In Trends

Adventure travelers signify an important, emerging market that crosses age and income brackets and also stretches across geographic regions.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), adventure tourism is quite lucrative and continues to grow. Research shows it’s worth upwards of $263 billion per year in international departures leaving from North America, Europe and South America alone—and they only account for 69% overall!

These days, travelers progressively desire to dive deeper into the communities they visit, and into the natural environments there (aka experiential travel). They’re taking more adventure trips too, and spending more on them.

But not all adventure travel is alike.

Do you, like many, assume adventure travel always involves the kinds of stuff energy-drink-chugging adrenaline junkies’ dreams are made of? Think again. This type of tourism has advanced into one that is more deeply experiential and enriching.

While still vital, those bold folks who vacation TO THE EXTREME can almost be considered fringe fanatics. A much broader—and increasing—segment of travelers prefers to play a little safer.

So let’s compare soft adventure vs. hard adventure, shall we?

Safe is fun, not fuddy-duddy.

Soft adventure comprises activities that lack danger, seem safe to most people and do not require skill or experience. That doesn’t mean they only take pleasure in the typical. Soft adventure travelers are driven by sidestepping the routine, stretching their comfort zones and discovering new things.

During the day, physical activities like hiking, cycling, kayaking/canoeing, fishing, horseback riding, skiing, surfing and lots more are on their itineraries, alongside authentic and transformative archaeological, agritourism, culinary and wildlife viewing experiences. By night, they prefer cozy stays with gourmet meals.

Naturally, this type of tourism lures a wide scope of travelers, signifying a sizeable percentage of trips, and it’s where you can expect to see the most growth.

Base jumping off a mile-high bridge? Don’t mind if we do!

And then there’s hard adventure, which includes physically demanding, really risky and challenging activities that require skill, specialized training and willpower.

For instance: bridge jumping, canyoning, climbing (mountain, rock and ice), caving and trekking (multi-day rambling in rough, far-flung, isolated and unspoiled places).

While hard adventure travelers embody a much smaller part of the population, it’s still big and profitable enough to remain on your radar.

What do they mean to your marketing?

Whether you’re a DMO, a government-based tourism office, tour operator, hotel or resort, gear company or another related organization, appealing to both the soft adventure and hard adventure traveler—and even those who simply dream of being one—should factor into your plans.

Adventure travelers are more inclined to try out new places and products. And yet, they need prompting from the sources they’re known to consult. While a customized and comprehensive strategy requires closer scrutiny, a multifaceted approach might include:

  • Segmenting your adventure travel market, according to specific interests and demographics such as age, income and time availability. Then, create niche marketing.
  • Partnering with, and cross-marketing between, the kinds of tourism-related organizations noted above.
  • Attracting current and aspiring adventure travelers via mainstream publications (magazines, newspapers, etc.) and media. That encompasses advertising and gaining editorial coverage.
  • Targeting them online, from ads to search engines to official websites. A constant investment in up-to-date keywords and optimization is crucial. (Don’t forget languages other than English!)
  • Generating social media blog articles and conversations.
  • Creating appealing and informative FAM trips for press and travel agents.
  • Ongoing reputation management, since they value reviews and comments, live and online, from strangers, family and friends.
  • Crossing paths “in person,” with messages posted in locations they visit during daily rounds—organic supermarkets, yoga studios, ethnic restaurants and the like.

Above all, whatever the forum, your messages must matter. Hit the right notes. Show adventure travelers how they will connect, in a meaningful and genuine way, with the place and its people.

We’ll explore adventure travel together.

Ask us how to develop products and position your branding and marketing plan to lure this rewarding market. Delve in with Lynn Kaniper at or 609.466.9187, ext. 117.

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