Development report: A brand new research highlights range—and alternative—in journey travel

A demographic shift is taking place in the United States: by 2045 we will be a non-white majority country and the outdoor industry will either catch up or fail. That fact alone should motivate companies to diversify both their internal attitudes and their customer base, and while there has been a lot of momentum in recent months, we as an industry still have a long way to go. A new report from the Adventure Travel Trade Association reveals key insights into travelers of color and provides a way forward for businesses looking to capitalize on change.

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“The differences in access to personal wealth and social mobility have for decades, even centuries, meant that many adventure travel destinations and associated activities were segregated on the basis of racist criteria,” wrote James Edward Mills at the beginning of the report, laying the foundation for racial differences between skiers, kayakers, bikers, etc. “As people of color in the US and around the world have improved their economic stability and prosperity, many of these activities are now available to a much wider segment of the population. ”

Denisha Jenkins and Monet Hambrick discuss safety issues, barriers, and other concerns black travelers face in this short video.

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As the report points out, there are already 22 million different adventure travelers and with a little effort our industry could expand to attract even more new people and build resilience in an uncertain world. “How can we make sure that all of these wild and scenic places, these recreational areas, are not only available, but we can also create a population of people who are welcome, safe and hopefully encouraged and inspired to spend time in them these places, ”asks Mills. It follows that the more people we are committed to our wild and scenic places and can take care of them, the more likely it is that we will have them in future generations.

“A free report like this is something our industry desperately needs,” said Martinique Lewis, a versatile travel advisor and president of the Black Travel Alliance. “We have never seen these numbers and now we as an industry can respond to them.”

The business model for diversity in adventure travel is undeniable

Key Finding: There are approximately 22 million color US adventure travelers for annual sales of $ 51 billion.

Black American adventure travelers spend $ 19 billion while Spanish, Asian, and other non-white populations spend $ 16, 13, and 2 billion, respectively. Overall, outbound US color adventure travelers spend the same amounts as white US adventure travelers and spend more money on things like restaurants, tours, shopping, entertainment, and transportation.

The ATTA study shows people of color spend $ 51 million on adventure travel.

“For a long time in the travel industry, there was a feeling that the black dollar was not valued and that people of color were not being marketed on purpose,” says Lauren Gay, the black travel blogger behind Outdoorsy Diva. “This report confirms what we’ve known to be true all along – that we’re doing these things – and offers ammunition to hold brands and travel destinations accountable now for better results.”

It should be noted that the report only includes respondents who have done at least one international adventure vacation trip in the past 24 months and intend to do another in the next 24 months. If we also factor in people who were only able to go on one adventure trip during that period, the total revenue for US color adventure travelers is likely much higher than $ 51 billion.

“More casual adventure travelers are still important and could easily turn into avid, regular adventure travelers with the right marketing,” says Gay.

Different groups prefer different outdoor activities

Key Finding: In general, US adventure travelers of color are ready to try new activities. They are happy to attend more than one or two when the opportunity presents itself.

We all assume what kind of people do certain activities. Many of them are informed by the media and marketing that we feed. However, this report shows that we cannot speculate on what colored people prefer. Lots of travelers with color are trying new things, which means they are all potential customers even if they have never skied or hiked. And since most color adventure travelers book their paid group activities prior to arriving at a destination, businesses need to factor them into their marketing from the start.

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The “hard” activity of choice for those with black adventures was mountain biking, for Hispanics mountaineering / climbing, and for Asians, kayaking. When it came to “gentle” activities, Hispanics preferred bird watching and surfing, while Asians enjoyed snorkeling and Black travelers enjoyed fishing and sailing. Hiking and camping were popular across the board.

Two smiling women sitting on a rock in front of a pool of water.  One woman is black with short hair and a dark red tank top, the other is white with long brown hair in a blue tank top.

The ATTA study reveals marketing opportunities for brands with a breakdown of activities preferred by different groups.

“This data is really great because we can really break it down by community and then feed that information to tourism boards and businesses,” says Lewis. “You never see black people appearing on boats or in any type of sailing advertisement or marketing. Can you imagine what a company that made this change could benefit from?”

Social marketing is important to various adventure travelers

Key Finding: Social media is the biggest source of inspiration for color US adventure travelers, followed by travel-specific publications and television.

Gay started her blog Outdoorsy Diva because she was tired of scrolling through social feeds of outdoor adventures and not seeing anyone who looked like her. “I was looking for a replacement and since I couldn’t find one, I decided to be,” says Gay.

Today there are any number of influencers, bloggers, and content creators who identify as people of color and who can (and should) be paid by companies for the work already done. As the report outlines, authenticity and transparency are what actual travelers are looking for, and it only comes from actually engaging with your target audience. In order for a brand’s social media not to be stereotypes or tokens for individuals, people of color need to be involved in every step of the content creation process.

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As part of her work as a consultant, Lewis is already using the data in the report to encourage her clients to connect with various affinity groups and influencers to target specific communities, underscoring the importance of word-of-mouth marketing. She also urges the organizational recommendations set out in the report, such as hiring new, diverse employees. Often times, this means building relationships with historically black colleges or other organizations that involve people of color.

“I think adventure companies need to hire someone or bring someone on their team who looks different from the rest of their team,” said Lewis, who recently joined the NOLS advisory board. “A diverse mindset can speak to different narratives and work with influencers or people in these spaces to better market to people of color.”

As the phase progresses, you need to spend money to make money. As the study by the Adventure Travel Trade Association clearly shows, there is money to be made in marketing for colored adventure travelers. Companies that invest in DEI initiatives across the board will be the first to benefit.

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