Adventure travel not reaching the $51 billion POC market

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Kayaking is a family activity  at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic.
Kayaking is a family activity at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic.

People of color represent more than $51 billion in potential adventure travel revenue, but the industry needs to do a better job of engaging a more diverse clientele to tap this growing market, according to a new report.

The study, commissioned by the Adventure Travel Trade Association, Flywire, and the Dominican Republic Tourism Board, estimates that more than 22 million American travelers -- or 36% of outbound adventure travelers -- identify as people of color.

James Edward Mills, author of the book The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors (Mountaineers Books, 2014), wrote in the report's introduction that the same systems of discrimination and disparities in personal wealth and social mobility that have led to racial inequality have also allowed many adventure travel destinations to become segregated along racial lines.

"But as people of color in the U.S. and around the world have improved their economic stability and affluence, many of these activities are now within reach of a much broader cross section of the population" he wrote.

"This new study shows that non-white consumers represent a lucrative and emerging demographic of impressionable customers. The adventure travel industry just has to figure out how to reach them."

Adventure travel not reaching the $51 billion POC market

The report recommends adventure travel companies increase diversity in their own ranks, better engage with minority communities to find out what travelers of color want and update their advertising and marketing strategies.

"I know it's cliche but I need to see myself in that mountaineering ad," wrote Lola Akinmade Akerstrom, an author and travel photographer. "If I don't see myself in it and it's still just the rugged white guy that looks like he just came down from Everest, then I will feel that it's not a space for me. But if they show people that look like me, doing those things then the adventure industry is actively saying, you are welcome. It's no longer a white boys' club."

The report, which also details booking trends of adventure travelers of color, is based on a 2019 survey of 823 qualified respondents who had taken at least one international adventure leisure trip in the past 24 months and intend to take another adventure leisure trip in the next 24 months.

It found that there are an estimated 8.2 million Black, 7.5 million Hispanic, 5.3 million Asian and 1.2 million other non-white adventure travelers.

Mike Massaro, CEO of Flywire, said the report "underscores the importance of operating travel business with diversity, equity and inclusion not only embedded, but also top of mind. Not only is it the right thing to do, but these findings suggest it's also an economic imperative." 

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