Features.

Spotlight on: adventure tourism

On course to become a billion-dollar industry, Click. gives you the lowdown on all things adventure travel related and what it takes to meet guest expectations

by Jill Starley-Grainger, Click. Travel Writer

Topic: Trends

Click. Takeaway

  • Interest in adventure travel has never been higher – especially among women and the over-40s
  • ‘Adventure’ includes all sorts, from short snorkelling trips to multi-day mountain treks
  • Almost every accommodation provider can offer soft adventure, even those in dense urban areas
  • Partner with experts to ensure safety
  • Offer amenities that appeal to adventurers, such as boot warmers, packed lunches and secure cycle parking

Adventure tourism has grown by 21% since 2012, according to the international Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), and interest in it shows no signs of abating. Research by Allied Market Research predicts it will continue to rise by 17.4% from 2016 ($444.9m) to 2023 ($1.3bn).

What is adventure travel?

The ATTA defines it as, “trips that provide experiences (both mental and physical)…emphasise the natural environment, and provide challenge through experiences of culture and activities that promote physical health, and excitement/fun”.

And it’s not all Everest treks. Data from TripAdvisor shows that while four of the 10 fastest-growing travel experiences in 2017 were in the adventure travel category – they would all be considered ‘soft adventure’ – catamaran trips, sailing trips, kayaking/canoeing, and snorkelling.

Who is most interested in it?

You might think adventurers are all 20-something laddish adrenaline junkies, but the reality is quite different. The largest group of adventure travellers are aged 50-70, while the average age overall Is 47. And women make up 53% of adventure travel clients, according to research by ATTA.

“In the last year, 58% of our adventure holiday buyers have been women,” says Paul Joseph, Co-Founder of Health and Fitness Travel.

“They are particularly intrigued by adventure solo holidays. Engaging in such exciting activities on your own offers an opportunity for bonding with a variety of people of different strengths and backgrounds, which adds a lot more to the experience.”

The same is true for Exodus Travels, one of the world’s leading adventure-travel companies. “There’s a growing demand for trips that go beyond spa and yoga retreats with girlfriends. In 2017, 65% of our travellers were female and we have seen a huge increase in women looking for active adventures such as cycling, walking, trekking and responsible wildlife tours,” says Robin Brooks, Marketing & PR Manager for Exodus Travels.

How can accommodation providers capitalise on this?

As shown by the TripAdvisor data, ‘adventure’ doesn’t have to mean roughing it. Most guests will be soft adventurers who just want to add a little excitement to their trip. Whether you have a self-catering villa, a B&B or a luxury hotel, the easiest option is usually to partner with local operators to offer excursion options. And you needn’t be in a remote area to do it either.

Even though it’s located in one of the world’s largest cities, the Palace Hotel Tokyo has created a unique sightseeing programme of expert-led cycling, running and kayaking routes. “This enables guests to see the city from a more adventurous perspective,” says Tiana Kartadinata, Director of Communications.

Photo: Wild Away, Unsplash

‘What can you offer that competitors can’t?’ Photo: Wild Away, Unsplash

If you’re based in a remote area, you’ll likely be competing with other hoteliers who cater to this market. In this case, to attract adventurers to you rather than to competitors, “the key is standing out from the crowd,” says Paul Rogers, Owner of Caer Rhun Hall Country Hotel & Spa in Wales, UK. “What can you offer that competitors can’t?” Caer Rhun Hall, for example, is one of the only luxury spa hotels in Snowdonia National Park.

“Within 30-minutes from the hotel, you can be at the foot of a mountain, harnessed into a mile-long zip-wire, or catching a wave at an inland lagoon,” says Rogers, so the hotel provides services that appeal to this market.

“We have a boot-drying room, a bike lock-up, driver drop-offs at the surfing and zip-wire venues, and we can arrange walking or cycling tours with local guide,” he adds. And if guests are going out for the day, the kitchen offers affordable picnics, too – an easy and much appreciated service that almost any hotelier could provide.

What about the more serious adventurers?

Eira Ski Lodge in the Spanish Pyrenees Mountains is in the midst of some of Europe’s most beautiful scenery. To set itself apart from other accommodation providers, it has brought in mountain guide William D’Arcy – who has organised extreme expedition races and sporting activities – to create its adventure programme.

“People now want to do more than lie on a beach, particularly as they become more affluent,” says D’Arcy. But he points out that most people who think they want extreme adventures don’t have much experience of them, “so it’s crucial to partner with someone who has the right training and expertise”.

For mountaineering, he suggests looking for guides registered with the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association or International Mountain Leaders, but each sport and region will have its own governing bodies, so ensure any operators you’re using are qualified to ensure guest safety.

Anything else to be aware of?

The one thing you must be prepared for, as Rogers points out, “is the weather!” When rain spoils play, be prepared with a raft of exciting back-up ideas, from indoor scavenger hunts to climbing walls and cave explorations. Feed their adventurous spirit in any weather, and the next time they feel the need for a thrill, your accommodation will be top of their list.

If you like this you might also want to read about  travel trends currently shaping customer experience

Jill is a travel, tech and lifestyle journalist, who has written for some of the world’s best-known publications

More by Jill Starley-Grainger