Travel brands can exploit a ripe market for adventure and romance holidays

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There’s a budding adventurer in all of us; and the US wedding market is worth $30 billion a year. They might sound like two disparate pieces of information, but those were some of the big takeaways from the World Travel Market in London last week.

The term adventure travel conjures up images of tanned, rugged rockclimbers. But Adventure Travel Trade Association president Shannon Stowell said the genre has become broader. An adventure holiday today tends to be a combination of physical activity, interaction with the environment, and cultural exchange.

Stowell said the whole travel industry is heading towards adopting an adventure approach because as travellers become more experienced, they are demanding new and unusual destinations and experiences. He backed this up with stats – in 2009/10 the mass tourism industry grew by an average of 4%, while adventure tourism grew 17%.

He said 60% of 18 to 41 year old adventure travellers don’t book with tour operators, preferring to go it alone, while 61% of 41 to 70 year olds do. This suggests several things – the obvious, that older adventure travellers would be more receptive to engaging with tour operator brands, but also that there is an opportunity to cater more for the agent-averse younger audience.

Rather than convincing them to book a package, Stowell suggested these brands can create smaller offerings such as content oriented apps and self guide tools. These are mechanisms for these brands to present themselves as an expert and authority rather than just facilitator.

These firms should also look towards emerging markets that represent the products and travellers of the future, Stowell noted. However, this doesn’t mean there is an automatic pot of gold at the end of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) road.

Challenges in serving the Chinese market, for example, come from these travellers’ preference to like large groups and eat Chinese food, Stowell added. Locations in appealing emerging markets for adventure travellers, such as Romania and Latvia, aren’t suitable for large buses and Chinese restaurants may be less than plentiful.

Meanwhile, chief marketing officer of Honeymoons.com, Marie O’Mara, had some cracking insights around the $30 billion a year US wedding market.

O’Mara fired off more stats than guests at a celebrity wedding:

– 4.5 million people get engaged in the US each year
– 20% of the US population travel annually for romance purposes
– 39% of engaged couples are looking for all inclusive deals
– Same sex couples are extremely lucrative: 80% purchase online, 66% post to Facebook during and after their trip and 10% will Tweet at least once.
– 64% say travel is more important than fixing their home or buying a new car and 75% stay in a mid to high end hotel

O’Mara’s most valuable piece of advice was around destination weddings, which make up 20% of all weddings and are up 300% since 2001. This can be a real money maker for hotels in particular, who, if they can come up with inventive, romance inspired add-ons, can increase revenues.

The stats:

– Most destination wedding couples look for romantic scenery, affordability, and variety
– 78% booked solely based on a hotel’s website – photos and video are key
– 30% had 70 guests
– 60% say they would like the services of an on-site wedding planner
– 63% look for upgrades for the bride and groom
– 87% would stay for their honeymoon
– 28% plan to book a vow renewal trip in the future

O’Mara gave examples of schemes that have gained hotels extra PR mileage. The Paparazzi Proposal can be purchased to film a surprise proposal, while Sleeping with the Stars charges a premium for a hotel room that is essentially outdoors. Private candlelit dinners and beach cinema nights are also added extras that boost revenues while impressing guests.

And most importantly: learn “bridespeak” to really connect with this audience.

I’m not sure what the equivalent of that is for the adventure market, but the same philosophy rings true – be creative, make people feel special, and offer experiences that set your brand apart.

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If you’ve achieved something to shout about with your marketing then enter the Travel & Leisure category in the Marketing Week 2012 Engage Awards by clicking here.

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