Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

What are the opportunities for adventure tourism from Europe?

Takes 14 minutes to read

Europe is the world’s main source market for adventure tourism. It offers great opportunities for Developing Country destinations, as experience from South Africa and Tanzania shows. European adventure travellers want to discover nature and culture through exciting and physical activities. Their most important requirements are safety, new experiences, a variety of activities, engagement with local people and comfortable accommodation.

Product definition

Adventure tourism combines physical activity with nature and/or cultural learning. It varies from soft to hard adventure. Soft adventure makes up the largest share of the market. In this study:

  • soft adventure: adventure tourism activities as part of a holiday (usually beginners),
  • hard adventure: holidays where adventure tourism activities are the main activity (generally advanced adventure travellers).

Examples of adventure tourism activities from the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) are:

  • Backpacking
  • Hiking
  • Sand boarding
  • Birdwatching
  • Horseback riding
  • Snorkelling
  • Camping
  • Kayaking
  • Skiing/snowboarding
  • Canoeing
  • Kite surfing
  • Surfing
  • Caving
  • Mountain biking
  • Trekking
  • Climbing
  • Paragliding
  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • Rafting
  • Water skiing
  • Diving
  • Safari
  • Volunteering
  • Fishing
  • Sailing


Traveller profile

Adventure travellers are:

  • generally from higher socio-economic groups,
  • found in all age groups, but generally younger than non-adventure travellers,
  • slightly more often male (52%) than female (48%),
  • looking for varying degrees of physical and mental challenge,
  • interested in authentic experiences,
  • trying to connect with local people.

Based on age and level of adventure tourism enthusiasm, there are four segments (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Adventure travel segments

Leisure adventure travellers

This is the largest segment. These travellers mainly opt for lighter adventure tourism activities. Adventure tourism is often their main holiday activity. However, they like to alternate it with other activities like cultural excursions.

Young leisure adventure travellers

This group looks for challenges and likes to take risks, within limits. They search the internet for new destinations and good deals. Some prefer some days of relaxation at the end of their holiday. Especially those travellers with demanding jobs.

Mature leisure adventure travellers

These travellers have often experienced adventure tourism in their youth and like to continue this. They generally:

  • have more time and money for holidays than younger travellers
  • take several holidays per year
  • are less experienced with the internet, so they book through tour operators
  • keep fit in their daily life by exercising regularly
  • like a physical and mental challenge, although they prefer lower risk activities
  • require more comfort than other segments, although this does not mean luxury.


  • When targeting leisure adventure travellers, be flexible. Offer both adventure and other activities. Add for example a sightseeing tour by jeep or a visit to a local market.
  • Provide different levels of adventure tourism activities in both length and difficulty. This way you meet the needs of both young and mature leisure adventure travellers. For example, less intense activities and extra comfort options for mature travellers.
  • Promote your products locally to attract individual leisure adventure travellers. For example by placing flyers at airports or accommodation establishments in your area.

Adventure tourism enthusiasts

This group is the most active in adventure tourism. However, it is a small segment. Adventure tourism is the main purpose of their holiday. It is often the only thing they do. They like to be physically and mentally challenged by their activities. They do not mind some discomfort but safety is very important.

Young adventure tourism enthusiasts

This group consists of young and energetic people, looking for physical challenges. They are interested in high adrenaline and high(er) risk activities.

Mature adventure tourism enthusiasts

These travellers are not directly thrill seekers. They are generally very fit and active. They do not need a special program for their age.


  • When targeting adventure tourism enthusiasts, focus on the challenges that you can offer them. Provide plenty of information about the activity. For instance about tracks, difficulty level, safety measures, the weather they can expect etc.
  • Create a diverse programme. Include opportunities for recovery and relaxation in between activities.
  • Do not distinguish between young and mature in your marketing message. ‘Older’ adventure tourism enthusiasts do not like to be addressed as ‘older’ or ‘mature’. 

Product requirements

Product requirements are aspects of the adventure tourism product that European adventure travellers find especially important. They come with tips on how tourism providers in developing countries can meet these requirements.


Health and safety measures

When European adventure tour operators and travellers consider new destinations, they first check the safety. Vehicles, equipment and accommodation also have to be safe. Guides need to have good local knowledge. They must know which places are safe to visit and which are not. This is especially important because travel insurance may not cover all adventure activities. Some higher risk activities require additional insurance.


  • Pay attention to safety measures. Tour operators should for example regularly check vehicles and equipment. Hire experienced guides that know the area. Accommodation establishments should have safety measures in place. Think of smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, emergency exits, first aid kits and 24hour medical assistance.
  • Make sure that your guides speak good English so they can properly explain safety instructions. For example, provide them with English language courses by native speakers.
  • If you offer activities that require extra insurance, clearly state this on your website.

