New Adventure Tourism Report Reveals $263B Market, Up 65% Per Annum Since 2009

Yes, voluntourism is part of the adventure travel market, stop thinking we are separate because the lines have blurred. Impressive growth.

Seattle, WA –  Growth in the adventure travel market has accelerated at a 65 percent yearly rate since 2009 according to the newly released Adventure Tourism Market Study – a consumer report by The George Washington University (GW) conducted in partnership with the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA,


The 2013 Adventure Tourism Market Study uses the same methodology and approach as the 2010 study allowing for direct comparison between the studies and growth trend analysis. It included three key outbound regions: Europe, North America and South America. These regions account for nearly 70 percent of overall international departures, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The study estimates the value of the global outbound adventure travel sector to be US$263 billion, excluding airfare, up from US$89 billion first reported in the benchmark consumer study. When this US$263 billion is combined with the estimated $82 billion spent for related gear, apparel and accessories, adventure travelers spent more than $345 billion in 2012 for travel related to adventure.

“Adventure tourism’s steep climb is attributed to growth in the global tourism industry, a significant increase in the percentage of adventure travelers, and an increase in the average amount spent per adventure travel trip,” said ATTA President Mr. Shannon Stowell. “This comes as positive news, of course, and reinforces the ATTA community’s rising commitment to safety, education, training and development of innovative and culturally and environmentally sound travel options. As we watch adventure travel tourism grow it is imperative that we continue to provide travelers with transformative experiences, all while helping to protect and respect the very people and places visited.”

Have a read of the whole article here.

And make sure to check out this great infographic!

Adventure Travel Going Mainstream (yes that includes Voluntourism)

In case you missed it GWU recently published a study showing the increase of travelers choosing adventure and volunteer vacations. Voluntourism organizations have long pushed back saying they don’t belong to the adventure travel world, the fact is no matter if you are a non-profit or a corporation if you are helping people get off the beaten track you are an adventure operator.

Only a few of you have ever gone to the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s meetings or the World Summit – it might be time to join the smart ones like Earthwatch and PEPY that have been going for years.

By Karina Ioffee

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) – Adventure tourism, long considered the milieu of a small group of dare devils, is becoming more mainstream, with tourists more likely to rappel down mountains, cycle or volunteer while on vacation.

These adventurers are young, affluent and spent $89 billion last year, excluding the cost of airfare and gear, according to a study by researchers at George Washington University’s School of Business.

“You have a lot of people who want to roll up their sleeves, get involved in a culture and have a more authentic experience than just laying in the sun,” said Dr. Kristin Lamoureux, an author of the study, which was conducted with the Adventure Travel Trade Association, an industry group.

Read the full article:

Why Adventure Companies Fail with Voluntourism

Having been a part of the volunteer and adventure travel industries for awhile now one thing seems quite apparent to me, most adventure companies that try to sell voluntourism flat out fail (Intrepid is the latest example). But why?

I have consulted on the adventure side for a lot of these companies and peeked my nose into their volunteer product marketing. I see the appeal on their side to merge into voluntourism, similar customer, interactive cultural experience, similar price range – should be an easy transition, but it’s not. Here are some observations on why they fail.

1. They use sales staff instead of ‘advisors’.

Someone looking to volunteer needs more guidance than someone looking to book a Machu Picchu trek. They need to understand the work they will do, the value they will bring, where their money will go and how they will cope with the language/cultural barrier without a group of peers or guide, etc. (to name a few).

The companies that have simply added voluntourism into the product offering and expected the same adventure sales team to sell it have definitely failed.

2. They don’t provide fundraising information.

How many times have potential volunteers called your company and complained that they can’t afford it but would love to volunteer abroad? The majority of volunteer organizations have a ready made solution to hand out for this dilemma, adventure companies are blind sided and lose the lead.

3. The marketing message.

All too often voluntourism experiences are portrayed as yet another adventure, or even worse, an add on. True voluntourists need to believe they are genuinely making a difference and somehow the ‘2 day pet the orphans’ option doesn’t appeal. The marketing needs to not only cover the experience but the circumstances surrounding it.

4. The target market.

Adventure companies are dominated by the 35-55 customer, voluntourists are still mainly 18-25. There is a discrepancy in the marketing and messaging that appeals to each of these customer segments.

5. Profit vs. Non-Profit

This debate rages forever and I can hear a couple of you reading this and cracking your knuckles ready for a reply but needless to say… All adventure companies are for profit, most volunteer companies are non-profit, the perception that volunteering through a non-profit is better still remains.

I could go forever on this and will in a part two blog post, but just wanted to throw this out there and see what comments we drive up.

Outdoor Industry Association Survey Reveals Industry Cautious About Economic Recovery

Boulder, CO, – In a survey released June 1, 2009, by Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), small businesses reported they have lowered revenue expectations, reduced inventory levels, and believe their businesses will rebound later than they expected last fall.

