Tourism

Adventurers aren’t just broke backpackers

Hannah Edensor

It’s no secret things like luxury and food are hitting the big time in the travel industry, but what might come as a surprise is that adventure travel is catching up, and fast.

The estimated market size has surpassed a quarter of a billion dollars in Australia, and is forecast to grow alongside vast campaigns from Tasmania and the Sunshine Coast.

In step with this rise in adventure tourism, the inaugural Adventure Travel Expo will land in Sydney on November 7-8, bringing 50 ambassadors from the most exotic corners of the globe, exhibiting everything from snow leopard tracking to volcano trekking.

Exhibition director Tim Lewis and the team at OFM Exhibitions are behind the expo, so we thought we’d find out just how big the adventure market is, and where it’s going.

“The adventure travel market is constantly evolving,” Lewis told Travel Weekly.

“New segments are emerging according to stronger demand from food lovers, solo-women travellers, eco ambassadors and of course backpackers looking for a better selfie!

“As more people immerse themselves in destinations with the intention of conquering a dirt-trail by foot or bicycle, jumping off waterfalls, kayaking crystal clear rivers or diving among sharks, it is less about age, background or income and more about motivation, self-fulfilment and living life.”

“The stereotype of an adventure traveller being a broke, twenty-something male with bandanna and backpack is long-gone.”

Destination is important, Lewis told TW, but as the adventure travel market expands, it becomes more focused on the experience itself, rather than the place you find these experiences.

“Domestically, Northern Territory, South Australia and Queensland are all key arrival points from Sydney,” Lewis said.

“International travel, it’s difficult to ignore places like Sabah in Malaysia, Hoi-An in Vietnam, Uganda, Kilimanjaro – it’s a long list really, and that’s the great benefit of the Adventure Travel Expo, many of these destinations can be found and researched in the one place.”

“Currently, this immersive travel experience can be found by re-visiting parts of Australia, just as easily as it can be by travelling overseas to Malaysia, South Korea or Nepal, as new tour operators have growing businesses ready to safely cater for your every need.”

And it certainly isn’t just adventure travel flying solo either, and when quizzed on whether there are other markets that intersect with adventure, Lewis told Travel Weekly, “Absolutely!”

“’Glamping’ has firmly established itself as a top-option for travellers seeking up-close encounters and natural wonder, with the ability to crawl into crisp bed-sheets under the stars,” he said.

“Additionally, food has become a hot topic thanks to the organic movement, stronger awareness of super-foods and antioxidants plus, the fitness trend which is impossible to ignore thanks to the prevalence of 24hr gyms and reality television.

“Local cooking styles using authentic ingredients with real flavour has become a serious pull-factor to south-east Asian and Mediterranean regions, this will always be popular but I suspect increasingly aspirational.”

But another thread of adventure travel is about the ‘race’ element.

“More and more people are pitting themselves not only against each other, but against mother nature,” Lewis said.

“Adventure racing is becoming big-business for those with a preference for mountain biking, orienteering and team challenges in the wilderness.”

Social media plays a big part in spreading the appeal of adventure travel, and Lewis told Travel Weekly it’s largely due to the aesthetics of adventure being so shareable.

“It’s common to share experiences via social media and given these platforms are image-led, the first industry to benefit from this is without doubt, travel,” he said.

“It is so easy build an itinerary thanks to the images ‘Liked’ by your friends and after a month-long sojourn you can satisfy your appetite for adrenaline, food and cause-related experiences.

But being such a niche travel sector, we wanted to know if it was sustainable moving forward, or if it’s just the flavour of the month.

“Very few things stay the same,” Lewis admitted.

“The environment is rapidly changing and this fact alone impacts peak and off-peak seasons, which aren’t necessarily congruent with our ability to leave home for a week or three.

“I believe solo and small-group travel is a sustainable industry and the big winners are the online booking companies. As for certain destinations or activities, people will experience them in their own way either by simply observing or merging with a local culture.”

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