different travel industry sector. By now you might have guessed the theme for this week: Adventure travel.
Adventure travel is one of those broad sectors, comparable in size with responsible tourism. Unlike responsible travel though, there is an element of subjectivity to what constitutes an adventure.
Some people might find a night of international cheese tasting a little adventurous, for example. But for the sake of this blog post, we'll assume that this sector revolves around experiences that get your heart racing. So anything from water sports holidays to mountain climbing, base jumping.
To get you in the mood, here's some incredible footage of a pretty spectacular destination for adventure travel, Norway.
For many of the world´s billions of tourists, adventure travel has become a focal point of the tourism experience. Even for those that don't holiday exclusively to enjoy those short bursts of adrenaline, many trips will involve moments of adventure and excitement.
In an increasingly globalised world, travellers want to enjoy something authentic, something memorable. So it's easy to see why adventure tourism is a sector of high growth and high demand. What many want is a holiday with a point; sitting mindlessly on the beach, though great for the tan, is not enough to stimulate many travellers.
The result is a huge amount of potential opportunities and activities, adding value to the experience of tourists who can learn and interact with locals and nature while having a great time.
There are also upsides for companies and destinations. For starters, many forms of adventure travel aren't seasonal. The summer sun isn't relied upon so heavily, so operators can appeal to visitors outside of peak season. Adventure travel also tends to highlight the best assets of any destination, both natural and cultural. This relationship between travellers and their environment is key to promoting responsible, sustainable tourism.
There's also a physiological argument at play here. Adrenaline is widely considered to be a drug like any other. This means that adventure tourism could literally be seen as an addiction. In other words, adventure travellers are a committed bunch. They are also resilient and willing to try new things.
Adventure tourism attracts high-value customers
There's no doubt that adventure tourists are willing to pay top dollar for the finest, most exciting experiences. According to a report by Skift, adventure operators have reported an average of ,000 spent person, with an average trip length of eight days. Boom! Jumping out of planes ain't cheap you know.
With that little statistical nugget in mind, let's take a closer look at the numbers in this sector. Last year (2015) the adventure travel sector alone grew by around 23%, according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA). ATTA's research suggests that adventure tourism is worth around 3 billion a year worldwide, and is yet to be fully tapped by agents.
The growth pattern in adventure travel is extremely high. It’s because people want more from their vacation, they want something transformative, they want it to be memorable.” - Shannon Stowell, president of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA)
Adventure travel is fairly unique, in that the characteristics that drive people toward it also tend to drive them away from traditional agencies.
Think about it for a second. If you're into adventure travel, you're probably pretty open to new things, confident and ready for a challenge. These qualities go hand in hand with seeking adventure independently and, according to ATTA vice president of marketing and communications Casey Hanisko, thinking they “can just do it all themselves”.
According to research, adventurous folk will spend an average of 40 hours researching a trip, with 69% of adventure travellers research and plan their journeys online. This is where the gap is. This is where agencies can come in. If you can prove a respectable source of information and a one-stop-shop for bookings and local, specialist knowledge, your agency will quickly be on to a winner.
It's also true that many adventurous activities require specialist and expensive equipment. Shouting loud that you can offer these for competitive prices is a great way to attract tourists who might eventually want to book activities with you as well.
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