Political stability

Safety is important to European travellers, especially because some developing countries are politically unstable. Most commercial tour operators don’t offer holidays to countries that their Ministry of Foreign Affairs has declared unsafe. This has led to a drop in tourism arrivals to destinations such as example Mali, Egypt and Venezuela.


  • Keep (potential) customers updated on changes in the safety situation in your area, for example through your website and through your staff.
  • Share safety experiences from customers on your website. Let them write about how safe they felt, because people value the experience of other travellers.
  • If your region is ‘unsafe’, commercial tour operators will most likely not go there. In this case, focus on volunteer organisations and individual travellers. Check your country’s current safety status at the website of your target countries’ Ministries of Foreign Affairs, like those of the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Something ‘new’

Value for money has become a key factor in European travellers’ destination and trip selection. Especially after the economic recession. Adventure travellers are looking for something new or unique. Destinations that can offer this are doing very well. Especially if they have a trendy appeal and a strong market presence, like South America.


  • Develop unique experiences that European adventure travellers cannot find elsewhere.
  • Emphasise these experiences in your marketing.

Variety of activities

On long haul holidays, European adventure travellers generally seek a variety of experiences. They are especially interested in soft adventure activities like walking, hiking and cycling. They also like safaris and cultural/natural discovery tours.


  • Include different options for activities and/or accommodation. This way, European travellers can compose their own unique adventure tourism experience.

Meeting locals

European adventure travellers also like to meet local people. For example by staying in accommodation run by local people.


  • Include local people in your product/service offering. For example:
  • a visit to a local community,
  • local handicrafts workshops,
  • a visit to local markets or events,
  • local food.

Comfortable accommodation

Luxury is less important for European adventure travellers than for mainstream travellers. They prefer small-scale accommodation. Preferably run by local people and reflecting local nature and culture. However, they are becoming more demanding in terms of facilities and comfort. They increasingly seek more active days and more comfortable nights.


  • Give accommodation establishments the look and feel of your area. Emphasise the authenticity of these establishments in your marketing message.
  • Make sure you pay attention to comfort, for instance:
    • clean rooms,
    • comfortable beds,
    • good meals,
    • good service.

Which European markets offer opportunities for adventure tourism?

For statistics on European source markets, see What is the demand for tourism services in developing countries?.

Europe is a main market for adventure travel

The ATTA Industry Snapshot 2014 studied the main source of bookings for adventure companies per continent. This shows that Europe is the main source market for most adventure tourism destinations. Except for the Americas, where it understandably comes second after North America.

Popular adventure tourism destinations

Asian and African Developing Countries are especially popular among European travellers. This is also the case for adventure tourism in particular. South Africa and Tanzania are Europe’s third and fourth most popular adventure tourism destinations. The United Kingdom and Croatia are the leading destinations (ATTA Industry Snapshot 2014). Latin America is also an increasingly popular adventure tourism continent.

African well-established

adventure tourism destinations:

African upcoming

adventure tourism destinations:

  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Egypt
  • Morocco
  • Kenya
  • Botswana
  • Ethiopia
  • Djibouti
  • Namibia
  • Burundi
  • Zambia
  • Rwanda

Asian well-established

adventure tourism destinations:

Asian upcoming

adventure tourism destinations:

  • Thailand
  • China
  • India
  • Vietnam
  • Myanmar
  • Cambodia
  • Nepal
  • Tibet
  • Bhutan
  • Bangladesh

Latin American well-established

adventure tourism destinations:

Latin American upcoming

adventure tourism destinations:

  • Chile
  • Peru
  • Brazil
  • Costa Rica
  • Mexico
  • Guatemala
  • Bolivia
  • Ecuador
  • Colombia


  • In your marketing message, emphasise those adventure tourism elements that travellers cannot find in competing countries.
  • New Zealand and Slovenia for example, have been very successful in adventure tourism country branding. They are now established adventure tourism destinations.

What trends offer opportunities on the European market for adventure tourism?

Interest in new experiences

European travellers are increasingly seeking new experiences. They are interested in natural and cultural discovery through physical and exciting activities. This creates a growing demand for special interest holidays like adventure tourism that is predicted to continue.


  • Add adventure tourism elements to your product/service. This increases your chances on the European market. For example cooking meals with local people, after a walking tour or volunteering activities.

Flexible travel

European travellers like to create their own unique holiday, with the security and benefits of a package. They want more flexible itineraries, to get the most value out of their holidays. This has become a key factor, especially after the economic recession. Although the European economy is picking up again, this trend is expected to continue for the coming years.


