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adventure travel | report


With significant growth in the adventure travel market, agents are seeing increased demand for luxury soft adventure, reports Geri Bain


ANY AGENT WHO isn’t part of the adventure travel market might want to consider these eye-watering facts: adventure travel has seen a 65% year-on-year growth since 2009 and is now a $263 billion global industry. And it’s still growing, according to the 2013 Adventure Tourism Market Study, conducted by the George Washington University in partnership with the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA). Te study’s numbers are compelling. More


than 16% of North Americans surveyed reported an adventure activity as the main activity of their last trip. And while only 9% defined their last vacation as a hard adventure-focused trip, with activities such as mountain climbing and kite surfing, 15.5% cited a soft adventure activity such as cycling or hiking as the focus of their most recent vacation. Soft adventure travelers spend an average of


$1,152 per trip plus airfare, against $875 for hard adventure travel, but agents reported that luxury adventure bookings can easily top $15,000 per person, often for multigenerational groups. Interestingly, nearly 73% of adventure


travelers plan to participate in an adventure on their next trip as well, but only 22% plan on repeating the same experience or activity. Te report interprets this as suggesting most soft adventurers aren’t enthusiasts for a particular activity, but consistently seek diverse and novel activities when they travel. More than half of adventure travelers surveyed


said they preferred to avoid the most popular travel destinations, but that they still require good infrastructure and safety, notes ATTA president Shannon Stowell. Myanmar (Burma),


only recently open to tourism and scrambling to upgrade its hotels and infrastructure, was the most cited destination. Tat said, adventures can be found almost


everywhere, from Mississippi River cruises, where you can bike off from the boat, to hiking through Tuscany. In fact, the only area that didn’t show growth was the Middle East, but this can quickly change. A year ago, western and northern Africa were on the decrease due to a number of uprisings, but this region has already moved back into growth mode, Stowell reports. Perennial favorites include Alaska, Costa Rica,


Canada and US National Parks, while increasingly popular adventure activities like rappelling, zip- lining and swimming with whale sharks are casting Mexico in a more adventurous light as well. Further afield, the Galapagos, New Zealand and South Africa are among the well-developed, long-standing adventure destinations, while Iceland and Antarctica are also firm fixtures on the adventure travel radar.


Defining the market One of the biggest trends in the market has been an ever broadening and softening definition of ‘adventure’. “Luxury is trending towards adventure and adventure towards luxury,” says Stowell. When the ATTA queried consumers to see how they defined adventure, three themes emerged: physical activity, a connection to nature and cultural experiences. “We see a lot more luxury tours offering adventurous options and vice versa,” Stowell says. Bobbie Rae Murphy, creator of active adventure vacations at Active Travel Pro, agrees. “More u


Hooker Valley, Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand


Soft adventure travelers spend an average of $1,152 per trip plus airfare, against $875 for hard adventure travel, but agents reported that luxury adventure bookings can easily top $15,000 per person


summer 2014 | ASTAnetwork | 55


IMAGE: MILES HOLDEN


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