April 25

Who’s Doing Adventure Travel? The answer may surprise you.

Hardly a day passes without someone in the media proclaiming how millennials are surpassing boomers to become the next generation that dominates the planet. Their tastes, spending habits and use of social media obsess marketers who try to tap into their distracted attention spans. Investors have followed suit as Snapchat’s market cap rose to a whopping $33 billion soon after its IPO. But if you’re chasing millenials in the adventure travel industry, you might want to think again.

A recent report by The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) shows the average adventure traveller is 47 years old. Generation X, that forgotten and almost never mentioned cohort between millenials and boomers, is who’s driving this industry. Born between 1965-1980, this generation is now in its peak earning years. Anecdotally, I’ve known this for years. Whether I’m at a  guided backcountry ski lodge, on a scuba holiday or a trekking trip to Patagonia, it’s the 40-somethings I see most. The same goes for high-end adventure sports gear. Go to your local mountain biking area and see who’s actually riding those $7000 bikes.  

Gen Xers are at the ideal crossroads for adventure travel and outdoor gear businesses; they’re young enough to still want to do adventure, but old enough to desire (and afford) a bit more comfort, whether that’s in the form of a high-end ski touring trip or the plushness of a new full-suspension Enduro bike. Boomers are now moving too far along the comfort continuum, and leaving adventure behind. Millenials are doing adventure in droves, but they’re doing it on the cheap, with self-supported trips, and Craigslist gear.

So how to reach this lucrative demographic? Are you doubling down on Instagram and Snapchat because everyone else is? Probably not a wise move. This audience is king on Facebook, beating out millenials for time on the site. 58% use Youtube and they lead the way in tablet penetration. Gen X has the highest brand loyalty at 84% They’re also big consumers of traditional media (magazines, newspapers, TV) but not quick adopters of the latest social media, preferring to wait and see, and make sure a platform is right for them before jumping in.  Only 8% use Instagram and 12% are on Snapchat.

For businesses with small budgets, the best bang for your buck is likely a combination of earned media, Youtube and paid Facebook. Content strategy and storytelling are key as this audience requires powerful experiential stories to get its attention, and does not want to be sold to. Ever. For help with reaching Generation X through great content and storytelling, drop me a line.



boomers, earned media, generation X, millenials

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