Couple kayaking on a lake

Outdoor Vacation Activities Offer Opportunities to Travel Providers

March 2, 2021
4 min read

Despite traveling becoming more difficult for many Americans through the pandemic and a time of economic uncertainty; travelers’ desire to explore the outdoors on vacation has not been dampened. The market has a challenge in appealing to a spectrum of travelers, from casual summer hikers to serious skiers. But here lies an opportunity; by acting on underlying motivations, US travel providers can encourage more frequent and varied participation in outdoor activities.

Outdoor Activity Participant Overview

More than three in five adults have taken a vacation that included an outdoor activity. Mintel’s research outlines how young, affluent men are the most likely to participate in outdoor vacation activities. Among parents, the most ardent participants have more than one child. These demographic descriptions hold regardless of whether outdoor activities are the focus of the trip or just one activity in a varied itinerary. These demographics track generally with travel trends overall, with higher-income travelers doing the most travel and those aged under 55 engaging in more physically demanding activities.

Outdoor Vacation Activities are Widespread

Nearly two-thirds of adults participated in at least one outdoor activity while on vacation, signaling their overall popularity. Moreover, outdoor activities are not just resigned to trips dedicated to them (like camping or ski trips); rather, they are equally enjoyed by travelers who aren’t taking activity-focused trips, such as taking time for a hike during a multi-day sightseeing trip in a city. Therefore, opportunities exist for travel providers to use outdoor activities as a way to engage and attract guests.

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The Family Vacation Sweet Spot

In the eyes of travelers, backpacking, biking, and sleeping outdoors share the characteristics of being both memorable and good group activities. This makes them strong candidates for family vacations, especially as parents want to steer their kids away from more touristy destinations, as explored in our research on US family vacations. Relaxation and escape are strong motivators for outdoor vacations and family vacations, respectively. Promoting both ideas can help engage vacationers interested in a more casual outdoor trip. These activities are also strongly correlated with being worth traveling a long distance for. This gives providers of these activities leeway to make their offerings more unique, and perhaps charge a premium for them.

Biking also has an opportunity to position itself as a unique experience. Our US Wellness Travel report revealed that 7 in 10 travelers feel that wellness travel is effective in maintaining a wellness lifestyle. For those looking for a healthier lifestyle, promoting your location’s bike trails can encourage families and childless travelers alike in their journey to a more wellness lifestyle.

Family on a bike ride enjoying the outdoors while on vacation.

Family on a bike ride enjoying the outdoors while on vacation. Source: GettyImages

Travelers are Interested Year-Round but Prefer Summer

Outdoor activities that are primarily enjoyed in warmer weather have more appeal than those in cold weather, with water-based activities like swimming being the most popular. Winter activities like skiing are pretty far down on the list of popular activities, indicating that cold-weather activities have less appeal than warm-weather options. Moreover, just one in five travelers enjoy activities in both warm and cold seasons, which means it may be hard for providers to encourage crossover appeal.

Motivations are Varied Across Ages

Activity providers must appeal to travelers’ dual desires to engage in activities they already know and love and to try something entirely new. How providers address these motivations will depend on the age of their audience. Even into middle age, travelers seek novelty in their activities and can be motivated to try an activity based on that (which is a bonus for less popular activities like surfing). For travelers over the age of 55, the newness has less appeal. Older travelers have established which activities they like and can be convinced to pursue those activities as a way to explore the area around them.

What We Think

Outdoor vacation activities have a broad appeal because they work on multiple levels. They can be relaxing or active, beginner-friendly or expert-level, fun in the sun, or delightfully chilly. Finding a mix that appeals to the appropriate regional and demographic group can help travel providers attract outdoorsy guests. Outdoor activities can help travelers relax, refresh and reconnect with their travel companions.

To find out more about how you can strengthen your brand value and ensure your business’ growth in the outdoor activities market, check out our US Outdoor Vacation Activities Market Report 2021 and buy today, or explore our wide range of travel-related market research.

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Michael Gallinari
Michael Gallinari

Mike is a US Travel and Leisure Reports Analyst at Mintel. Mike writes reports about consumer travel preferences as well as leisure market research.

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