Adventure travel and European travelers? A love at first sight. Europe accounts for 35% for the market share for Adventure Travel in 2022.
This article offers a comprehensive analysis of Adventure Travel, including its various market niches and segmentation, with a specific focus on the potential of the European market.
What is Adventure Travel? Adventure Travel Segmentation
Adventure Travel is a type of outdoor tourism that includes at least 2 of the following elements: physical activity, nature and cultural immersion. As the Adventure Travel Association states: “
Adventure Travel is a diverse and expansive sector within the tourism industry, encompassing numerous niche segments. One such differentiation lies in the difference between soft adventure travel and hard adventure travel.
- Soft adventure travel is a relatively safe adventure practice that does not require any kind of technical preparation or prior experience. As we see from the chart below, it is the most practiced form of outdoor tourism, but also the one with the most competition in the market. Examples include birdwatching or trekking in the hills.
- Hard adventure travel encompasses a series of more adrenaline-pumping adventures that require technical skills and a greater appetite for risk. Some examples: rock climbing, caving, sky-diving.
Adventure Travel Market Size
Global Adventure Travel Market reached a value of $1484.01 Billion in 2022 and it expected to reach a CAGR of 16% in the period 2022-2023. Adventure Travel accounts for 30 % of global tourism spending.
Along with the US, Europe is the main area in terms of expenditures for Adventure Travelers and one of the most active as far as tour operators specializing in niche markets are concerned, as we can see by analyzing the chart below. In addition, European Adventure Travel contributes to the local economy: about ⅔ of the money spent stays locally.
Moreover, the recovery from COVID-19 and the outlook for the segment is more promising than other tourism segments. Here are some reasons why:
- Adventure Travel involves smaller tour operators who tend to have a number of repeat customers, including through a dense word-of-mouth network.
- Even on the accommodation side, Adventure Travel involves small partners working with more flexibility in terms of occupancy rates.
- The desire to travel is perceived much more by Adventure Travelers than by “traditional” leisure travelers, as part of their enrichment to explore new destinations.
Demand for Adventure Travel across European Countries
But which European countries are driving the demand for adventure tourism? In Europe, Britain, Germany and France stand out, followed by Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.
According to the UNWTO, UK is the largest market for Adventure Travel in Europe, accounting for 19% of adventure tourists worldwide. Among British tourists, 40% opt for active vacations.
Germany is the second-largest market. Among German tourists, 32% of Germans prefer active vacations.
Italy holds the fourth position in the Adventure Travel market, however, in terms of preference as Adventure Travel Destination, it secures the second rank.
Adventure Travel Target Audience
Broadly speaking, the European Adventure Traveler is a middle/high-educated traveler. The youngest adventurers prefer hard activities, although more and more middle-aged and senior travelers are getting into adventures.
Considering the age group, the 30-40 segment was the fastest growing in the past years and it is projected to increase in the future.
A closer look at the generations reveals that:
- The baby boomer and boomer generation (1944-1964) mainly opts for outdoor and soft adventure tourism combined with cultural activities.
- Millenials are more active than the previous generations and will focus more and more on personal development and growth, trying to combine adventures, thrills, adrenaline and personal enrichment. Traveling will have to bring something new to young travelers. A survey carried out by WeRoad which targeted millennial travelers, found that over two thirds (72%) want to travel in 2023 in the hunt for an adventure.
Taking the market segmentation in the soft-hard distinction and applying it to the age profile of the Adventure Traveler, as in the graph above, we can see that:
- The segment of low-specialization travelers, (combination of soft activities and cultural excursions) are the vast majority of Europeans.
- While high-specialization travelers are the minority, but it is also the most “mature” and “enthusiastic” segment that presents very specific ideas about what and where to book, i.e., it also chooses its location based on the activity to be performed, is willing to spend more to experience a certain type of activity, and arrives already prepared on site.
Upon observation of the graph above, it is evident that the demographics of adventure tourism enthusiasts tend to fluctuate over time. It is predicted that the number of couples and families engaging in adventure travel will increase.
Solo Travel is another long-lasting trend: Adventure travel companies have emerged as a popular choice among millennials, catering to young solo travelers who seek to join a community of individuals with similar interests to explore extraordinary destinations. Not only do these groups offer opportunities to participate in thrilling activities, but they also provide a platform for participants to form long-lasting friendships and connections with like-minded individuals from around the world.
This growth is driven by a rising interest in adventure activities and outdoor experiences among travelers seeking unique and authentic experiences. In conclusion, Europe remains a significant source market for outdoor tour providers and operators, with Europeans constituting 60% of the total number of adventure travelers. As such, Europe is poised to lead the potential growth in the Adventure Travel sector.