November 09, 2016

Dreaming of photographing lions in South Africa? Or biking around New Zealand? If so, you’re not alone. People’s appetite for adventure travel today is booming. To take the pulse of this exciting travel niche, adventure experts have shared their insights in a comprehensive survey.

How big is adventure travel today?

An overwhelming 95 percent of those They travel advisors and partners have seen active, adventure and specialty travel sales rise within the past 12 months. As well, adventure travel’s future is looking bright. Ninety-five percent say they see demand for this style of travel increasing in the next two to three years.

Why is adventure travel so popular?

Several factors are driving adventure travel’s boom. People are yearning for more meaningful experiences that will create lifelong memories. Checking items off a bucket list is important to today’s well-traveled set who want to see and do it all. The quest to discover more exotic locations holds considerable allure. Spending quality time together on family and multigenerational trips is another priority. And as people live longer, healthier lives, they’re able to travel in an adventurous style at later ages.

Where are active travelers venturing?

The top adventure destinations gaining in popularity are:

Costa Rica and Chile/Patagonia (tie)
Arctic/North Pole
New Zealand
South Africa

What activities are tops with adventure travelers?

You might be surprised – the top 10 activities aren’t all physically taxing. In fact, adventure travel today is more broadly defined. It’s not just about challenging your body but enriching your mind as well.

The top activities preferred by active and specialty travelers are:

Safaris/wildlife viewing
Small-ship expedition cruising
Scuba diving
Food and wine
Arts and culture

Adventure travelers are broadening their horizons beyond well-known European cities, seeking new frontiers off the beaten path. Latin America is especially big, as active travelers can experience their desired combination of nature and culture there. Remote, unspoiled places like Antarctica and the Arctic are also sought after by upscale adventurers.

Adventure travelers are also journeying to destinations with rare opportunities for active and specialty travel. Think scuba diving Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Or going on safari in South Africa.

Travelers today crave authentic experiences. They want to immerse themselves in destinations to learn, not just sightsee. Enjoying nature in an active way is another priority for active travelers. Today’s health-conscious travelers want to maintain their lifestyle away from home. As well, a trip where they can indulge personal passions, whether athletic, artistic or gourmet, is important.


Who’s the typical adventure traveler?

A love of active and specialty travel connects all age groups:

The largest number – 41 percent – of adventure travelers are between 50 and 65
24 percent are between 35 and 50
21 percent are 65 and over
14 percent are under 35

Adventure travel today also encompasses all types of travelers. Couples, including honeymooners, are the most common adventure travelers. They’re followed by immediate families, friends traveling together, solo travelers and multigenerational family members.

Top 10 tips for adventure travelers.

Best tips for adventurers:

Challenge yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone and being open to new activities. Even a slight walk on the ‘wild side’ will enhance the adventure.

Familiarize yourself with the culture of the destination by meeting interesting locals. Learn what’s important to them and what their daily lives are like. You might be surprised at how much you share with them.

Travel now. Some of these destinations are changing fast and may not be in their current state in just a few years.

Look at the world in a new way. Gain a fresh perspective and possibly even change an opinion.
Plan a trip that reflects you: your physical condition, your interests, your preferred pace of travel, a destination you’ve always loved or wanted to see.

Pack as little as possible. Depending on your planned activity, you may need to bring specialized gear. However, you may also need to haul that gear around.

Don’t try to do too much. Keep travel distances manageable and build in rest days and free time. Having some leeway for spontaneous, in-the-moment happenings will add a fresh dimension to the adventure.

Active doesn’t necessarily mean challenging. It’s possible to adapt most activities to the traveler’s abilities and comfort level.

Disconnect from your regular 24/7 digital world. Be truly present for whatever you’re experiencing. Savor your connection with nature during the trip.

Get into shape before you leave home, not during the trip. And be realistic about your abilities. That occasional weekend bike ride or hike may not be enough preparation for miles of travel every single day on a trip.

Where’s your next adventure going to be?