Marketing Adventure Tourism

Marketing for an Adventure Tourism destination or service is a complex task. This reflects the numerous and varied adventure tourism activities on offer. Adventure tourism experiences can last from a few minutes to many weeks, prices vary, adventure tourists have numerous motivations, and many adventure tourism products are highly seasonal. A number of methods exist for promoting an adventure tourism service:

  • Websites featuring information, prices, and a booking form.
  •  Articles or advertisements in specialist magazines, newspapers, and the local media.
  •  Direct mail marketing to past customers offering discounts or incentives.
  •  Placing small advertisements in magazines or newspapers.
  •  Exhibiting at trade shows.
  •  Notices on local information stations.

These marketing tools can continually be updated or improved depending on the interests and needs of the targeted audience and the success of previous marketing tools.

There are various objectives within the adventure tourism market. These affect the approach to marketing. For some companies adventure tourism is a business with the primary purpose of making profits. Voluntary or non-profit organizations aim to provide a social environment for those participating. An example could include holidays for disadvantaged children. There are also adventure enthusiasts who set up ventures that allow them to pursue their hobby as a full-time profession – seeking to balance an enjoyable lifestyle with earning enough income to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. These different objectives reflect the marketing approach taken to promote the product.

Adventure tourists also have a number of motivations for ‘purchasing’ an experience. Motivations can include sensual pleasure, escaping from everyday life, meeting like minded people, spiritual enlightenment, improving fitness, and exploring untouched places of the earth, etc.

 Some products are prepared packages while others are individual elements. These individual elements may be taken as a one off experience en route or as part of the package. Also, some experiences are ultimately personal, solo activities whilst others are experienced as a group. Adventure tourism experiences can last from minutes to many weeks and the price of products can vary from very low to high premium pricing. Therefore marketing must be aimed at all these scenarios.

Seasonal Fluctuations

Many adventure activities are highly seasonal – especially those that are outdoors and rely on specific weather patterns i.e. white water rafting requires high rainfall in order to provide white water. It is also worth considering that at certain times of the year the attraction may be inaccessible, i.e. bad weather or disrupted transport services. Seasonality affects pricing and the volume of demand.

Many tourist operators believe that seasonal fluctuations are the largest drawback to tourism development. The economic impact of seasonal fluctuations can be significant to specialised adventure tourism providers.  Seasonal tourism resource use also fluctuates, such as transport and accommodation. Many employees will be working full-time during peak seasons, but only on a casual basis during low seasons.

The major reasons for seasonal fluctuations are climate and social calendar events.  An example of seasonal influence is seen in the Himalayas.  Winter is the peak season for treks in the Himalayas as the weather is clear and fine.  However, it is not the best time for mountaineering. An example of social events effecting tourism is that of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) which is taken during the month of Dhu al-Hijjah (the last month of the Islamic year).

Marketing Tools

Adventure tourism marketing must be many things – localised and global, cross-cultural and/or transnational, and attractive to a range of audiences worldwide.

The market is becoming more and more segmented into targeting groups that share similar characteristics. For example age, sex, race, lifestyle, etc. For example, the Club 18-30 type vacations providing for a particular age group and a particular motivation for certain types of adventure travel.

There are some interesting trends within the adventure tourism market, some of which are noted below:

  •  More and more women are taking part in adventurous travel
  •  There is a growing interest in the Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe regions as travel destinations.
  •  Senior citizens or adults in their 50s and 60s whose children have grown up are enjoying benefits of better health care and are keen to try new adventure experiences.
  •  Parents with families are more commonly taking trips to out of the way places in less developed countries.
  •  Students are travelling at a younger age, some are spending around $10,000 on “gap year” explorations
  •  There is increasing demand for customised itineraries.

Within the adventure tourism industry itself, there are global trends occurring, such as:

  •  Adventure tourism operators are moving towards offering a portfolio of activities at different destinations.
  •  Adventure tourism operators are also offering a larger variety of adventure activities at single destinations.
  •  There is an increasing number of tourism destinations marketing themselves as “adventure destinations”.
  •  The luxury level available for adventure tours is increasing. Some adventure tour operators are providing luxuries such as private charter, spas and access to massage therapy for tour group members.

These increasing trends above do not necessarily require new providers because the market already exists for the type of experiences they are seeking. However, some changes may need to be made in order to cater for the different clients i.e. considerations for children and older, less agile adults, or setting grades of difficulty for various tours. A tour, for example, may need to have options for people who choose not to climb Kilimanjaro. Other alternatives may be shopping for the day or walking half way and meeting the party at the end of the day or at another location. These provisions need to be put in place in order to attract the new and increasing markets.

One point worth noting is the role that national and local governments play in marketing tourism. National Governments promote whole countries through a few key images that are the leading attractions or symbolic of the country. Local Governments tend to promote their region, highlighting their own attractions to the region. This is generally done through the Department of Tourism in each region.

Adventure tourism has become a very competitive business. Competition is received from:

  •  Other geographic areas in the world offering similar activities
  •  Neighboring regions in the same country with similar activities
  •  The huge number of existing enterprises offering similar activities worldwide (simply the growth of the market).
  •  Adventure tourism operators offering different activities within the same natural area.

Adventure tourism marketing is a complex activity that is complicated by the diversity of the product and the range of clients.

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