There are no two ways around it: It’s time to, “Adjust the Sails”. So says adventure travel professionals possessing decades of experience who have weathered the worst tempests to date who’ve recently borrowed from that now infamous Ted Turner quote.
It’s been said that the two most important drivers of adventure travel business is the geopolitical scenario and the economy. And, one of the drivers is suffering.
Before a combined total of more than 125 adventure travel industry peers, eight adventure travel industry veterans speaking on two “Weathering the Economic Storm” panels during recent ATTA Regional Meetings in San Francisco (Dec. 5, 2008), Seattle (January 28, 2009) and in Los Angeles (February 13, 2009) agree that this economic downturn is the most challenging the adventure travel industry has experienced. They also agreed in principle that the recession is expected to be prolonged, representing more of a “U” than a “V” shape. Another suggested that a “W” is a more likely scenario, whereby it’ll be an up-and-down ride for the foreseeable future.
In light of our industry’s shared concerns, top-level executives representing Backroads, REI Adventures, Geographic Expeditions, Wilderness Travel, Wildland Adventures, EverGreen Escapes, Travcoa and Classic Journeys stepped forward to share their current experiences, steps they’ve taken to brace for a sustained recession and their prognostications for the next year or two of business.
It’s not all bad news they say. Some companies are still reporting double-digit growth, fueled in part by travelers seeking custom trips and increases in domestic and closer-to-home travel. One company shared, “We’d already done 25% of our 2009 bookings by end of summer 2008, but we anticipate that by this next fall, that situation will be eroded.” The reality is that most companies are feeling the pinch in some fashion.
Most companies would agreed that it’s high time to revisit the fundamentals, ensure sustainability and prepare to come out ahead of the competition. Each of the companies contributing to this industry dialogue were confident of their survival, but noted it would come with serious focus on the bottom line, a serious reassessment of everything, smart cash management, and extra investment in marketing and strategic planning.
In fact, one pragmatic vet encouraged the industry to view this economic downturn as a gift of sorts suggesting that other leaders consider viewing this period as a time to adjust on some key areas that will positively affect the bottom line for years to come. Others from within the aforementioned stable of brands, also dug in and shared tips for ensuring their companies would come out stable, stronger and more smartly positioned once the rebound eventually arrives.
Immediately, experts suggest, consider the following exercises, some strategic, some tactical, to fortify your organization:
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