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The changing face of adventure travel

Adventure travel was once the domain of adrenaline junkies and hardened explorers, but no longer. Now everyone is doing it – seniors, couples and even families.

Adventure travel was once the domain of adrenaline junkies and hardened explorers, but no longer. Now everyone is doing it – seniors, couples and even families.

The simple flop and drop reigned supreme for decades, but now, it is no longer enough. People want culture shocks, unusual experiences and the thrills of discovery. They want to get under the skin of a destination in order to truly experience it.

“Adventure travel has a completely different flavour these days,” Chimu Adventures marketing manager Meg Hall told KarryOn.

“Almost everyone who works in the space of travel and all those people who want to travel have broken free of those chains of oh adventure travel – it’s scary.

“Everyone wants to have some adventure in their lives now.”

No wonder then that adventure travel is one of the fastest growing sectors of the industry.

But with growth comes change – so what exactly does the evolving face of adventure travel look like? And is it really that adventurous anymore?



Forget battered backpacks and musty tents, adventure travel is no longer necessarily about roughing it. Those preferring to travel in style are also getting a bit more adventurous and are willing to spend some serious cash to make their dreams a reality.

It’s a trend that has been confirmed by luxury travel network Virtuoso. The company recently confirmed that 95% of its travel specialists had seen sales of active, adventure and speciality travel in the last 12 months. The same number also predicted demand for this style of travel would continue to increase over the next two to three years.




Image credit: Planeterra

Adventure travel and responsible tourism have long worked hand in hand, ensuring a sustainable future for local communities.

For Chimu Adventures, that means channelling energy into its Make A Difference (MAD) Foundation while Intrepid has the Intrepid Foundation. G Adventures works in this area through Planeterra while The Travel Corporation, the parent company of Adventure World and Contiki among others, has its TreadRight Foundation.

But travellers should beware of “greenwashing”, several industry commentators have warned. If you’re not familiar with the term, they’re referring to a form of spin in which green marketing is used to falsely promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly in order to see those dollar signs.




Image credit: Chimu Adventures

With adventure travel going mainstream and everyone dipping a toe in the water, operators need to work harder to stand out from the pack.

Travellers too are getting more demanding, and even more adventurous. They want to do things that are different and unique, they want photos that will turn their friends green with envy when they share them on Facebook.

Enter an array of new, more exciting itineraries.

Take Chimu’s new 28-day sail and ski expedition to Antarctica which will see travellers climbing up and skiing down a virgin summit in addition to experiencing all the other wonders of the icy continent. Talk about the adventure of a lifetime.




The world is opening up to travellers thanks to fast-spreading airline networks, cheaper flights and an innate determination to journey far and wide. That means that destinations once thought of as remote and unreachable are now within grasp.

No wonder then that more companies than ever are playing in this space. Take Intrepid’s Iran itinerary as an example – demand for the destination is “out of control”, managing director James Thornton revealed.

Then there’s G Adventures which recently launched an itinerary in long-overlooked Haiti.

Fancy a bit of Mongolia? Rwanda? Nowhere is beyond reach anymore.




As the sector rises in popularity, more and more operators are getting in on the game. Contiki is one such company. Once known for providing the security of an escorted coach tour for young backpackers travelling tried and tested destinations in Europe, it has now spread into destinations including South America, Japan and India.

Then there are the new companies sprouting up, offering meaningful encounters in a variety of destinations. For example, Soulful Concepts focuses on “philanthropic travel design” providing responsible and sustainable travel experiences.

Is there enough demand to support this amount of new product? Looks like there might be.



Do you like to get adventurous on your travels?