Adventure holiday trends
By Debbie Ward – October 2019 – 5 minute read
As adventurous travel becomes the norm, agents must broaden their minds and ditch age boundaries and super-sporty preconceptions to get the most from the market.
The desire to be active and get off the beaten track is on the rise. “Explore has been in the adventure space for a long time, but we’re finding that UK travellers are more eager for adventure now than ever before,” says Caroline Phillips, its Programme Manager for walking and trekking.
It’s a similar story from G Adventures, which in the last 12 months alone has seen a 20% rise in bookings for more active and adventurous product.
Brian Young, Managing Director for EMEA, believes the increased level of fitness over the last 10 to 20 years has helped to widen the demographic.
“The outlook of people is very different to a few years ago. They are a lot ‘younger’, they go to the gym and to fitness bootcamps… active is moving from young people to everyone - 50 and 60 are the new 40.”
Over 50s don't want to be compartmentalised, he stresses. “People don’t see themselves in brackets any more. They see themselves as more active, more inquisitive.” They are also, he says, booking multi-generational adventure experiences to create memories with their family – a lucrative sell for agents.
Action has also been naturally filling some of the client demand for variety as the typical duration of a beach holiday has gradually reduced from two weeks to one. “They want one holiday to switch off, then they want a cultural or active tour or an achievement holiday,” says Young.
What is adventure?
Adventure is becoming more mainstream believes Phillips. “People’s perceptions of what ‘adventure’ means in terms of travel are definitely evolving.
"In 2019, adventure doesn’t necessarily mean high octane activities like bungee jumping or rock climbing – things like cycling and walking holidays can be considered adventurous too.”
She points out the ATTA (Adventure Travel Trade Association) has declared hiking to be the most in-demand active holiday type.
Young agrees. “Adventure is a term that is now bandied about by everyone but to many it’s about getting under the skin of a destination and out of their comfort zone.”
He believes it could even cross over into the wellness sector – a boom area for travel that can include activities like stand up paddle-boarding.
Cruising too, once seen as a genteel activity, is embracing the demand for more action. Bike tours feature on G Adventure’s small group river cruises.
Trends on trends
The wider trend of experience-led travel is also feeding into active holidays. Phillips says: “We have found that customers are yearning for experiences as well as adventure. There’s a growing interest in combining the primary activity of the trip - walking or cycling, for example - with other experiences, such as food, sightseeing or photography.
"We’re also finding that, as new audiences enter the adventure market, they’re looking for comfort too. Adventure doesn’t have to mean roughing it!”
Pacing is another issue. Though naturally fitter the under 30s, G Adventures finds, request elements like hiking “threaded through” a small group trip, leaving them energy for wider enjoyment of their holiday. Young explains: “Eighteen to 24-year-olds want moderate challenge activities… they want to enjoy a night out with like-minded travellers as well.”
Cycling is a good sell for Exodus Travels. “We have all seen the huge boom in cycling since the London Olympics in 2012, which has generated interest and higher awareness of the health benefits, both physical and mental, of getting out into nature and doing exercise,” says Exodus Agency Sales Manager Dan Jackson.
At the other end of the scale, people also want bucket list achievement-based holidays, like hiking up Kilimanjaro or to Everest base camp, says Young, and these are attracting people up to their 60s and sometimes beyond.
Among Exodus’ best-selling trips are a Finnish Wilderness Week, which includes snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and dogsledding; Cycling the Baltics; Walking the Amalfi Coast; and a 16-day Everest Base Camp Trek.
An Amalfi Coast walking trip also sells well for Explore and comes with the option of pizza-making classes and visits to Capri and Pompeii.
Everest base camp is also a G Adventures best-seller, along with hiking the Inca Trail and Vietnam tours which incorporate activities like kayaking.
Bucket list trips, in particular, can be big value but why else should agents be tapping into action holidays?
Jackson points out the greater retention levels likely in this market. “Adventure and activity holidays are a growing sector.
"Many of these clients are fit, healthy and affluent and will travel well into their 60s on active holidays. This results in higher levels of repeat bookings, which makes it a lucrative product to sell.”
Young has advice on reaching clients. “Start to educate yourself because your customers are doing this anyway. Work more closely with sales teams to understand what’s in the marketplace.
"People are getting more active, so find out where – target cycling clubs and gyms and get them in to speak to you. Talk about achievement holidays.” Social media is also a valuable tool, particularly for pushing icons like Kilimanjaro, he says, and agents can share images from operators’ free asset libraries.
“These are inspiring destinations – places that younger people are putting all over Instagram. It’s about bragging rights and agents have to tap into that as a voice of authority. These things are on their bucket lists, they just need a push to get them over the line.”
The adventure sector may be wider than you think and intersects with other trends like experiential touring and multi-generational holidays.