Adrenaline Rush

Adventure travel is experiencing a renaissance amongst UK travellers, with traditional relaxation now too tame for many clients. Charlotte Flach takes a walk on the wild side

As life becomes more stressful, travellers are searching for new ways to break away from the every day and get a hefty dose of dopamine. Recent research from IcelandAir concluded that 43% of UK holidaymakers are opting for escapes of an active nature, with two in five prioritising adventure activities when planning a trip, saying it makes them feel more confident.

“In recent years, there has been a growing focus on the importance of maintaining both mental and physical health, alongside the desire for off-the-beaten-path experiences,” explains Brendan Phelan, Customer Director for Exodus Adventure Travels.

“This has led to an influx in customer need for adventure travel holidays, as the active nature of the trip offers a sense of accomplishment and reward for physical exercise, while the adventure element allows travellers to venture to sought-after locations within their chosen destination.”

Out of the comfort zone

Increasingly, holidays focussed on simply R&R are falling out of favour, says Laura Dewar, Senior PR and Communications Manager at Explore. “Our customers want to come back having seen and experienced new things, met new people and learned about new cultures.

“Since the pandemic, this is even more true – clients are seizing the chance to travel to new places, and are less likely to leave things lingering on the bucket list for ‘another day’.”
And it’s not just itineraries that are becoming bolder, with solo travel also on the rise, especially among adventurous women.

“The demand for solo travel has significantly increased over the past few years, with travellers searching for safe trips and routes that are relatively worry-free. Group adventure holidays offer a sense of safety, particularly for solo female travellers who may worry about adventuring alone,” says Phelan.

Health is wealth

adventure costa rica
Costa Rica’s rainforest is an adventure playground

With wellbeing a top priority for most, it’s good to know that doctors are advising on the health benefits involved in active travel. These include the release of endorphins and the role connecting with nature is believed to play in improving mental agility and clarity of thought, while also distracting from any worries in your personal life.

Benefits go beyond just getting your heart rate up and blood pumping, says Brian Young, Managing Director EMEA at G Adventures.

“Adventure travel connects travellers to the planet, its people and, most importantly, themselves and therefore often has a profound impact on mental health and physical fitness,” he explains.
Travel is great for the mind and soul, agrees Dewar, but she is also keen to emphasise the physical aspect.

“Explore’s walking and cycling holidays are up more than 30% this year, and this trend for combining activity with incredible views, cultural sites and great food seems to be here to stay.”
The wellbeing benefit is also heightened by the senses going into overdrive, as travellers observe new landscapes and learn about new cultures, adds Exodus’ Phelan.

“Adventure travel dares people to go out of their comfort zone by venturing to destinations that would be otherwise inaccessible,” he says.

Best in class

Whether it’s snow tubing down a mountainside or a gentle kayak on a lake, agents can offer excitement no matter what a clients’ definition of adventure is.

adventure Jordan
Hitch a ride through Jordan’s desert

Explore is seeing rising demand for Jordan, for its combination of history and nature: travellers can visit Petra, camp out under the stars in Wadi Rum and go snorkelling in the Red Sea.
In the same vein, Qatar’s desert tempts adrenaline seekers with explorations on a quad bike, ATV or dune buggy.

There’s also an exhilarating desert safari over the dunes to Khor Al Adaid, accessible only by 4×4 vehicles.

Costa Rica is also in vogue due to biodiverse pristine rainforests that are home to monkeys and sloths and is one of Exodus Adventure Travels’ top destinations for adventure too.

“Other popular destinations include Peru for Machu Picchu, Italy for its rolling hills and the Dolomites, and Vietnam for its paddy fields, mountains and striking bays,” adds Phelan.

Although destinations such as Nepal, Tanzania, Costa Rica and Peru draw travellers looking to complete the challenge of a lifetime, adventure is no longer just about faraway and exotic destinations, says G Adventures’ Young.

“Adventure can be found close to home. In response to this trend, our European tours uncover a new adventurous side to places such as Tenerife, Ibiza and Madeira.”

Top sellers

Walking holidays are an ideal way to explore a destination in depth and take in its landscapes, says Explore’s Dewar, and is ideal for meeting like minded people. “An excellent way to experience small group travel for the first time is walking, which is a natural way to meet people and spend time talking with members of the group.”

adventure nz
New Zealand is a popular destination for cyclists

Cycling tours are great for taking in a destination under your own steam, while indulging in an active hobby.

Intrepid has added active options and trips in New Zealand that are away from the usual tourism trail. These include the four-day Cycle Otago Rail Trail which gives travellers the chance to cycle the oldest rail trail in the country and alongside some of the South Island’s most stunning scenery.

It’s also helpful to bear the age group you’re selling to in mind, says Young.

adventure canada
Expedition cruises to Canada are popular with the over 60s

“Iconic adventure trips such as the Inca Trail are very popular with younger travellers. For those aged 50-plus, the National Geographic Journey with G Adventures offers the chance to get deeper into cultures and habitats. While many aged 60 and above are opting for our ‘Marine’ style trips, such as expedition adventures in the polar regions and river cruising in the Amazon and the Mekong.”