The Latest Trends in Adventure Travel

What trends, challenges and concerns will be faced by the adventure travel community in 2024?

According to a January 2024 poll conducted by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) sustainability and overtourism remain the buzziest words of the moment, while global war and climate change are top concerns among tourism stakeholders.

Top Trends for 2024

When asked about the top trends ATTA members are seeing for 2024, sustainability comes in at No. 1, according to 59% of ATTA members. This is closely followed by overtourism (56%), off-season travel/off-the-beaten-track destinations (53%) and specialized/niche travel (43%). Although artificial intelligence has dominated the news cycle over the past few months, only 36% of members identified it as a top trend. Likewise, wellness/slow travel (35%) and accessibility (5%) fell to the bottom of the rankings. (Note: ATTA members could choose as many answers as they wanted in response to this question).

Adventure Travel’s Biggest Concerns

In addition to trends for the coming year, the survey asked respondents about their top concerns. War and conflict emerged as the highest concern (with 64% of respondents choosing this option) nearly four months into the Israel/Gaza war and almost two years after Russia invaded Ukraine. Climate change was the second-biggest concern (55%), followed by political tensions/elections and natural disasters (tied at 46%). 

Perhaps surprisingly, economic instability and inflation didn’t’ rank as a top concern (43%), and neither did transportation challenges (16%).

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Top Challenges for Tourism Stakeholders

Travel and tourism providers reflected on their own businesses to identify ongoing challenges, with marketing strategy (55%) showing the largest impact on adventure travel businesses. Growth challenges (38%) and consumer education regarding responsible travel choices (37%) also ranked highly. Staffing and technology challenges ranked as an issue for more than a quarter of poll respondents (29% and 28%, respectively), while sustainability certifications (17%) and crisis management (9%) rounded out the list. 

Other lingering effects of the pandemic were not mentioned, suggesting the industry’s firm recovery.

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What the ATTA Is Paying Attention to for 2024

Based on these results and the findings from other industry surveys the ATTA identified seven areas of focus for 2024:

1. Outbound Recovery and Regional Dynamics: As pandemic recovery continues (with North America leading the way), the Asia-Pacific region is delayed due to the late re-openings of China, Japan, New Zealand and other countries.

2. Popular Inbound Destinations: Travel destinations in Asia will be experiencing newfound outbound recovery due to their delayed openings — coupled with a diverse inbound tourism mix — leading to increased interest in India, Japan and south Korea, along with an overall interest in Northern Europe. Africa is also emerging as a top destination for Americans and European travelers.

3. Shifting Demand and Reducing Overtourism: Travelers are shifting away from overcrowded destination and reducing pressure on typical tourist hot spots (such as Venice) and are beginning to book travel in shoulder seasons.

4. Climate Change and Making Sustainable Choices: The effects of climate change and shifting weather patterns are dictating traveler behavior as they grapple with concerns over heat, heavy rains, flooding and wildfires. Sustainable destinations are also top of mind, such as those in Scandinavia, along with eco-conscious activities (including rail travel).

5.Wellness and Meaningful Travel: Clients are embracing travel as a transformational experience, choosing activities that combine thrills with self-empowerment (think: silent retreats, immersion in nature and opportunities to recharge and reset).

6.Artificial Intelligence (AI):AI has tremendous potential for the travel and tourism industry, and will give travel specialists tools to improve the customer experience, to help plan and book trips and to refine marketing strategies. Additionally, AI chatbots are answering travel questions and providing travel inspiration (however, the ATTA urges members to take caution, and not think of AI as a replacement for high-touch, human leadership).

7.Adventure Travel Is for Everyone: Adventure travel is increasingly becoming more accessible and catering to a wider client base. Women over 50 and solo female travelers are taking an interest in this niche, and some companies are catering to specific generations as Gen Z begins to venture out into the world without their parents. Skip-gen travel (grandparents traveling with grandchildren) is also on the rise. Organizations that promote inclusion and diversity are also increasing, along with size-inclusive travel companies.

Find more information on ATTA’s latest industry outlook poll and analysis on other trends shaping the adventure travel industry at AdventureTravelNews.com.

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