Outdoor adventure travel is unlike other tour companies. That’s why it will recover faster than other travel sectors. Travelers want to immerse themselves in nature, avoid the crowds, and explore off-the-beaten-path.
Travelers Prefer The Outdoors
Outdoors Provide More Space
Since March, travelers have dealt with lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and quarantines. Because of this, people desperately want to get outside and into nature.
In “The Travel Industry Turned Upside Down,” Skift Research states that outdoor scenic travel is recovering faster than other travel sectors. This is likely due to being able to social distance easier. It’s easier to distance yourself physically from others in the outdoors. Not so much inside. When you’re on the trail or mountain, you can put a minimum of 6 feet between you and someone else. Inside, you’re at the mercy of the architecture.
In this report, they quote Matt Roberts, CEO of Vacasa: “I think this notion of space is a big one, and I think it’s going to be one of those enduring things. I think people are also discovering more of the benefits of being outside and incorporating outside travel” (p. 28). It’s true more people are venturing outdoors for their physical and mental health.
More Eco-Conscious Travelers
According to the World Traveler and Tourism Council (WTTC)’s “To Recovery & Beyond: The Future of Travel & Tourism in the Wake of COVD-19” Report, the COVID-19 pandemic increased consumers’ environmental awareness. Consumers are looking for businesses and destinations that protect nature or offer a behind-the-scenes view of the outdoors and wildlife.
WTTC recommends businesses to develop environmentally friendly products that highlight conservation activities and guarantee minimal impact on nature. Outdoor adventure guiding has a leg up on the rest of the travel industry because their tours are typically off-the-beaten-path. They also provide a behind-the-scenes look at wildlife and nature.
Copper Mountain, An Example
The Denver Post published an article in October 2020 stating that Copper Mountain, in Colorado, set new visitation records for their summer attractions amidst the pandemic. They saw visitors partaking in golf, mountain biking, and their Rocky Mountain Coaster.
Because of the influx of visitors, Copper Mountain used all three villages to spread people out across the resort. Taylor Prather, Copper Mountain spokeswoman, said she thinks the high demand over the summer will extend into the winter season as well.
In preparation for winter activities, Copper Mountain implemented Operation Stay Safe, which requires guests to reserve parking prior to their visit.
Outdoor adventure guides can take advantage of ski resorts’ use of reservation systems and the demand for winter activities. Adventure-seekers will likely reach out to backcountry ski guides to get away from crowds and bypass the parking reservation requirements.
Travelers’ Concerns For Social Distancing
Another reason outdoor adventure travel will recover faster than other travel sectors is travelers’ concerns for social distancing. According to the Pew Research Center, three-quarters of Americans think the reason the outbreak continues is that there aren’t enough people wearing masks and following social distancing rules.
Because a majority believe this, they’re likely to engage in activities that allow for more social distancing, like outdoor adventure travel. Google Trends shows “outdoor activities” searches were up 127% in July/August 2020 compared to July/August 2019. Related search topics include “quarantine,” “social distancing,” and “outdoor recreation.”
This goes to show that outdoor activities and social distancing are at the top of adventurers’ minds.
To add to that, in the World Traveler and Tourism Council’s, “To Recovery & Beyond” report, they state that, “40% of US travelers are re-thinking destinations, often in favor of beaches & small towns/rural areas” (p. 9). They report that travelers will seek to avoid crowds and opt “for ‘off-the-beaten-path’ nature and outdoor destinations.” This will benefit outdoor adventure guiding companies because travelers are searching for outdoor options. Travelers want experiences that are truly experiential, like white water rafting, mountain biking, and backcountry skiing.
People Like To Adventure
Outdoor adventure travel will benefit from people’s wanderlust, especially after being stuck at home for the past 8 months. Already, people are trying to adventure locally and taking part in outdoor recreation. Leave No Trace released a report, “Psychosocial Factors Influencing Outdoor Recreation Decisions,” and the top two factors people consider when making outdoor recreation decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic is: (1) Their desire to support their overall health by spending time in the outdoors and (2) Their desire to relieve stress and support their mental health.
We know people are stressed with cabin fever. They can’t wait to explore. The World Traveler and Tourism Council (WTTC) says, “Travel will likely be kick-started by the less risk averse travellers and early adopters, from adventure travellers and backpackers to surfers and mountain climbers.” The report adds that these types of travelers seek immersive experiences outdoors, they want to stay active, and they’re interested in visiting remote communities. That’s exactly what outdoor operators provide.
Market To Millennials
Adventure travelers are usually younger and less risk-averse. Most travel organizations believe Millennials will help jump-start travel again. WTTC also adds that they’re seeing future bookings for remote locations like Alaska taking place. They believe there will be a renewed interest in authentic experiences they can truly immerse themselves in.
For outdoor adventure travel companies, it’s important to market and cater to those willing to explore now. As the WTTC reports, and as we’ve written previously about why tour operators need a social media strategy, consumers get travel recommendations through word-of-mouth from friends and family, usually on social media. This will be a crucial factor to consider.
Travel will return, but outdoor adventures will spring back much faster than their counterparts because people can’t help but explore.