Anne Majumdar

Rather than following in the hair-raising footsteps of the intrepid Indiana Jones, adventure travellers are apparently increasingly in search of “transformative experiences”.

A new piece of research conducted by the Adventure Travel Trade Association in partnership with researcher Dr Paige Viren showed that motivating factors among the adventure travel sector have changed.

Back in 2008, Dr Viren had conducted another piece of research which revealed that adventure travellers were in search of “risk and competence”, “new experiences” and “novel experiences”. An interest in other cultures was also cited as a key motivator.

However, personal growth didn’t rank as a priority.

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That has dramatically changed in the nine years since.

This latest survey showed the main motivations for respondents to engage in adventure tourism were to have a “life-changing experience” and enjoy “personal growth and challenge.”

In addition, they said they wanted a sense of “accomplishment and achievement” and a feeling “gratitude and mindfulness.”

Interestingly, the 2008 emphasis on culture had shifted to cultural understanding, with travellers keen to learn more and gain a “broadened perspective” and “expanded horizons”.

“In fact, rather than accepting transformation as a happy by-product of their quest for fun and thrills, adventure travellers are actively motivated by this desire for personal growth and change,” ATTA said.

In the past survey, respondents mentioned “risk,” “hardcore,” “extreme,” “danger,” and “power” among the elements playing an important role in adventure, but in the latest research they found that “being in a natural environment,” “learning,” “meaningful experiences,” and “being in a new culture” all supersede risk as an element of adventure.

Image credit: Intrepid

It’s a shift that isn’t quite so pronounced here in Australia as it is perhaps in North America, according to Intrepid Travel managing director James Thornton who explained that this is how Intrepid has been positioning itself for some time.

“The definition of adventure travel in North America is quite different to how we seen it here in Australia and the UK,” he told KarryOn.

“We fundamentally got ourselves in the business of sustainable, experience-rich travel – that’s how we define the niche that we’re in and that’s the kind of travel we want to do.”

But Thornton agreed that the word experience has become far more commonplace in the industry over the last decade.

“If you pick up various companies’ brochures these days, you’ll see the word experience mentioned whereas five to ten years ago, it wasn’t featured as highly,” he said.

“Life in 2017 is not all about the car you drive or the house you’ve got, it’s all about experiences and that bodes quite well for our style of travel going forward.”

Do you think the meaning of adventure travel has changed over the years?