Tourism Industry News
Online Marketing, catalog elimination, shorter duration and custom trips on rise
Radically changing booking forecasts and notable shifts in consumer preferences and their booking habits, combined with changes in businesses’ current and future marketing strategies, reflect a quickly adapting adventure travel community according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s first-quarter 2009 “Industry Snapshot”.
Two hundred and thirty-two tour operators from around the world, half from North America, completed the survey and combined represent approximately 1.3 million adventure travel customers. Similarly, 47 adventure resorts and lodges also completed a similar survey.
“What we see in both survey results is what we’ve suspected since the economic turmoil hit - that while the adventure travel industry is not immune to the situation, our members appear to be weathering the storm better than some of the more mass tourism entities which are subject to the difficulties of being primarily price-oriented and more of a commodity,” said ATTA President Shannon Stowell.
Reflecting resilience in the adventure travel sector, 22 percent of the responding adventure travel tour operators anticipate an increase in bookings in 2009 over 2008 levels. Of those reporting increases, more than half anticipate growing up to 20 percent. Similarly, of the 47 accommodations responding, 22 percent indicated that bookings are expected to increase in 2009 over 2008.
The ATTA survey, conducted in February 2009, also reflects the difficulties of the current economic situation. Seventeen percent anticipate flat sales and sixty-one percent of tour operators and 57 percent of accommodations report anticipated bookings in 2009 will decrease compared to 2008, indicating that this specialty sector is less impacted than mainstream travel.
In addition to varied booking projections, open-ended narrative responses in the ATTA study indicate that characteristics among adventure travelers are changing. Adventure tour operators and accommodations most frequently noted that people are requesting shorter duration adventure options, asking for more customized trip options and special offers, and that the window between booking and traveling continues to radically diminish. Adventure companies also report a slight surge in demand for family adventure travel options. In terms of traveler destination preferences, closer-to-home options, especially in North and South America, also continues to climb according to the ATTA study.
In response to shifting consumer preferences, improvements in online marketing, and in-company demands to better manage operational costs, the ATTA survey reveals that businesses across the board are increasingly taking steps to better reach prospective travelers and to adapt to new and improved Web marketing opportunities. In fact, the vast majority of 69 tour operators and accommodations report an increase in their online marketing budgets. The root cause of this increase is attributed to the rising effectiveness of online marketing strategies. Forty-seven percent of tour operators reported that their email marketing is becoming “increasingly effective,” while 67 percent reported they will place a “higher priority” on search engine optimization (”SEO”) in 2009.
Meanwhile, in a dramatic shift for tour operators historically reliant on direct mail catalogs, 40 percent of tour operators report they are eliminating their traditional print catalog altogether, while 58 percent are reducing the total number of catalogs mailed, and 49 percent are reducing the catalog size. In contrast, 27 percent of companies report an increase in direct mail campaigns.
Concurrent with shifts in online and print marketing, new forms of discounting - in lieu of direct booking discounts - are on the rise. Fifty-nine percent of both operator and accommodation respondents reported that in the past six months they have used “new or different forms of discounting, special pricing or price combining” (e.g., pay-in-full discounts, refundable deposits, free hotel night, guaranteed departures, etc.).
Established in 1990, the Seattle-based ATTA is a global membership organization dedicated to unifying, networking, professionalizing, promoting and responsibly growing the adventure travel market. ATTA members include tour operators, destination marketing organizations, tourism boards, specialty travel agents, guides, accommodations, media and service providers. Host of the annual Adventure Travel World Summit executive conferences (www.adventuretravelworldsummit.com), the ATTA provides professional support, development, education, research, marketing, career building, networking and cost-saving resources to its members.