This October Chile is welcoming the adventure world to Puerto Varas for the Adventure Travel World Summit.
Puerto Varas is being handed the baton for the event from another beautiful region – Killarney in Ireland’s County Kerry. We’re an Irish company so we managed to attend last year’s event and asked the delegates their impressions of what adventure travel meant to them. Now we’re in 2015 and guess what…we’re in Chile! We were fortunate to be selected to participate in the prestigious StartupChile programme, giving us the opportunity to enter the Latin American market and of course attend this year’s Adventure Travel World Summit.
According to the Adventure Travel Trade Association (“ATTA”) adventure travellers value climate,natural beauty and the availability of adventure options when searching for a destination. Chile offers abundant opportunities for adventure from the ice fields of Patagonia, the mystery of Easter Island and the dryness of the San Pedro de Atacama. It is one of the longest countries in the world with a coastline stretching over 6,435km but is also one of the narrowest – on average 150km wide from West to East. As you would expect, from such a long country, it has a variety of climates. The Atecama Desert in the North is the driest place on earth with rainfall of just 0.05mm per year. The crater lake of Ojos del Salado in the Andes on the Chile-Argentina border is the world’s highest lake at 6390 m (20,960 ft) and the site of one the world’s highest volcanoes. This country has a lot to offer.
Chile’s 6,435km of coastline give the country a strong natural advantage. It has extremely low population density with just 23 people per square km (this compares with Switzerland at 184, not exactly a crowded country). Chile was ranked the number one developing country for adventure tourism in 2011. It also ranks highly for its attractive environment for entrepreneurs and its status as one of the world’s freest economies. This helps support business development initiatives in a stable environment free from some of the corruption present in other countries in the region.
Domestic tourism is considerable in Chile, with the domestic market contributing over 80% to travel and tourism spending in the country. Tourism is also an important contributor to the local economy representing 2.9% of the country’s GDP. It directly supports 2.8% of employment and is expected to rise by 1.1% per annum to 239,000 people by 2022. All of this points to Chile being a major force in the adventure travel market, it offers visitors incredible experiences and tour operators a stable social and economic environment to market tours. The strength of the domestic market also helps with the development of tourism infrastructure particularly in remote parts of the country.
Who goes on adventure holidays?
So what’s your impression of adventure travellers? Gap year students? Hard core mountaineers? Well according to the 2013 Adventure Travel Report, the average adventure traveller is male, 36 years old, has a college degree and spends about $1,000 on their trip excluding gear and flights. In South America, the spend is even higher at around $1500. South American residents are also the biggest spenders on clothing for their adventure trip. Indeed spending on clothing for adventure travel is a big industry in itself representing $82 billion in sales. The thriving Brazilian market is adding to this growth, representing a $25 billion outbound travel market. Much of this spending is being spent in the Americas with Chile and Argentina key recipients.
The majority of adventure travellers are not hard core adventurers that focus on one activity, nearly 80% of adventurers don’t do the same activity as on their last trip, instead they are interested in the adventure experience and seek diverse novel experiences when they travel. The numbers participating in adventure travel has exploded in recent years with 42% of travellers from Europe, North America and South America reporting adventure as the main activity of their last trip. This has helped accelerate the growth of the adventure travel market with the ATTA reporting that it grew from $89 billion to an eye popping $263 billion in 2013.
What exactly is an adventure holiday?
The Adventure Tourism Development Index describes an adventure trip as:
So not everyone participating in adventure travel is looking to scale the Eiger. The ATTA split adventure activities into soft and hard adventure activities. Soft adventure activities include: cycling, kayaking, sand boarding or learning a new language. Hard adventure activities include: caving, climbing, trekking and paragliding. The growth is definitely towards soft adventure as adventure travellers are generally looking to experience something new rather than become experts in a particular area. Still in Chile, at least, the opportunities to participate in both “soft” and “hard” adventure sports abound.
Traditionally adventure tour operators have been slow to market themselves globally. This was due to being relatively fragmented – by their nature adventure travel destinations tend to be off the beaten path. However, this is changing, due to increased demand and spending by national governments on awareness campaigns, and infrastructure to these regions. In many respects the adventure traveller has grown up with backpacking and has now continued to develop these interests as they have gotten older and as their income has increased.
The companies are also recognising the need for international marketing and there are some great efforts being made by marketplaces such as Keteka that focus on: leveraging the global Peace Corps network to find the most authentic experiences and allow you to book online. Their co-founder Jack believes:
“Adventure travelers have a higher standard for their tours these days – they want to get off the beaten path and experience their destination like a local. Historically, that either required an in-country connection, or a tremendous amount of research. Now, the technology finally exists for small and mid-sized tour operators to connect with companies like ours that can help them get discovered online, giving them more clients, and making it easier for travelers to find those unique experiences that they want.”
Equally there are companies like ours that are simplifying the ability of adventure travel companies to sell online, with cloud based booking software, giving them the same powerful tools that hotels and airlines leverage, but at an affordable cost. These tools even help deal with local or international partners such as Keteka or Tripadvisor’s tours and activities marketplace Viator.
We’re looking forward to the Advenuture Travel Summit in Puerto Varas this year and we hope to see you there!