Who would have expected in mid-2019 that in 12 months’ time international flights would be grounded, cross-border travel plans would be on hold indefinitely and we’d be spending far more time close to home? As such, there isn’t much we can say with certainty about the travel industry when we look forward to 2021 – but we can be sure it might look a little different. Here are our predictions for the adventure tourism industry as we adapt to this new world.
Travel in our own backyards
It doesn’t take a genius to realise that for the time being, local focus is going to be fairly important for a lot of tourism providers. McKinsey & Company research shows that the majority of Chinese travellers are planning domestic trips now that restrictions have eased, with seaside coastal and lesser known destinations expected to increase in popularity. And demand for domestic air travel is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels two whole years ahead of international travel, according to global projections from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Tourism Economics.
Switched-on adventure tourism operators will definitely be thinking about how to create novel, exciting experiences for their local markets, with far less dependence on international visitors for the time being. The good news for many tourism operators is that more travellers might be willing to splurge on luxurious local experiences, even venturing to remote or island destinations within their borders. Sailing, helicopter tours, water sports and camping/glamping operators could all benefit from this.
There’s already been a big push for consumers to buy and support local due to the economic impact of COVID-19 – so don’t hesitate to share just how local you are in your marketing and advertising in 2021.
Smaller and more private travel groups for safety
Expect more family groups and more demand for private tours in 2021, as travellers look to explore while staying safe. Interest in recreational vehicles (RVs) has significantly increased in the US and Australia as people plan road trips rather than international journeys.
We’re predicting higher demand for private transportation like vans and buses; private villas and accommodation; and smaller groups for adventure tours and activities. So if you usually have larger groups as a tour or activity operator, you might consider smaller bookings in the near future. The good news is that for many adventure tour operators, it’s expected that more and more people will be looking away from big crowds and more towards experiences in the great outdoors where the risk of transmission is lower.
Of course it will also be important to have all of your COVID-19 safety measures in place throughout 2021, which might include temperature checks, masks for crew, social distancing measures and flexible booking conditions so customers can book with confidence.
Adventure experiences with meaning
All of the trends in 2020 are heading towards slower, more meaningful, experiential and sustainable travel in 2021. The constant overwhelming news cycle could easily lead to a desire for off-grid tourism, where travellers can leave their phone behind. Consider offering experiences where people can connect with one another and connect with the natural world around them, coming home refreshed and renewed.
What could this look like for adventure tour operators? Perhaps you could team up with local resorts to offer an experiential package, or provide a weekend away ‘lost’ in the wilderness. In 2021, distinctive offerings could really be rewarded.
Virtual marketing and experiences
Just because the world isn’t completely open to global travel right now, it doesn’t mean people aren’t dreaming of it. There’s a big focus on virtual travel experiences taking off on Facebook and other social media. For example, you can join a live aurora borealis feed from Manitoba, or explore the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park complete with audio from Traditional Custodians.
In 2021 it might be the new norm to host an online event where you take people through part of your adventure tourism experience, either to encourage immediate bookings or to remain front of mind in the future. And with COVID-19 safety measures to also consider, having an online booking and tour waiver process will simply make good business sense. If you haven’t already explored Wherewolf’s capabilities as a waiver app and services waiver solution, then get in touch with the team to request your free demo.