Travel agent Ken Neibaur on the Milford Sound in New Zealand // © 2015 Ken Neibaur
As more luxury travel brands move into regions of the world once thought accessible to only backpackers and trekkers, the adventure travel industry is becoming further influenced by the luxury market and vice versa.
We spoke with Ken Neibaur, manager and leisure travel consultant for Cardoza Bungey Travel in Palo Alto, Calif., and a member of Virtuoso’s Marketing Committee, about high-grossing adventure travel destinations, the luxury consumer and the increasing crossover between the two travel niches.
Why do you think that active and adventure travel is crossing over into luxury travel?
The major reason why there is an increase in crossover from the traditional tour market into adventure travel is because more luxury-oriented brands are appearing in those destinations. These previously less sought-after locations are therefore becoming more attractive for luxury travelers.
The luxury properties also bring an awareness of these destinations to a less-experienced traveler. They increase the comfort level available in these destinations, an important factor to consider for travelers who are not traditional adventure consumers. Tourism infrastructure is more developed than it was in previous years, and these destinations can now better accommodate the needs of older travelers and kids. The adventure destination may become a little bit watered down, but these places are now accessible to people who otherwise could not have experienced them.
Do you think clients are more open-minded than they used to be?
Clients are willing to experience different things. For instance, a client who will stay at Pacuare Lodge in Costa Rica — where the only way to get there is by river raft — may also stay at the Four Seasons six months later.
Are these trips destination specific?
Yes, people first conceive of a trip based on where they want to go and secondarily consider the style of travel. The underlying message is destination. Sell the experience, not the product — no matter how luxurious it is. For instance, Micato Safaris may be the most luxurious safari money can buy, but ultimately, clients want to explore the once-in-a-lifetime experience of a safari.
How do these styles of travel intersect?
The client and agent collaborate on the best mode of travel, the comfort level desired and the overall style of the trip, and then work together to find the right amount and type of adventure activities. For instance, in a beach destination such as Nicaragua, clients may want stay at a resort and spa near the beach, but they also want to have access to activities such as surfing, hiking and river rafting.
Are there any particularly popular destinations for the luxury adventure traveler?
There is a strong interest in the polar regions, north and south, in all age groups. This was a rarity five years ago, but since then, there has been a significant increase in the amount of business to these areas.
It is important to note that these trips are very expensive and tend to cost more than traditional luxury trips. However, these trips also contribute to repeat business. For example, if one travels to Antarctica, they will most likely want to visit the Arctic Circle next.