Adventure Travel Marketing

What is Adventure Travel?

When most people think of adventure travel they think of the heart pounding, risk taking, extreme activities. They think of whitewater rafting, rock climbing, skydiving…you’re starting to get the picture. But adventure travel isn’t all big hits and flirting with death, it’s really just about stepping outside of your comfort zone. This can include whale watching, overland trips, camping (even glamping), or simply interacting with other cultures.

Tourism is Changing

As two income couples choose to not have children, people are waiting longer to get married, and the older population remains much more active, they are searching for more specialized experiences and the dynamics of the adventure travel industry are shifting. What may be a bore for some could be the thrill of a lifetime for others. The question then becomes, how do you communicate successfully to such a broad range of comfort levels, skill sets and interests?

Adventure Travelers are Different

Although the demographic spectrum of  adventure consumers is broadening, there’s still a common thread. Those seeking adventure travel opportunities are looking to do something different – escape their day to day reality, even if it is for one Saturday a year. This bite size escape allows them to reset any unbalance in their life and continue wearing  a parent, teacher, analyst, student, dentist, or grandparent hat. Realizing that need to put on a different helmet hat, if only for a moment, allows those in the industry to appeal to the thoughts swimming around when considering purchasing an adventure travel activity.

Extreme Adventurers are Not Your Target Market

Before moving on, I want to address the adventurers that come back every year for Gauley Season or dream of taking on the Zambezi. Those customers know what to expect, and where they can find it. They are in an entirely different target market, and research shows mainstream marketing images don’t have an affect on their purchase intentions or attitudes toward the activities. This post is meant to address attracting potential customers who are somewhat new to the industry.

Outward Appearances

In today’s social media environment, people are concerned with the image they portray. Don’t fall into the trap! The way a consumer portrays him/herself, doesn’t always reciprocate with what convinces them to make a purchase.

Adventure travel is different in that when you have a glamorous new watch or a car that can go zero to one hundred in 5 seconds, consumers are drawn to the image it portrays. Should they decide to buy it, they don’t have to do anything but wear it or drive it at a reasonable speed. In the case of adventure travel, if consumers make the purchase, they have to physically do it…in front of people.

And run the risk of looking like this guy…

Any time someone steps outside of their comfort zone, they are going to take on some stress and anxiety. For most, there are common characteristics that appear when put in this situation:

  • A heightened awareness of self-image
  • Use of first person narratives (I, me)
  • Concern with what others think of them
  • Overcompensation of anxiety portraying overconfidence or arrogance

What does this look like?

On social media, this often appears as an overcompensation over excited approach to the activity coming up. You are the experts in the industry, you know how someone comfortable with an activity talks. If someone is saying something similar to:

Driving from Fort Wayne to West Virginia for Gauley Weekend. I’m gonna slide my c*** into the Upper and f*** it like it’s your mom. #gauley 

…there’s a strong chance they are covering feelings of stress and anxiety. That is an actual tweet by the way.

What does this mean for you?

Fear and affiliation 

When someone is feeling this way, they are not looking for an equal to share *ahem* strong words. They’re looking for an expert to calm their anxieties. Don’t get sucked into the bigger and badder conversations, but rather position yourself as experts offering safe trips. Those speaking out on social media may not quote those aspects about your company – they have an online image to keep up after all – but they’ll be drawn toward your company to calm their nerves.


I have conducted additional research to support this idea involving intensity level and adventure travel marketing images. Some key results showed:

  • Intensity level had no affect on consumer attitudes toward the image, activity or purchase intention
  • Attitudes were more favorable toward low intensity images
  • More experience proved more favorable in attitude toward the activity no matter the intensity level
  • Those demonstrating the anxiety and stress characteristics above had a more favorable attitude toward the image, attitude toward the activity and purchase intention

Simply put

The average consumer is actually drawn more toward lower intensity images…this is your target market. When consumers get a case of the healthy nerves before making a purchase, they’re getting all jazzed up to take part in the adventure activity, don’t lose them at the last second by showing an image they’ll think is beyond their skill level.

Adventure Travel Marketing takeaways

  • Give some facts that not many people would know about the activity
  • Throw in some company safety statistics
  • Let people know it’s fun and safe for a beginner…don’t go overboard in the “my 80 year old grandmother can do it” style unless you have a picture to show of your hardcore 80 year old grandma. There’s still an image to uphold.
  • Present the opportunity for others to step in and be the expert. Nothing calms someones nerves more than thinking they’ve got it all figured out.

Let me know your thoughts. Do you think adventure travel marketing needs to be approached differently? Drop me a line below or contact me here, I’d love to chat!

You can also check out to read more of my research, and ways I can assist you with your digital strategy. Or if you’d just like to shoot the shit breeze about adventure travel…I love a good story.


Share Button

Leave a comment