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NOT OUT OF THE WOODS: Adventure travel industry recovering

While travellers are still showing concern over COVID the adventure travel industry is generally recovering, says the Adventure Travel & Trade Association in its annual 2022 report. And as such, the top trending destinations are places with higher vaccination rates, says the ATTA, while socially distanced itineraries and activities remain popular, including the No. 1 “hot” activity – cycling/e-biking.

For over 15 years, the ATTA has surveyed its growing database of tour operators and produced an annual ‘State of the Industry Snapshot,’ in which travel tour operators share information about their business operations as well as trends they are experiencing with respect to traveller demographics, destinations, and activities.

For the 2022 report, the survey asked operators about their business operations, 2021 sales, 2022 booking expectations, travel trends, and consumer motivations.

All regions served more guests on average in 2021 than 2020, but none returned to pre-COVID-19 levels, and overall respondents saw 66% fewer guests than in 2019. Nine percent of respondents had zero guests in 2021, down from 16% in 2020.

The report says it is also clear that sustainability is being treated as a priority for the adventure tourism industry. Last year’s Industry Snapshot report found that 40% of respondents were working toward a sustainability certification, and the number has increased to 45% this year. Maintaining community livelihoods has also increased in importance in the past year, showing a dedication to social and economic sustainability.

Some key findings include:

The Impact of COVID-19

• On average, trips were 52% full (up from 36% in 2020)
• The average number of travellers served by respondents was 1,355, a 142% increase from 560 in 2020
• Staffing in various departments has remained relatively stable over the past year
• 81% of respondents had some reduction in revenue compared to 2020, but it was much less extreme than the 2019-20 decrease. 30% had a 2021 gross annual revenue of less than US$50,000, down from 45% in 2020.

Popular Trip Itineraries, Destinations and Activities

• Respondents’ most popular itinerary is priced at $2,900 (for 8 nights), 70% of which ($2,030 on average) is spent with local suppliers
• The most popular consumer motivations for travelling were new experiences, to go off the beaten track, and to travel like a local
• The hottest trending destinations were the Mediterranean, Western Europe, the United States, Scandinavia, and the Caribbean

Marketing Trends

• Globally, approximately two-thirds (62%) of bookings are made directly with the service provider
• 62% of respondents have an online reservation system that takes credit cards, up from 50% in previous years

Future Outlook

• Globally, 82% of respondents expect their 2022 net profit to be equal to or better than 2021
• 73% of respondents are seeing an improvement in domestic travel demand for 2022
• 62% of respondents are seeing an improvement in international travel demand for 2022

“The need for, and power of responsible adventure travel is higher than ever,” said ATTA CEO Shannon Stowell of the report. “All of you in the industry have been asked to stretch and hang in there longer than would have even been imaginable in 2019… while COVID-19 bent us, we are not broken… Congratulations on finding the strength to continue!”

First published at Travel Industry Today

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