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Charting the Adventure Travel Industry’s Path to Recovery

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Tripadvisor and Phocuswright recently released a joint report reviewing consumer travel behavioral trends throughout 2020: A Year in Travel: Charting the Travel Industry’s Path to Recovery (free and publicly available). This report analyzes search and click data on Tripadvisor’s website throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, offers insights based on how travelers’ attitudes to travel are changing, and looks at what these trends may mean for the future recovery of the travel industry. The findings correspond with research from the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) and offer additional insights into how the adventure travel industry can adapt to changing consumer preferences.

Five Stages to Recovery

Tripadvisor and Phocuswright have been tracking travel trends since the start of the pandemic using both quantitative research data and website behavioral data. A Tripadvisor report released in June 2020, Beyond COVID-19: The Road to Recovery for the Travel Industry, identified five stages to recovery: Decline, Plateau, Emerge, Domestic, and International. The November report reexamines those phases, finding that they still apply. Travel reached its baseline (i.e. plateaued) in April; the good news is that many locations around the world are now in the Emerge phase or beyond, signifying hope that the recovery is in process. 

Image used with permission from Tripadvisor

Health & Safety Concerns

After the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020, travel hit a standstill. Consumers were concerned about the health and safety of everyone around them, and traveling was considered by many to be too risky. According to Tripadvisor consumer sentiment findings, travelers in major outbound markets (including the U.S.) are slightly less concerned now about their health and safety than they were in April, likely due to a better understanding of the virus and news about vaccine development. This research agrees with findings from ATTA’s U.S. Adventure Traveler Sentiment – June-July 2020 Report, released in late July 2020, showing that U.S. adventure travelers’ concern about safety is still high, but comfort levels are improving. 

What Can Adventure Travel Companies Do?

If your business is listed on Tripadvisor, be sure to check out their Travel Safe tool. This can help you share your health and safety initiatives with potential clients. The WTTC also offers a Safe Travels Global Protocols and Stamp as a way to communicate your commitment to safety.. For adventure travel companies in particular, ATTA offers Health & Safety Guidelines for ten different adventure travel activities at no cost, along with a digital badge for operators to show their adherence. For adventure companies looking for more formal education, ATTA’s online Safety & Risk Management course is designed to take adventure travel operators and managers through the complete process of setting up and running a safety management system in their operation.

Domestic Travel is Rebounding

The A Year in Travel: Charting the Travel Industry’s Path to Recovery report shows that on Tripadvisor’s website, domestic leisure demand is rebounding in many countries, and exceeding demand for international travel. An October survey of travel consumers found that nearly two-thirds (65%) of respondents said they expected to travel domestically within the next six months. Adventure travelers are slightly more willing to get back out there; ATTA’s U.S. Adventure Traveler Sentiment – June-July 2020 Report found that 75% of this group are planning to travel between December 2020-June 2021. 

What Can Adventure Travel Companies Do?

Identify which travelers have the lowest barrier to purchase your services. Do you offer tours to local gems that many people in your country or region may not know about (there are more of these than you think!)? Can your accommodation cater to local visitors looking for a “staycation,” or a way to leave their house for a few days while remaining nearby? Last-minute searches in particular are on the rise on Tripadvisor, with 62% of travelers looking for check-in within 30 days; think about how your company can capitalize on this trend.

Adventure Activities are Popular

Tripadvisor found that outdoor activities, nature and parks made up 34% of attraction page views between May and September. Two-thirds of their respondents want the ability to avoid crowded places, and more than half are more likely to take an outdoor/nature trip than they were before the pandemic. Corresponding with ATTA research findings over the years, hiking remains a very popular activity. Another recent study by Euronews also expects increased demand soon for wide-open spaces, eco-tourism, slow travel, and engaging with local communities, all hallmarks of adventure travel.

Image used with permission from Tripadvisor

What Can Adventure Travel Companies Do?

Stay the course and do what you do best! Encourage people to visit the outdoors in a safe and conscious manner. This may also mean creating new products to appeal to travelers trying adventure activities for the first time. Offer information on your website and marketing channels in a friendly and accessible way, being sure to include information about your specific health and safety measures. Word of mouth is always the best marketing tool; encourage your past clients to share their love of adventure travel with their friends and family who are considering an adventure trip for the first time. 

ATTA CEO Shannon Stowell reminds us, “While we are all currently struggling to see the path forward and wondering how long it will take to start recovery, here’s what we do know: what the adventure industry does matters to the planet and we will recover. Hang on to that hope based on the knowledge that all the signs are there for a very strong recovery for adventure travel.”

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