By Pru Goudie
The adventure travel sector looks set to enjoy a “roaring ’20s” period, with demand soaring for this style of travel for 2023 and 2024.
Adventure Travel Networking (ATN) circulated a survey to 100 experts within the ATN community in February to ask what they thought was happening in the market. Data specialists Spike Insight compiled the results, based on the 100 responses.
Director Roy Barker of Spike Insight told delegates at the recent Adventure Travel Networking Conference (#ATN23), held at the Little Ship Club in Central London, that adventure operators had reported an overwhelmingly positive start to the year.
When asked 'What is seeing the largest increase in popularity for 2023/24?' the response showed that group tours have seen the greatest resurgence this year, with more than a third of companies (36%) identifying this as their fastest growth sector.
Tailor-made itineraries were up 29.9%, followed by Self-Guided holidays at 20.9% and Solo Travel up 13.4%.
Image Credits: ATN, KE Adventures & Inside Travel Group
When asked 'What activities are proving more popular for 2023/24?' Walking & Hiking holidays led the pack, closely followed by those iconic Bucket-list iconic, Wildlife & Nature, Multi-active and Cycling.
What about destinations? When asked 'Which of the following destinations are proving more popular for 2023/24 compared to pre-Covid?' Europe came out strong. The UK remains strong and importantly we can see a return of long-haul destinations with Africa, Asia the Middle East and beyond.
Almost two-thirds of suppliers (62%) reported that their average booking window has shrunk, with the majority of bookings now being made just two-to-six months before departure. This makes forward planning a little more difficult for businesses, it seems we are currently in a 'buyers market' with people choosing to delay before committing to travel.
We also asked them to 'Rank the following factors in order of their importance to booking decisions post-Covid'. As always the big winners were Destination and Itinerary, Price came third which indicates it is not that big a determinant at present, Activities were further down on the list and surprisingly Sustainability came last!
Perhaps this says a lot to the credit of the industry that it has a focus on sustainability and the fact it could be in advance of the curve against some of the consumers can only be a good thing.
Joe Ponte, chief executive of Inghams, Explore and Inntravel parent Hotelplan UK, reported “fantastic” sales in January and February. “I talk to other similar companies and they’re all seeing strong growth, and a cracking start to the year,” he said.
“I do wonder to what extent this pent up demand will eventually subside though,” he added. “There will be a time when it will normalise and we need to be ready for that.”
A few Facts:
With an increase in desire for outdoors and activity, what's on the up?
Group Tours and Tailor-made travel are growing fastest and have seen the greatest resurgence this year
Increased Destinations - there's very little restrictions on where travellers can go now so travellers are getting far more adventurous in where they want to travel to, even more than they were six months ago! Not only is the desire for walking holidays growing but so is the desire for far flung destinations!
Cycling - globally cycling is an increasingly desired activity, particularly with the accessibility of e-bikes which accommodates all levels of ability.
Immersive, community based tourism - this is becoming more of a demand with travellers wanting to get in touch with the communities they are travelling through.
Finally, Gergana Nikolova, from Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) added that the global trends ATTA had observed travel broadly matched those of the research. She also pointed out that even cruise passengers are being introduced to adventure travel through increasingly adventurous shore excursions. “It’s becoming more mainstream,” she said.
“If you thought 2023 was good, just wait til 2024,” Barker urged.
“We might be moving towards a post-pandemic, post-downturn world where we’ll see a roaring 20s and real economic growth and expansion of travel.”
What stood out from the ATN insights survey?
The resilience of the travel industry is astounding, said Baker, and we're seeing that paying off in spades! The pent up demand for travel is so strong its absolutely cancelling out any economic headwinds that we're seeing at the moment, and it seems strong enough to get through whatever economic crisis we are seeing in 2023, and for 2024 it looks even more promising!
LISTEN TO THE LIVE PANEL DISCUSSION VIA OUR PODCAST HERE
The third Adventure Travel Networking conference took place on Thursday 23 February, alongside a day of virtual meetings between buyers and suppliers
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