How to (Correctly) Define the Adventure Traveler

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The Adventure Traveler is finally getting some love. In a SNEWs article last week, Corey Buhay revisited Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) reports to highlight the “sudden popularity” of a market of consumers breaking the travel mold. Instead of filling itineraries with museums and sightseeing, these “newly minted outdoorists” are taking to Alaska’s waterways in kayaks, visiting Machu Picchu via local villages, and rafting through Bhutan.

They are Adventure Travelers, an “oft-overlooked market,” sitting at the intersection of travel and outdoors. Buhay believes that these newbie consumers are subject to a marketing and brand messaging disconnect, as the two industries fail to effectively communicate with them. And while there’s certainly room for the adventure travel niche to grow in the outdoor industry, this audience isn’t new. An agency in small-town Montana has been successfully catching this consumer’s attention for the past 9 years. Spoiler: it's us.

Based in Bozeman, Montana, MERCURYcsc is sitting at that intersection between travel and the outdoors, working to reach the Adventurist consumer for brands like Montana, Orvis, and The Wilderness Society.

The Adventurist—the demographic and psychographic most would call adventure travelers—is at the heart of our client work. And the cornerstone of our marketing strategy that shapes this messaging is the Think T+O Forum™, a proprietary research panel of over 1,500 hand-picked Adventurists.

Buhay is on point. Outdoor and travel brands are uniquely positioned to reach the Adventurist. But this consumer group isn’t as broad nor as soft as the SNEWS article and ATTA reports would have us believe.

According to ATTA’s 2015 survey, 74% of the US population are aspiring or active Adventure Travelers. Developing marketing messaging to resonate with over 200 million consumers is daunting—not to mention unrealistic. These efforts will fall short when attempting to generalize beliefs and behaviors that define Adventurists. With our Think T+O research, we are able to dive into the heart of the Adventurists' psyche and ethos to genuinely connect with them. Here is a taste of what we're hearing.

“Travel and outdoors are synonymous terms for most of the times and places in my life. Outdoors might be simply the space between one destination and another—or it may be the destination in and of itself.” 

–Remegia, NY, age 68, Think T+O Forum Member

“Getting outside means getting back to what it means to be human.”

– Jonathan, England, age 40, Think T+O Member

Discounting Millennials, or any demographic, as a prospective Adventurist because of their inability to afford a four-star, safari lodge is shortsighted.

“The reason I travel is to experience more of the outdoors.”

– Lauren, GA, age 26, Think T+O Forum Member

“I visited Iceland last summer and spent most of the time hiking and camping. I came back with an increased appreciation for people who enjoy simple lives surrounded by vast wilderness areas.”

– Carl, UT, age 23, Think T+O Forum Member

“Travel and outdoors are interchangeable for me. All my travel is for the outdoors. I don’t care about shopping and luxury; give me adventure and my travel has been worth it.”

– Gina, UT, age 36,Think T+O Forum Member

The Adventurist is seeking more than just a guided tour group or comfortable footwear. They’re seeking out meaningful experiences that are often difficult to articulate: a connection with the outdoors, interactions with local culture, and the desire to get out of their comfort zone and take risks.

“I recently did a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. I got to experience many small towns that I wouldn’t have otherwise visited and met wonderful people along the way.”

– Amanda, WA, age 37, Think T+O Forum Member

Adventurists are searching for the untrammeled, the local, and the authentic. They’ll venture off the beaten path, to find a new view or viewpoint. They’re a highly connected, well-researched, and curious group.

“In the last year I’ve been to Mexico, Alberta, and Costa Rica to run and hike. I also spent time meeting new people, trying local food, participating in the culture. It’s all about learning and engaging with people and nature.”

– Amanda, TX, age 50, Think T+O Forum Member

“Travel means challenge, adventure, back roads, new experiences, and learning from new people and cultures. Living in the moment and forcing your perspective to open, change, and rearrange.”

– Alisha, WY, age 35, Think T+O Forum Member

Travel and outdoor brands will successfully connect with this consumer by developing messaging, products, and services that recognize the complexities of this audience. These nuances define the audience on a deeper level than demographics and help craft the authentic messaging and experiences that Adventurists have been seeking out for years.

Learning how to communicate with your travel and outdoor audience starts with asking them thought-provoking questions and then listening carefully to what they have to say.

If you’re interested in speaking to your consumers in a new way, take a look at The Pulse, a quarterly report where we tap the Think T+O Forum on industry trends, beliefs, and behaviors. Our most recent report explores Snapchat strategy. Other reports dive into to gender-specific marketing strategy and brand activism. We've also tapped into some pretty interesting thoughts on camping last June.

Are you an Adventurist who wants to join the conversation? Join our Think T+O Forum! We're excited to hear from you.

This article first appeared on MERCURYcsc's blog here.

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