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adventure travel | report


travelers are seeking soft adventure, and more companies are selling packages and guided tours that offer this,” Murphy says, citing G Adventures and NTABA African Safaris as preferred operators. “Even companies like Tauck and General Tours have been adding soft adventures to their itineraries, and tour operators like ShoreTrips, Amstar and Travel Bound help us add exciting excursions to FIT itineraries.” Murphy stresses that adventure isn’t just for


elite athletes or extreme sports enthusiasts. “More regular people are stepping out and the industry has been organizing and improving standards to make these thrilling experiences more attainable,” she says. Linda Androlia, president of Sunstone Tours &


Cruises — Small Ship Adventure Cruises, as the name suggests, sells only small ship adventure cruises and finds luxury small ships are especially popular with boomers. “Tey want to kayak and hike, and have 600 thread count sheets,” she says. Tat’s not to say more rigorous adventures


aren’t an important segment. L. A. Chancey, the owner of Coastal Georgia Travel, who specializes in trips “where you live fully, in a heart-pounding, in-the-moment experience”, says the industry has evolved with a growing number of safety- and consumer-oriented tour operators. Chancey says these operators make sure her


clients have first-rate experiences, whether it’s dog sledding 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle or taking a gourmet trek in Provence, and that customizing the experience is now easier than ever. Bonvoy Travel, leading personalized small-


group multi-sport camping and luxury adventure trips, has found a fast-growing market among 25- to 55-year-olds. Founder and owner Sean Jackson explains: “Tis new-generation traveler is less intimidated by extreme sports and international travel.”


Unplugging to reconnect Physical activities combined with a cultural or educational component makes soft adventures ideal for families and multigenerational groups. “Off-the-grid destinations push families to truly be together,” says Laura Mandelkorn, adventure travel consultant of Go! Custom Travel, noting some people have to be weaned into taking a break from the internet. “We might try it just for a day or two the first


time, or ease in by staying in a place with lobby- only wi-fi, but it’s worth it because when people aren’t tempted by the ding of email they will actually talk to each other,” she says. Many agents talk about adventure as stretching limits and the need to nudge clients out of their


comfort zone, but for some a mile hike will be an adventure. “I have to be a great listener to determine a client’s comfort zone and how far they’re looking to stretch,” says Mandelkorn. Adventure travel advisors often use words like


‘coach’ and ‘therapist’ to describe their roles. “A true adventure is life-changing,” asserts Active Travel Pro’s Murphy. “In this digital world, we all spend too much time on a screen and tend to lose touch with nature, people and the world around us. Adventures let people unplug, feel excitement, dare, accomplish and experience something exhilarating and real, not virtual.” Clients are often hungry to do something


different, but usually don’t know what, says Coastal Georgia Travel’s Chancey. “I ask what books they can’t put down, what TV shows they


regularly watch, what they crave to know or do. And I want to hear their stories when they return, how they grew, how my suppliers treated them.” All that digging takes time and Chancey requires a minimum $200 to $400 deposit before she starts planning and often adds an advisor’s fee. “Experience isn’t cheap,” she notes. Most adventure specialists charge fees to


compensate for their time when dealing with complex itineraries. And while adventure tour operators usually pay agent commissions, this isn’t always the case. One pay-off is the high repeat and referral rate, and word-of-mouth promotion that


comes with planning unusual trips,


according to Go! Custom Travel’s Mandelkorn. “Clients are eager to share their adventures on Facebook and tell their friends,” she says. u


DESTINATION SPOTLIGHT: NEW ZEALAND


Blokarting (a wind-powered land yacht) and zorbing (rolling down a hill inside a giant air cushioned ball) are among the latest imaginative activities New Zealanders have invented to enjoy the outdoors, making this two-island nation a thrill-seeker’s paradise. Bungee jumping, jetboats and ski planes were also invented here, while heli-skiing, glacier walking and mountain treks on foot or horseback are also hugely popular adventure options. But nature lovers and eco-tourists don’t have to be daredevils


to enjoy the country’s inviting hot springs, Maori culture and glorious mountains, beaches and lakes. Lord of the Rings fans, meanwhile, can revel in the epic settings of their favorite scenes, while Royal lovers can follow in the footsteps of Prince William and his young family’s spring 2014 visit, in addition to jet boating down the Shotover River rapids through narrow canyons, sailing like an America’s Cup racer in Auckland, or touring one of New Zealand’s fine wineries. newzealand.com


Banff National Park, Canada


summer 2014 | ASTAnetwork | 57


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