Research: Adventure Travel Evolves to Encompass Immersive Experiences, Cultural Encounters

30 July 2019

Though that thrilling adrenaline rush and an opportunity to be pampered still entice adventure travelers, they are increasingly seeking out new and immersive experiences, cultural encounters, and soft adventure activities, according to the 2019 Adventure Travel Trends Snapshot. This year, adventure travel companies say their travelers are motivated chiefly by “new experiences” and that they want “to travel like a local,” and they’re more motivated by cultural encounters than wellness goals or engaging in adventure travel as a status symbol. Traditionally known for its live-on-the-edge status, adventure travel encompasses not only trips to remote destinations but also sustainable itineraries and “slow” travel activities such as hiking, e-bike cycling, culinary activities, and photography.

The annual Adventure Travel Trends Snapshot, presented by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), compiles data collected from adventure travel operators to identify emerging and enduring trends in the industry. For more than a decade, the ATTA has conducted this survey, which provides information about the health, outlook, and characteristics of this evolving tourism sector.

In addition to the trends research report, the 2019 Adventure Travel Financial Snapshot offers complementary information highlighting the financial status of the industry. As the industry continues its evolution to include more cultural and less technical adventure activities, 83% of survey respondents report their 2018 gross revenues surpassed 2017 gross revenues, and 59% expect a net profit increase for 2019. Thirty-five percent say the key factor driving the growth is new customers.

Regarding clientele, another notable finding in this year’s report indicates an increasing number of women are traveling on their own. Responding tour operators noted 53% of their customer demographic is female, and 56% of their solo travelers are female. In 2018, 51% of tour operators’ solo travelers were female.

“Our report reveals findings that align with some of the current traveler behavior trends we are seeing in broader context. As the contemporary person seeks different opportunities for personal growth, how they choose to travel is influenced too,” said Milena Nikolova, the ATTA’s director of knowledge and AdventureEDU.

According to the surveys, customizable itineraries remain the most requested trip type, though remote destinations and trail experiences have jumped in popularity. Further, green/sustainable itineraries — trips that are intentionally and carefully designed to be environmentally sustainable, such as zero-waste or carbon-negative trips — are in high demand. Hiking/trekking/walking is once again the most popular activity requested by travelers, though cycling on electric bikes and culinary activities are also hot.

“Travel can enhance our identity in two ways,” Nikolova said. “First, it offers many opportunities for immersive, transformational, self-enhancing experiences that involve interacting with living cultures different from what we experience during everyday life — learning about new places and new lifestyles that enrich our world view. Second, it is about the impact we have on places and people. This is where the growing demand for environmentally friendly and sustainable itineraries comes in as it makes people feel they are enjoying themselves and personally growing but also making a positive impact on places and people.”

The 2019 Adventure Travel Trends Snapshot and 2019 Adventure Travel Financial Snapshot are now available for download. For questions and inquiries related to research at the ATTA, please email [email protected].