Busting myths about adventure travel at first-ever Adventure Travel Xpo
ATTA's CEO, Shannon Stowell, and Community Director Mira Poling Anselmi

Busting myths about adventure travel at first-ever Adventure Travel Xpo

TORONTO — Adventure travel is expected to come back first, come back strong and grow more rapidly, says the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA).

Speaking at yesterday’s inaugural Adventure Travel Xpo by XpoPRO Mobile, a division of TravPRO Mobile, Shannon Stowell, CEO of ATTA urged agents in attendance to consider selling adventure travel, namely for three main reasons.

“One, it’s good for business; the average trip price per person, excluding airfare, is $3,000,” he said. “Two, it’s good for the planet because it’s focused on preserving nature and wildlife and protecting local culture and involving local people.

“And three, before the pandemic, we were seeing double-digit growth every year in adventure travel. Of course, everything has been shaken up by this last year but we anticipate that it’s going to come back actually stronger than it was before,” added Stowell.

If yesterday’s event numbers are any indication, interest in adventure travel certainly remains high despite travel’s ongoing pause. Xpo attracted over 1,300 travel agents specializing in adventure travel from across Canada and the U.S., plus booth shares – a new feature – exceeded 531.

Calling the event a “big success,” Dean Jacobberger, Vice President of XpoPRO said: “Engagement remained strong throughout the show and suppliers were thrilled to meet with so many interested agents. We couldn’t be more pleased with all of the great feedback that came in through the network lounge during the show.”

Anne Blanchard of TravelOnly, for example, said: “So much information to take in, I feel like a kid in a candy store!”

Kat Lo of TourRadar in Toronto said it was one of the best online event platforms she has experienced, and that she was “really happy to catch up and meet some new people from the travel industry.”

 

Jacobberger is reminding agents that the show will remain active for the next 30 days, allowing them extra time to digest all of the content that was shared, revisit breakout sessions and download and share content from exhibit booths.

“Travel advisors have been consummate professionals throughout the pandemic and are keen to learn about adventure travel and prepare themselves for the pent-up demand that has been building in the past year,” he adds.

Here are some key takeaways from yesterday’s Adventure Travel Xpo:

 

ADVENTURE TRAVEL ISN’T WHAT YOU MIGHT THINK IT IS

One of Stowell’s goals during yesterday’s event was to “bust the myth” about adventure travel. Noting that most people still view it as “really extreme, dangerous or risky,” Stowell said the true definition of adventure travel is actually a lot more accessible.

“The definition that we’ve worked through with travellers over the years is that there are three main elements to adventure travel,” he said. “The first being some sort of physical activity, the second is immersion in culture, and the third is interacting with nature.”

Although high-adrenaline activities like sky diving and ice climbing still play a major role in adventure travel, agents should regard it as more being centrally focused on challenge, wellness and transformation,

Said Mira Poling Anselmi, Community Director of ATTA: “You might already be selling adventure travel without even knowing it, and those who participate in adventure travel might not be exactly who you think. The average age of the adventure traveller is actually between 29 and 60.”

 

TOP ADVENTURE TRAVEL TRENDS

ATTA identified the top 10 activities in adventure travel, which Stowell does not anticipate changing all that much after the pandemic. They are:

  1. Hiking/trekking/walking
  2. Culinary/gastronomy
  3. Cultural
  4. Wellness-focused activities
  5. Cycling (electric bikes)
  6. Safaris/wildlife viewing
  7. Expedition cruising
  8. Kayaking/sea/whitewater
  9. Photograpy (wildlife/nature)
  10. Running

As many of the top activities show, adventure travel has evolved to become more holistic in nature, venturing far beyond adrenaline-focused activities, said Stowell. In fact, a recent study by the IFC and World Bank, which asked global travellers to rank market segments as important and very important pre- and post-pandemic, found that the largest change in travellers’ interest shifted towards adventure and nature-based eco-tourism, followed by domestic tourism and wellness & spa.

Stowell also noted that ATTA is seeing a rise in interest for custom itineraries. While this means more work for travel agents, “the good news is there’s more margin in this and you can charge more for these trips.”

Another big trend to keep an eye out post-pandemic is greener and low-impact itineraries. Stowell cited recent data from BlackRock, the world’s largest asset fund, that found that more people are interested in climate change at this time, and that a growing number of companies are investing in efforts to help the environment.

“Your customers are going to start demanding and expecting greener trips,” said Stowell. “Compared to the last two years of travel, for the foreseeable future, COVID-19 is pushing U.S. adventure travellers to venture further into the countryside to avoid busy and crowded travel destinations.”

 

RECOVERY & WORKING WITH AGENTS

What does the future of adventure travel look like, once the pandemic is finally over?

“What we’re hearing from many different destinations, and also from a study that we did with Euromonitor, is that adventure travel will recover about three to four years before mass travel will, compared to 2019 numbers,” said Stowell. He added that a number of tourism ministers and secretaries around the world identify adventure and nature to be leading segments in travel’s restart.

Travel agents, of course, will play an essential role in travel’s recovery, added Anselmi, which is why ATTA is heavily leaning on its agent community. To date, the organization has about 1,300 business members in 100 different countries around the world, “but our community is about 30,000 individuals, all with an interest in the sustainable development of adventure tourism,” said Anselmi.

Agent members of ATTA meet regularly at events where they have the opportunity to network with global destinations and tour operator suppliers. ATTA also provides its members with educational resources, destination showcase webinars and research reports.

To review content from the Adventure Travel Xpo, go to https://www.adventureproxpo.com/login.

XpoPRO will be hosting an entire roster of travel shows in 2021, including A Family Affair, The All American Roadshow, Isn’t it Romantic?, Luxury Escapes and Europe is Back, Baby! For more information on upcoming shows, or to find out how to host an event, contact Kim Uno, Business Development Director, at kim@elevatustm.com.