OIA, in conjunction with Piper Jaffray Companies, recently surveyed industry executives with respect to their view of current economic prospects, recovery timeline, cost inflation, and the effect of tightened credit market on near-term business operations.  Results of that survey are now available in a new report entitled, The Piper Jaffray Outdoor Industry Survey.

This was the second survey conducted by OIA and Piper Jaffray in the past six months, and reflected a cautious and realistic picture of the economic situation facing the industry.

Nearly all respondents were independent businesses with revenues less than $50M annually, which provides an excellent gauge of the independent channel within the outdoor community.  The majority of respondents identified themselves as either vendors or retailers.

Among the highlights:
* Concern has grown:  When asked to indicate the level of concern surrounding current economic conditions affecting their business, 98% indicated they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned, up three percentage points from last fall.  The level of concern was higher with vendors, where 49% signaled they are “very concerned” versus 36% of retailers.  This is a marked increase in the past six months.
* Recovery expectations pushed back: Last fall, the majority of respondents said they expected the recovery to come in late 2009.  Nearly half said they believed business would turn in the second half of 2009 and 35% viewed the first half of 2010 as the inflection point.  However, based on the results of this more recent survey, that was an optimistic view.  Now, only 15% believe the recovery will take place this year.  Nearly fifty percent believe the economy will improve in the first half of 2010, one-fourth say the second half of 2010, and 15% believe it will not improve until after 2010.
* Vendors and Retailers are in sync:  Last fall, retailers were far more optimistic than vendors about the pace of economic recovery.  That disparity has dissipated in this survey with both vendors and retailers having similar perceptions about recovery expectations.  This more balanced view is leading to appropriate inventory levels in the channel, which should also lead to improved profitability and pricing integrity as revenues stabilize.
* Businesses prepared for slow-down:  Revenue expectations for 2009 have declined since last fall.  In the fall survey, more than three-quarters of respondents projected revenues in 2009 would be above 2008.  Now, only about one-third expect 2009 revenue to top 2008 and nearly one-fourth expect revenues to decrease significantly.
* Looking Back:  The majority of respondents indicated revenues were down over the last three months vs. the prior year.  This issue hit retailers harder than vendors, with a majority of retailers saying revenues were down and just over one-third of vendors registering a decline in revenues.
* Looking Ahead:  In general, expectations are higher for the next three months, with just under half of respondents expecting revenues to continue declining over the next three months.  Overall, we believe a slightly negative outlook on revenues is prudent given that the second quarter of last year was impacted by the federal stimulus package, the personal savings rate is now higher, and the current unemployment rate is higher than in the past.
* Lower sourcing costs:  Cost inflation concerns have declined since our last survey as the price of commodities and excess capacity has driven production costs lower.
* Inventory reductions on tap:  In response to these economic shifts, respondents report that they have taken appropriate steps in terms of inventory reductions.  More than one-half of all businesses are planning inventory levels below last year.  Inventory growth below the rate of future sales trends is critical in the current environment to help maintain profitability and keep price integrity.
* Stabilization in the credit markets:  There are some encouraging signs in the credit markets with interest rates at historically how levels and some company’s now accessing the market for liquidity.  More than three-quarters of all respondents observed no change in their ability to access capital with only a few expressing increased access to capital and 15% seeing a decrease in access to capital.

“This survey reveals that our smaller companies are taking appropriate steps to weather the economic storm,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, OIA President & CEO.  “These companies are critical components for our entire industry, and they have made appropriate changes that may accelerate the recovery timeline.”

As the report concludes, “In short, respondents maintain a realistic view of current business trends, sourcing costs, and inventory reductions which should benefit future profitability if sales trends remain stable or improve.  While revenue declines are prevalent throughout the sector, for both retailers and vendors, we believe employment reductions; cheaper goods and fewer markdowns will stabilize margins in the second half of the year.”

A copy of the full report, as well as all OIA research is available to members at

About Outdoor Industry Association

Outdoor Industry Association® (OIA) is a national trade association whose mission is to ensure the growth and success of the outdoor industry. OIA provides trade services for over 4000 manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, sales representatives and retailers in the outdoor industry. OIA programs include representation in government/legislative affairs, market and social research, business-to-business services and youth outreach initiatives. Educational events include the annual Rendezvous®, Outdoor University®, and the Capitol Summit. Outdoor Industry Association is based in Boulder, Colorado, and is the title sponsor of the Outdoor Retailer tradeshows. For more information go to or call 303.444.3353. Launches – Great Way to Promote Voluntourism Opportunities

A new website recently launched called, its all about discovering & sharing authentic travel experiences. Most important to voluntourism providers are the free listing opportunities it offers. You can list your trips for free, even include a link to your site and in return if someone books through Tourdust they get a commission – pretty fair I think.


I recently interviewed the founder Ben Colclough and below are a few of his thoughts.


Why start this sort of site in this economy?

