Women-only adventure travel growing market

Travel expert says Cayman ideal venue

An adventure travel expert has suggested that one niche adventure tourism market the Cayman Islands could be very suited to is that of women-only adventures.

Commenting that women-only activities is a strong growing market, Hugh Hough, President of Green Team Advertising added, ‘Cayman is so safe and secure it offers lots of opportunity for this.’

He was speaking at the Fifth Annual Tourism Conference that took place last week at the Westin Hotel.

The panel of experts also included: Brian Mullis the President of Sustainable Travel International, Marianela Chevalier of Caribbean Adventure Magazine, and freelance travel journalist Theresa Storm.

In explaining the type of general visitors that are attracted to the Cayman Islands, Director of Tourism Pilar Bush said it is mostly people between 25 to 54 years old, with an average household income of $75,000 or higher. They are well educated, with 54 per cent of them having a first degree and 38 per cent having second degrees.

She also explained that shortly after 9/11 the DoT set out to minimize the risk of the Cayman Islands being too dependent on any one customer segment. The DoT already reaches out to various markets such as the destination weddings and honeymoons market, the dive market, the family market. Last year it began focusing on adventure travel.

Mr. Hough gave the key elements of adventure travel as an experience of nature, the local people and culture, food, authentic experiences and presenting a challenge physically, intellectually and spiritually.

Booming market

He described this category of travel as ‘hot’ and ‘booming’ and competition is fierce among destinations. For instance, Hawaii has a yearly budget of $69 million to spend on this sector and Mexico $13 million.

The adventure traveller is hungry for information and loves to read and learn about things. They will already have researched the destination using online tools. They often arrange the travel themselves, are more flexible than the average traveller and have a defiant attitude. Their desires on a vacation are for something authentic, with meaning, uniqueness and value.

They range in age from 30 to 59 and will have already travelled to places such as Mexico, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Central America.

Activities they enjoy include hiking, canoeing, bird watching, sailing, white water rafting, snorkelling and diving. They are culturally curious and enjoy new and different experiences.

However, there are some factors that can go against the authenticity of a destination, said Mr. Hough. These include cruise ships, hotel chains and fast food chains along with declining coral reefs.

In this market, offering something unique and different is important, but he warned against promoting what a country does not have. Cultural tours, festivals, spas and food are all important.

Niche areas that are growing include multi-activity days, family adventure, women-only adventures.

Mr. Mullis spoke about sustainable tourism as the future of the travel and tourism industry.

Sustainability

He believes that once we accept the fact that travel and tourism is destructive, we can begin to determine how to take advantage of the benefits of pursuing sustainability.

He outlined that travel is a culprit of climate change, accounting for half the worldwide climate damaging greenhouse gas emissions and this in turn has caused problems such as more violent storms and damage to coral reefs, leaving social, cultural and economic implications.

However, sustainable tourism is economically viable in the long-term, and it avoids damage to tourist attractions and the physical environment, he said, and it adds socio- cultural and environmental dimensions into the bargain.

Mr. Mullis said that this type of tourism emphasises contributing to the well being of local people by partnering with communities in the regions in which they operate. Such partnerships can create benefits for local communities by employing people living in or near the areas being visited and purchasing products and services from local businesses. It also helps to preserve the destination and the culture for future generations.

He said that 36 per cent of adult Americans can be classified as geotourists, or responsible travellers. These people are attracted to travel companies that employ sustainable business practices, and this target market represents a huge profit arena, he said.

He cited a recent study that said 58.5 million Americans say they would pay more to use a travel company that strives to protect and preserve the environment. The estimated number of LOHAS (Lifestyles of Heath and Sustainability) consumers is 63 million. They believe in finding a blending of body, mind and spirit while on vacation.

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