If you believe that adventure travel is all machismo and testosterone, think again. Fifty-two percent of adventure travelers today are women, according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, and their numbers are rapidly increasing. The average adventure traveler is not a 28-year-old male, but a 47-year-old female, ATTA added.
As more and more women strive for independence, an entirely new sub-category of adventure travel has emerged. Women-only tours and girlfriends-only getaways are now a mainstay in most tour operators' catalogs.
Women aren't just filling up tour slots, though, they're also deciding where to spend their travel budget. Gutsy Traveler, a website that tracks trends in the travel arena, reports that 80 percent of all travel decisions are made by women, regardless of who they travel with, who pays for the trip, or where they go.
Once the trip is booked, women need gear -- and their purchasing power expands to that area as well. Outdoor Industry Association reported that women spend an average of $295 annually per individual on outdoor apparel and equipment. OIA also noted that the women's outdoor retail market has experienced double-digit annual growth in each of the past five years.
All of which means that even in challenging economic times, women who need to outfit themselve and their families for upcoming adventure travel will provide opportunity for increased sales for those specialty retailers who know how to cater to their needs.
Here are three suggestions for appealing to the increasing ranks of women in adventure travel:
- Don't give them guy stuff. A recent REI survey showed a majority of women want gender-specific outdoor gear, and 36 percent believe that gear designed specifically for women can enhance their performance. Gear manufacturers that design such products will quickly gain a niche since there are still relatively few manufacturers who cater to women. But if you do, don't trivialize the product with cheap materials or poor construction. Women are serious about their outdoor gear, and will respond to companies that take them seriously as well.
- Go where the ladies are. Women generally engage in more research before making purchases than men do, and they seek out information from peers. Promote your products on websites and blogs that cater to women, run campaigns and special events at trade shows and retail stores, and advertise in women's magazines. Partner with tour operators who offer women-only trips for product sampling opportunities.
- Tap into their core values: Women process information differently than men, so a branding campaign you may have been using to reach men probably won't resonate with this market. Women value adventure travel for the cultural and emotional benefits it offers, in addition to the physical benefits. Develop an integrated marketing campaign that utilizes advertising, promotion and public relations to communicate a message to women -- one that taps into these values and explains how your product will contribute to their overall experience.
This monthly column, a partnership between OIWC and SNEWS®, aims to address the issues that concern women in the industry most -- anything that is controversial, topical or newsworthy relating to women and the outdoors. The goal is to help, educate, inspire and grow. We welcome your ideas, gripes, thoughts and comments. Bring it on. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paige Stringer is a freelance travel writer, and provides strategic direction for Xola Consulting's Off the Radar (www.travelofftheradar.com) adventure travel website and online newsletter that provides information to adventure travelers about the best sustainable adventure travel destinations and tour operators. You can email her care of SNEWS at email@example.com.