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Sabah Karimi

What does the growth of the hard adventure market mean for tour and activity operators?

High-risk, high-energy activities that get the adrenaline running and heart pumping—that's what weekend warriors and outdoor enthusiasts alike are searching for these days. That's why the hard adventures market is expected to grow by nearly 4 percent over the next four years alone, according to the latest report from Research and Markets.

Tour and activity operators can tap into this increasing demand for adventure activities by expanding their offerings and making internal changes to accommodate for the influx of hard adventure bookings. Here are five ways tour and activity operators can capitalize on hard adventure market trends.

1. Promote "Escape" Experiences

In a recent press release, Research and Markets highlights several changes in consumer behavior that are encouraging many to escape from urban living and actively seek adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities. “Increased urbanization and immigration have led to overcrowded cities and mobile, fast-paced, and polluted environments, increasing consumers' preference for nature-based outdoor adventures," the release states. Encouraging travelers to escape from the mundane and experience something completely new could help you drive more business.

What You Can Do:

Promote the opportunity to "escape" with one of your adventure packages and activities, encouraging people to take a break from their busy life and enjoy a thrilling experience like no other. This could be anything from a whitewater rafting experience to a zip-line adventure you're offering in a new destination. Play up the thrill factor, and highlight just how these activities can help customers escape the daily grind: Include photos, video snippets of the adventure, and detailed activity descriptions in all your marketing materials—including your website—to entice these customers.

2. Encourage Shared Experiences

Hard adventurers aren't just looking for new ways to enjoy the great outdoors—they're also looking to spend quality time with family and friends. Peak + Skift reports on the rise of experiential travel and indicates that 71 percent of those surveyed traveling with friends and family members preferred to book local. This means there is a very active market of travelers seeking out local tour and activity operators specifically to book an adventure with friends and family members.

What You Can Do:

Set up tiered pricing options for group travel and bookings so that travelers can easily book an adventure for a small group or larger party. Invest in online booking software that allows you to set up tiered pricing and package options in the backend so you can promote different types of packages and offerings across your website and social media networks with ease. Align your marketing efforts with the shared experiences trend by promoting "family discounts" and group package offerings in newsletters, in blog posts, and on your website.

3. Cater to Solo Travelers

While you'll have plenty of travelers seeking out shared experiences and ready to make group reservations, don't overlook the growing demand of solo travelers hungry for new adventures and experiences. The New York Times reports on several studies and findings that indicate a significant increase in demand for solo travel—as much as as 37 percent jump from 2013, according to the 2015 Visa Global Travel Intentions Study. Solo travelers looking for unique outdoor experiences may be interested in learning more about the latest adventure activities they can enjoy alone, or once in a lifetime experiences they can show off to friends and family about.

What You Can Do:

Encourage independent travelers to book unique experiences that you offer on a seasonal basis or only for a limited time. For example, a kayak tour operator could offer one-on-one classes with a pro kayaker available during a certain season. A hiking tour operator might offer private hiking adventure coupled with a training class or other educational experiences for singles.

4. Expand Your Offerings with Multi-Activity Experiences

Accommodate for the demand for hard adventure experiences by expanding your offerings to cater specifically to adrenaline junkies and weekend warriors. This might include customized packages for weekend escapes where travelers can book more than one activity per day or pick out three or more from a special "menu" of offerings for an entire weekend escape. You might also expand your offerings with add-ons, such as educational workshops, classes, or provide the opportunity to purchase an additional activity or tour at a discount. The goal is to generate interest in your business by offering more than just a single experience at any given time.

What You Can Do:

Make use of package pricing and add-on features in your online booking software program to expand offerings to all customers. Be creative with different package combinations and accommodate for multi-activity bookings in a single day. For example, whitewater rafting operator might offer a morning and evening rafting experience. A zip-line adventure company could offer nighttime zip-lining tours to complement a daytime experience in the same day. Explore options to add programs such as workshops, educational classes, and hands-on experiences for a more customized experience.

5. Partner with Complementary Tour Operators

Many adventure seekers are looking for activities that are only accessible to athletes and "professional adventurers." For example, outdoor activities such as trekking, cave exploring, rock climbing, and parasailing typically require some training and are only accessible to experienced travelers. If your company currently doesn't offer these types of experiences, consider partnering with a tour operator that does so you can create a package that gives customers a chance to enhance their visit.

What You Can Do:

Reach out to complementary tour and activity operators to develop packages that appeal to this market segment. You could promote dual experiences, such as a kayaking adventure in the morning followed by a climbing adventure in the late afternoon. Or, an early morning hike followed by a sunset speed boating adventure. The goal is to tap in to your complementary business's pool of customers to generate more business and refer business to theirs with a menu of unique offerings.

Final Thoughts

As the hard adventure market continues to grow, tour and activity operators of all types can promote their activities in new ways and attract more customers by expanding their offerings beyond the single tour or activity experience. Use these tips to attract more of this growing market segment in the upcoming travel seasons.