Seattle, WA – Kurt and Anne Kutay, founders and directors of Seattle-based Wildland Adventures, know what makes a good adventure. They’ve refined this sixth sense over 25 years of traveling the world looking for authentic travel experiences, partnering with extraordinary local guides, and designing meaningful cultural and natural history explorations for 20,000 Wildland travelers.
“Today travelers are looking for immersive cultural experiences where they meet and connect with local people on a personal level, share life experiences and gain a deeper understanding of the world. And while they do want to explore off well-trodden pathways, they’re also looking for a comfortable place to relax in the evenings with a good glass of wine and the option to plug-in to their social networks and share their travel experiences in real time with their friends” says Kurt Kutay, who began Wildland Adventures in 1986 by leading groups of friends to his favourite places in Costa Rica, still Wildland’s most popular destination today.
Whether a profound cross-cultural experience in the Maasailands of Tanzania and Kenya, watching the sunset from the top of Mayan temple in Belize, meeting tiger conservationists in India or venturing deep into the wild, untamed rainforests of the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, Wildland Adventures attributes its continued success for more than 25 years to providing “the gift of perspective” along with authentic adventure experiences. Four of Wildland’s tours, including their Maasailand Safari and Tigers and Travels in India, have been named “Tours of a Lifetime” by National Geographic Traveler. And, National Geographic Adventure ranked Wildland Adventures as the #1 Best “Do it All” Outfitter on Earth in their latest survey of adventure travel companies.
“Despite a challenging economy, our sales are trending up about 25% for 2012,” says Kutay. “We find that travelers today don’t just view travel as an escape but rather as a rite of passage, a learning experience that helps make sense of the world we live in and offers a new perspective of cultures they have only read about or seen on TV.”
And, while the traditional adventure destinations like Costa Rica, Galapagos Islands and Tanzania are as popular as ever, Wildland is seeing increasing demand for its tours India, Turkey, Borneo and Belize.
Other trends in adventure travel noted by Kutay and his staff at Wildland Adventures include:
Demand for conservation travel is on the rise. Wildland travelers want to ‘bear witness’ and see for themselves destinations that are in need of protection and benefiting from sustainable tourism. Finding the right guide who is well educated on the efforts being undertaken to protect an area while supporting local indigenous cultures is critical to these types of journeys.
Culinary experiences are in demand. Whether learning how to cook local recipes, visiting local markets and supporting local restaurants with local chefs, Wildland travelers are culinary explorers as well as cultural explorers and are asking for indigenous food experiences to be part of their journeys.
“Flashpacking” is still going strong. Wildland travelers remember with fondness the days when they threw on a backpack and started exploring. Today’s adventure traveler wants the same flexibility and authentic experience but at the end of the day, a hot shower, soft bed and good bottle of wine should also be part of the itinerary.
Blended travel is on the rise (mixing business with pleasure). Wildland travelers, like everyone else, try to do more with less, including less time. Therefore Wildland is seeing more requests for tours before or after an international conference or business engagement. For example, if a Wildland traveler is heading to India for an international conference, they are planning a 5-7 day pre or post tour with their partner and often other colleagues as well.
Engaged and partially unplugged. Wildland travelers are curious and informed. While they want to unplug from their day to day lives while travelling, they also want to be able to access information and their social networks. Wildland is now providing travelers with tour information in a format which can be read on a mobile phone or tablet, both before they depart and while they are exploring. Wildland tour itineraries also indicate whether wireless access is available and/or reliable as even some remote bush camps in Africa are now connected.