  • Of all the travel sectors I expect the niche / independent /adventure travel sector to suffer the least.  As a rule it would be fair to say that independent travellers are very passionate about their travel and so getting away will come relatively higher in their priorities than maybe it would do for those looking for a sun/sand holiday.
  • There will be a lot of wealthy people out of work with a healthy redundancy check thinking about taking gap years and therefore looking for some memorable experiences
  • Hopefully small authentic operators will increase their focus on getting new business and will be looking for risk-free opportunities to promote themselves

Why this business model? How does it work for the providers and customers?

  • Most importantly, we needed a design that really gets across the inspiration and personality behind each experience.  The character of the individual guide and host is a hugely important part of each and every experience on Tourdust.
  • With a long tail model, you can’t afford to hire a sales team to approach each and every partner.  We needed a pricing structure that made it a no-brainer for the right kind of business to sign up.  After all, a lot of the best authentic travel businesses get most of their custom through recommendations – so they are never going to consider paying out large listing fees or commissions. If you’re interested you can find out more about pricing and signing up at  Our model is absolutely reliant on getting good word of mouth referrals going within the travel industry itself.
  • We have tried to make it easy for providers to sign up and manage their content.  My benchmark was that it should be as easy as selling something on ebay.  It is just a question of entering some text and loading some pictures.  We’re not asking people to give us live availability feeds or anything – we’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible. 

To sum up I guess, it’s free to sign up, it’s easy and hopefully your listing is going to look really good and get some new customers excited. So why not try it?

Adventure Industry Research Roundup Released

Xola Consulting has released their 2008 Adventure Industry Roundup, to buy the full version click here – below are a few notes from the executive summary that are really interesting for our market.

Traveler Trends
A new crop of adventure travelers is growing in importance — “GenY” travelers and even younger, the so-called “Millennials” are traveler segments to watch for destination developers and adventure travel tour operators. In 2008 Xola’s Natasha Martin conducted primary survey research to better understand the preferences and attitudes of youth who consider themselves adventure travelers. Key findings from Xola’s research indicate that GenY adventure travelers:

    • Are driven by a destination priority over a budget concern: 82% determine destination first, then worry about budget;
    • Travel with a specific purpose to explore and engage with other cultures: they indicate motivations which are consistent with those of Baby Boomer adventure travelers;
  • The adventure travel community should expect to see accelerated growth of social networks dedicated to adventure tourism in the coming months. Already some tour operators are embracing these concepts on their websites, and online adventure travel information sites are emphasizing networking in their operations.
    The use of technology in general is growing relative to tourism, not only the Internet but also wireless communications while traveling is becoming important to travelers.

    The Internet continues to shift power from service providers to travelers, pushing the travel industry to become much more market-sensitive, responding to consumer price expectations and other factors. In fact, Forrester Research predicts that travel will remain the number one on-line retail category and grow to $119 billion by 2010.

    Half of all travel media users (50%) say that they read, watch or listen to travel media at least once a month or once a week. About one-third (31%) of travelers have decided to visit a travel destination because of information that they saw or read in the travel media.

    • In spite of the generally pessimistic outlook for travel and tourism this year, we have had reports from several adventure travel media sources that they are not seeing any slowdown in travel ad spending to date. Bryan Kinkade, Director, Travel & Tourism, National Geographic Adventure, stated in a July, 2008: “As it looks now, 2008 will be another record year for the ad travel category at National Geographic Adventure as more and more destinations and travel providers are identifying adventure travel as a vibrant growth and recession-resistant sector. Our readers view their adventure travel vacations as an absolute right — and while there might be some tightening in other areas of their life, they are not changing their travel plans.”

    Key Adventure Company Trends

    • Increasing focus on land-based immersion in Africa and East Asia;
    • More sea-faring expedition tours to the Arctic, Galapagos and Alaska;
    • Taking increased measures to reduce carbon imprint and impact on environment;
    • Customizable trips becoming mainstays in catalogs to reach high-end travelers;
    • Increase in women-oriented trips, family adventures and theme travel (e.g., culinary tours, wine vacations, gastronomic tours);
    • Emergence of “frequent traveler programs” offering discounts and special offers to drive loyalty;
    • Expansion in volunteer tourism opportunities; and
    • Special advertising and direct marketing to customer databases; special packages to attract middle market travelers most squeezed by current fuel prices.

    Ambassadors for Children – Targeting Niche Markets

    Ambassadors for Children founder, Dr. Sally Brown, was nice enough to take the time and share part of her recipe for success: differentiating in a competitive market.


    “Voluntourism for Ambassadors for Children has been led to niche markets that include humanitarian work as

    well as adventure travel, yoga retreats, and women only programs.    


    Adventure travel include trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu in Peru along with working in a local villages on a feeding program.     Mixing yoga and humanitarian work have been very popular to trips to Rishikesh, India and Costa Rica.    In Rishikesh, the Yoga Capital of the World, a trip is offered during the International Yoga Festival late February each year.    


    Women Only trips are offered to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where camaraderie is built through working together with children and enjoying this destination.”    


    Read more about AFC’s programs in the latest article on voluntourism that came out in the Indianapolis Star this week: as well as Biz Voice


    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!