  • Be flexible in your offering. Offer tailor-made products and give your customers the option to build their own package.

Small group travel

European adventure travellers are increasingly interested in small group travel (up to 12 people). Travelling in small groups has several benefits, like:

  • meeting like-minded people,
  • sharing a memorable experience,
  • safety,
  • online networking before and after the trip.

The small size of the group also allows travellers to have a more immersive experience. This fits well with the popularity of authentic experiences, which is not expected to change any time soon.


  • Develop adventure tourism packages and itineraries for small groups.

Family adventure travel

Multigenerational family travel means grandparents, parents and children travelling together. This trend has also reached the adventure tourism market. For more information, see our study about explorative tourism by families with children.


  • Offer family-friendly accommodation, like adjoining rooms, a playground or a pool.
  • Package your product/service with family-friendly, memorable experiences. Include fun, educational and safe adventure tourism activities.
  • Offer activities for different interests, skill levels and ages. This way, you appeal to all family members.
  • Consider targeting specialised family travel tour operators.

Increasing use of online research

European adventure travellers increasingly research and plan their trip online. In fact, they are more likely to prepare their trip this way than non-adventure travellers. To gather information and share experiences they use:

  • peer review sites, like Tripadvisor and Holidays Uncovered,
  • travel forums, like Responsible Travel,
  • social media, like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Personal recommendations from family and friends are also important. Online research is a trend that has increased exponentially over the past five years. Although growth has peaked, the use of internet to research tourism will continue to increase. It is predicted to remain the most important research channel for years to come.


  • Maintain a strong internet presence and online marketing strategy. Also include social media. Photos and videos help travellers explore your destination and product from home. They can bring your story alive.
  • Use current customers as ambassadors for your company and area. Encourage them to share their experiences, photos and videos on social media. They can also write blogs and reviews.

For more information, see Which trends offer opportunities on the European tourism market?.

What requirements should your adventure travel product comply with to be allowed on the European market?

For general tourism requirements, see What requirements should my services comply with to attract European tourists?.

For adventure tourism in particular, there are some voluntary safety standards.

Voluntary safety standards

Safety is extremely important for adventure tourism. Three international ISO standards support safe practices in adventure tourism: 21101, 21102 and 21103. Additionally, some countries have their own voluntary standards. For instance, BS 8848 in the United Kingdom.


  • Study the ISO standards on adventure tourism. Use them to enhance your safety performance.
  • Check for possible voluntary standards in your target markets. 

What competition do I face on the European market for adventure tourism products?

Competitiveness of your country’s adventure tourism sector

The Adventure Tourism Development Index (ATDI) assesses a country’s adventure tourism potential. The scores are based on ten pillars. The ATDI tells European tour operators which destinations are attractive for adventure tourism development. Chile is currently rated as most attractive. The ATDI also tells you in which areas your country is performing well. And perhaps even more importantly, in which it needs to improve.


  • Use the ATDI to compare your destination with competitors. See in which areas popular adventure tourism destinations like Chile are doing well.
  • Look at the performance of your own country. In which areas does it score well? Emphasise this in your marketing message.

For more information, see What competition do you face on the European outbound tourism market?.

Through what channels can you get adventure tourism products on the European market?

Adventure travellers are more likely to use professional services like tour operators and guides than non-adventure travellers. Especially when it comes to lesser known Developing Countries or more challenging adventure tourism activities. Tour operators therefore remain the most important trade channel.

For an overview of the trade structure for tourism, see Through what channels can you attract European tourists?.

Selecting smaller specialised tour operators

Smaller European tour operators specialised in adventure tourism or your destination offer the best opportunities. You can identify them via trade associations, events and databases.

Some examples are:

Generating direct sales

European adventure travellers tend to research their holiday on the internet. They still prefer to book through more traditional channels. However, it is important to be visible online. It increases awareness of your product/service, your professional image and your trustworthiness.  You can promote your product on (adventure) tourism websites/portals. For instance, go to for a list of adventure tourism websites/portals by activity.

What are the end-market prices for adventure tourism products?

Travellers have many destinations and types of holidays to choose from. This makes tourism a relatively price sensitive and competitive industry. The price of a long-haul trip consists of three dimensions:

  1. The exchange rate between the currencies of the country of origin and the destination country.
  2. The costs of transport to and from the destination country.
  3. The price of goods and services the traveller consumes in the destination country.

European tour operators are not open about the purchasing prices of their tourism products. According to industry experts, their margins vary between 10-25%. Prices of holiday packages vary widely, as they depend on many factors such as:

  • availability
  • destination
  • modes of transport
  • period of travel
  • number of travellers
  • length of stay
  • type of accommodation
  • activities included


Please review our market information disclaimer.