SEEK AND GO HIDE
Exploring the new rules of adventure travel
Some travel stories become the stuff of family legend. We all have them: that crazy uncle who went overland from Cape Town to Cairo in the ’70s with just a backpack and a tent, or the grandmother who fondly recalls hitchhiking her way along Route 66 with the American lover she’d met in a roadside bar.
They were the Aussie adventurers of yesteryear, the pioneers of getting off the beaten track and pushing the boundaries of new experiences.
But it wasn’t for everyone. Even today the thought of disappearing to remote parts of Asia or South America without an iPhone or a return ticket borders on near insanity. Thankfully, in the same way our crazy relatives came of age, adventure travel in 2018 has matured and made its way into the mainstream.
Travel experts attribute this to a perfect alignment of the stars. Suzanne Cavanagh from Creative Planet believes never before have Millennials and Baby Boomers sought out the same experiences, nor has there ever been such a global emphasis on personal wellbeing and sustainability. Throw in technologies such as the smartphone, Airbnb and social media platforms like Instagram and you start to form a picture as to why adventure travel has wedged its way into everyday holiday planning.
And for you and I, mainstream has a significant upside. Remote destinations and tours have become cheaper, we can now choose more ethically sustainable adventures, and it’s also unlocked new experiences as tourists continue to push the envelope to get further and further off the grid.
For example, where hiking Machu Picchu citadel was once a bucket-list destination, in 2018 the government of Peru has opened Choquequirao, an alternative Inca settlement that receives as few as a dozen visitors a day. Or where Thailand or Nepal were once the laid-back Aussie magnets of Asia, Vietnam and India have emerged as the region’s sleeping giants according to Intrepid’s recent Adventure Travel Index.
“We’ve finally found a maturity in travelling,” Suzanne says. “It is truly an amazing story, because it’s the style of travel whose time has come.”
Both Intrepid Group chief executive James Thornton and Adventure World Travel managing director Neil Rodgers say business is booming and this year will be their biggest on record. But they say booking an “adventure” no longer means having to climb a mountain. For Thornton and Intrepid, it’s more about mindset than how high you go or how far you walk. Experiencing the cultural differences, transport, people and cuisine is just as much an adventure for the first-time traveller to Vietnam as climbing Mount Kinabalu is for others.
Where 40 years ago an experience with AWT averaged a two-star rating, their tours now include accommodation, transport and amenities more consistent with a four- or five-star experience.
Rodgers says that’s the true sign of the adventure travel evolution.
“The Baby Boomers of today are the ones who were once backpacking and now they want to travel again to adventure destinations in depth, but with a level of comfort and style attached,” he says.
So what else is the new adventurer looking for?
If you counted the amount of times you had checked your iPhone in the past hour, you’d understand why adventure travel is being used now as
NEVER BEFORE HAVE MILLENNIALS AND BABY BOOMERS SOUGHT OUT THE SAME EXPERIENCES