Change is the Only Constant: Why Agility is Key for Adventure Tour Operators

Adventure tour operators are the masters of adaptation. A rainy day, strong wind or temperature change can often require a completely new plan for the day to ensure guests are safe and have the best possible experience. And this sense of adaptability should absolutely apply in a business sense too – here’s why. 

Customer markets are always changing

It’s easy to see why the customer market has shifted lately for most tour operators. The global COVID-19 pandemic has grounded most international leisure travel, at least in the short term. With this, we’re seeing a seismic shift to more localised travel and adventures in our own backyards, which can require specific adaptation, planning and reassurance for customers. 

Tour operators are also adapting to other changes such as newly prosperous traveller markets. China’s expanding middle class has been driving a significant boost for outbound travel in recent years, as just one example. There’s also an increasing focus on appealing to the younger generations of travellers as they become a growing market for adventure tour operators. Younger travellers are found to be particularly focused on experiential travel that’s engaging, immersive and even transformational. 

And Gen Z travellers born between the mid-nineties and mid-noughties are happier than any other age group to travel alone, with bookings made by young female solo travellers increasing 88% between 2015 and 2019. 

As customer markets shift and evolve – particularly in light of COVID-19 – agility is going to be key for tour operators to remain relevant and connected to their customers.  

Customer expectations are ever shifting

Of course, there are also changes to customer expectations that tour operators across the world may need to pay attention to:  

  • Streamlined customer processes

Customers now expect a convenient and smooth booking and waiver experience. Phocuswright research predicted that 55% of online travel bookings in the Asia Pacific region would be made via mobile by 2019, along with 25% in the US and 30% in Europe. If you’re not mobile, you could be missing out.
(Tip: With Wherewolf you can have your liability waiver forms signed digitally on customer devices or via a branded waiver app at your waiver kiosk. You can check out how much Wherewolf can save you here, or request a demo.)

  • Personalised recommendations

Personalised experiences and recommendations can help you connect to your target audience. 60% of South Korean travellers, 42% of Japanese travellers and 34% of Australian travellers would be keen to receive personalised recommendations for in-destination activities, according to the Phocuswright research. Follow-up emails and targeted marketing can be invaluable.

  • Experiential travel

We’ve already touched on this, but research is showing that more travellers want to be personally transformed and improved by their travel experiences. Savvy tour operators will be considering how they can provide genuine connections to local people, places and cultures for their guests.  

  • Sustainability

45% of travellers said that the sustainability of their travel provider was important in 2019, according to a Travel Trends Report from the Association of British Travel Agents’ (ABTA). This figure is up significantly from 24% in 2014, showing that this is an increasingly important factor.

  • COVID-19 health and safety

Of course, in a post-pandemic world safety and hygiene are going to be a major factor for all tour and activity operators. Clarifying and promoting your safety procedures will be vital. 

In 2020 more than ever, it’s going to be essential to stay agile and adapt to shifts in customer markets and expectations. But for adventurous tour operators, we know you’re the best people suited for a challenge.

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