Balmy breezes, gentle surf, and peaceful days are not for some travelers. Thirty-one million Americans have taken what the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) calls "hard-adventure vacations" in the past five years. These trips include such trying forms of relaxation as mountain climbing, sky diving, and cave exploring. Adventurous vacationers spend a median of $465 per trip, and are more likely than the population as a whole to be male, young, single, and have high household incomes.
Companies wishing to reach people who like to vacation on the edge may find the most fertile ground in the western United States. Nineteen percent of westerners have participated in hard-adventure travel in the past five years, according to the TIA. People in the Midwest are least likely to have done so; only 14 percent report participation. Twenty percent of men have taken a challenging trip, compared with 12 percent of women.
The likelihood of breaking a sweat while vacationing decreases with age: 22 percent of people aged 18-to-34 took a hard-adventure vacation, compared with 18 percent of 35-to-54-year-olds and 5 percent of those aged 55 and older. This is reflected in the fact that the mean age of hard-adventure travelers is 35, compared with 45 for the population as a whole.
Manufacturers of less-demanding sporting goods shouldn't bypass these risk-takers, however. Most are interested in more than just adrenaline-pumping activities like whitewater kayaking. Eight in ten also have participated in gentler pursuits like camping, hiking, and biking.
Also, while the aches and pains associated with getting older will undoubtedly cause the baby boomers to back off the hard pursuits as time goes by, participation rates among older Americans may still rise. Boomers' thirst for adventure and experiences will make them more likely than the current batch of mature Americans to pop some pain relievers and go for the gusto.
This is important to companies selling adventure-travel goods and services because, although many of boomers' children born from 1976 to 1994 have reached the age where they make their own vacation decisions, they may not yet fit the income profile of hard-adventure travelers. Nineteen percent of the overall population has a household income of $20,000 to $29,999 a year, but only 12 percent of hard-adventure travelers fall into that category. On the other hand, 48 percent of hard-adventure travelers have household incomes of $50,000 or more, compared with 39 percent of the population as a whole.
In order to prevent a sharp dropoff in hard-adventure travel, marketers may want to play to boomers' innate desire to think of themselves as "forever young." A successful pitch of this nature could keep more boomers participating through the lean times when the smaller generation of baby busters passes through peak adventure travel years until the next baby boom has the cash to make the trips.
Although "smart" is generally the last word many would use to describe people who fling themselves out of airplanes and off bridges, hard-adventure travelers typically have more education than the general population: 82 percent of hard-adventure travelers have attended college, compared with 70 percent of the total population. At the upper reaches, 18 percent of those who like a more challenging vacation have done postgraduate work, compared with 15 percent of the population.
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