New Research Shows Preferences and Priorities Among Adventure Travel Buyers and Suppliers

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The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) has released a new research report describing the supplier ecosystem, along with the challenges and opportunities that these important businesses face within the adventure travel industry. This research was done in partnership with Flywire, ATTA’s preferred global payments partner.

ATTA recognizes that given the global environment of the tourism industry, it is more important than ever for companies to collaborate within their supply chain and to find partners with similar values. This report takes a deeper look at the adventure travel supply chain components, defines different types of adventure suppliers (also known as service providers), and investigates their preferences and challenges that they are currently facing.

“This report focuses on the different organizations that make up the adventure travel supply chain, and how they work with each other, buyers, and individual travelers, said Shannon Stowell, CEO of the Adventure Travel Trade Association. “This network is the foundation of our community, and partnerships will be more essential than ever as traveler numbers increase and we work to maintain sustainable growth for all areas of the world. Only in healthy collaboration can we as an industry succeed.”

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Key Report Findings

All companies that have an effect on the pre-trip, en-route, and destination on-site travel experience are part of the tourism supply chain; for a deeper explanation of terminology and to learn more about how this works, please reference Understanding the Supply Chain of Travel

  1. Suppliers (and buyers) are struggling to find technology to manage their business. Many are turning to costly and time-consuming custom-built solutions for taking bookings and payments.
  2. Suppliers prefer to work with outbound tour operators and other individual suppliers, although DMCs can also be valuable and important partners.
  3. Indirect marketing through travel advisors, tour operators, and OTAs is the most popular way that suppliers reach travelers, followed by digital ads and direct email marketing.
  4. Suppliers most often sell their products to travelers through tour operators or through travel advisors/agents, but selling direct is also popular. Third-party online travel agencies (OTAs) are the least common way to sell.
  5. While buyers and suppliers are primarily looking for each other in the same places, suppliers slightly prefer conferences or trade shows, and buyers tend to look for referrals from other industry professionals. Both commonly seek each other through trade associations, such as ATTA. 
  6. Although associations are valuable ways to meet new potential partners, building relationships and trust are more important for both buyers and suppliers when choosing others to work with. Budget/price ranks about halfway down the list for both.

The report begins by defining the key components of the adventure travel supply chain, similar to how they are described in Understanding the Supply Chain of Travel. It then discusses the results of a survey of the ATTA community, with the goal of helping adventure travel companies better understand the ecosystem in which they work. While the report focuses on suppliers, the connection between buyers and suppliers is also examined to acknowledge their differing preferences. Based on the findings, recommendations are made to help the industry move forward to ensure traveler expectations are met.

Partnering with Buyers

According to the survey results, suppliers prefer to work with outbound tour operators and other individual suppliers, although DMCs can be valuable and important partners at times:

When searching for new buyers to partner with, respondents like to meet at conferences/trade shows, through referrals from other industry professionals, and through trade associations. When it comes to making a final commitment, relationships/trust, sustainability practices, and referrals from trusted sources are the top things suppliers look for in a buyer. Respondents indicated that a business being owned by Indigenous or minority persons, or women, is not currently of the utmost importance.

Marketing & Selling Their Products

Supplier respondents most often sell their products to travelers through tour operators or through travel advisors/agents (B2B), but selling “direct” (B2C) is also popular. Third-party online travel agencies (OTAs) are the least common way to sell.

Aligning with previous research on technology use in the adventure travel industry, there are no clear leading booking platform solutions that work for many respondents. 35% do not use a booking platform at all, and 27% use their own custom-built software.

Like booking platforms, respondents use a wide variety of systems to invoice their clients (both businesses and individual consumers). 41% use a custom-built system, 8% invoice manually, and 51% use a pre-built system. This shows a hugely fragmented market, as there is no one solution that seems to work well for adventure travel suppliers.

Adventure travel suppliers accept payments in a variety of ways. The most common is through bank transfer (91% of respondents), followed by credit card (76%), cash (51%), and Paypal (36%). 

To learn more about the status of adventure travel suppliers, and how buyers and suppliers in the industry prefer to work together, download the report here:

Download the Report

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