Trekking tourism from Europe to Asia
What are the opportunities for Trekking Tourism from Europe to Asia?
Western Europe is the most important source market for trekking tourism. Asia is a popular destination for European trekking tourists as the continent has treks in various levels of difficulty, beautiful scenery and an appealing variety of cultures. Even though natural disasters and political conflicts have caused a setback in tourism arrivals for some Asian trekking destinations, the overall market is growing. Destinations and businesses that can offer these experiences will be the most successful in capturing the trekking tourism market from Europe.
Contents of this page
- Product description
- Product requirements
- Which markets offer opportunities for trekking tourism from Europe to Asia?
- What trends offer opportunities on the market for trekking tourism from Europe to Asia?
- What requirements should your trekking tourism product comply with to be allowed on the European market?
- Through what channels can you get trekking tourism products to Asia on the European market?
- What competition do you face on the European market for trekking tourism?
- Main sources
A trek is a long, multiple day, and adventurous trip undertaken on foot in mountainous areas where common means of transport are generally not available. Trekking is considered a form of hard adventure tourism. Trekking holidays in this study refer to holidays where the main purpose of the holiday is trekking.
Trekking travellers have a fairly even balance of male to female. They all seek a physical and mental challenge (in different degrees), authentic experiences and like to connect with local people. Sustainability and responsible tourism are important to them and they are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Besides these general characteristics, trekking travellers can be divided into four segments, based on age and their level of trekking enthusiasm (Figure 1):
Fig 1: Traveller profile of trekking tourists
Leisure trekkers: this is the largest segment. Travellers in this segment mainly opt for less strenuous treks. Even though trekking is often their main holiday activity, they like to include cultural activities and a relaxing (beach) break at the end of their holiday as well. In general, their treks are safe and not very challenging.
- Young leisure trekkers: this group consists of mainly young, energetic people that are looking for an adventure and a challenge, and like to take risks within limits. They are adept at navigating the internet to find good deals and new destinations. Some people in this segment (especially the ones with demanding jobs) prefer to have some days of relaxation at the end of their trekking holiday.
- Mature leisure trekkers: this segment has often experienced trekking as a part of their holidays in their youth and like to continue doing it. This group is characterised by bigger budgets than the younger generations, they are less experienced with internet (they like to book through tour operators) and often go on more than one holiday per year. They generally have extra time and money to dedicate to holidays. This segment prefers the most comfort of all segments. However, they do not require luxury. They like a physical and mental challenge, but not too adventurous and they prefer lower risk activities.
- To successfully cater the younger group in this segment, emphasise on the adventure element of your product. Include different options for activities or accommodation so that younger travellers have the feeling they can compose their own unique trekking experience.
For the mature group in this segment, you can offer extra comfort options, for example more comfortable beds and luggage services.
When you target leisure trekkers, offer flexibility by adding both physical and cultural activities.
Providers of less strenuous treks are also recommended to promote their products locally to attract individual (leisure trekker) travellers.
Trekking enthusiasts: this group is the most active in trekking. However, it is a small segment. To them, trekking is the main purpose of their holiday and often the only thing they do during that holiday. They like to be physically and mentally challenged by the treks they are doing. They are very keen on safety issues and do not mind some discomfort during their trek.
- Young trekking enthusiasts: this group consists of young and energetic people that are looking for physical challenges. They are (more than the mature trekking enthusiasts) interested in high adrenaline and high(er) risk treks.
- Mature trekking enthusiasts: even though their main holiday focus also lies on trekking, they are not directly thrill seekers. They are generally very fit and active travellers and do not need special adaption of the holiday program because of their age.
- Focus on the challenges that your trek can offer this segment. Provide plenty of information about the trek, the level of difficulty, the elevation, the weather they can expect etc.
Make sure that in your marketing message, you do not mention the age difference, as ‘older’ travellers (and especially active older travellers), do not like to be addressed as ‘older’ or ‘mature’.
The following product requirements are important for European trekking travellers:
An untouched natural environment: trekking is one of the best ways to explore an area that is relatively untouched as it usually takes place in remote areas where most forms of transport are not available. This means that many trekkers expect and prefer an untouched natural environment for their trekking. Customers for trekking tourism expect trekking tourism companies to be actively involved in preserving the natural environment in which the trekking takes place.
- Emphasise in your marketing on the natural surroundings in which trekking in your destination can be done.
Trekking tourists from Europe are very concerned with the environment. They expect you to take measures to preserve the natural environment of the trekking location. Show your customer that you are active in preserving the natural environment. Mention your goal to leave no footprint in the natural environment in your marketing message.
Consider implementing a rubbish clean-up program. Studies have shown that when people leave garbage behind, other people will think that this is accepted and will also leave their garbage, which results in a growing amount of rubbish along the treks.
Safety of the treks: safety of treks is of utmost importance to European trekking travellers. As treks are often done in lesser-developed and mountainous areas, trails can be easily damaged by natural disasters, flooding, warmth or drought. Also trekking equipment has to be safe and of good quality. Trekking travellers from Europe are known to check the equipment and emphasise on international brand names (if any) and education/ training/certificates of guides and instructors. Also, if you make use of animals during the trek (horses, mules), make sure they are well treated and well fed.
- Try to work with local authorities and other tourism stakeholders on local safety issues for trekkers, like safe trekking trails, safe bridges or other crossings and good signposts.
Provide clear descriptions of your safety procedures and emphasise relevant background and experience of guides and instructors. If you can, try to certify the abovementioned safety procedures and experience of your guides and instructors.
Safety of the destination: the overall safety of the destination is also important to trekking travellers. Most commercial tour operators do not offer holidays to countries that have been declared unsafe by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Unstable political situations in Myanmar and China for example, have therefore led to a drop in tourism arrivals. There are also non-political safety issues, like limited medical facilities or criminal activities in the area. In any case, trekkers expect guides and other tourism providers to provide them with good knowledge about the local safety status and potential dangers.
- 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 as a word from another traveller can be of great value.
If your tourism business lies in a region, which is declared ‘unsafe’, commercial tour operators will most probably not go there. Check out the current safety status of your country at the websites of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs in your target countries.
Good guides: trekking tourism providers can add value to their treks by having good guides that are able to tell interesting facts and stories about the trek they are doing. Trekkers say that guides can make or break their holiday experience. Often, trekkers that have good experiences with a guide, will recommend that trek to friends and families, or share their experiences on the internet.
- Make sure your trekking guides have thorough knowledge of the destination, its history, the flora, fauna, culture and people.
- Make sure your guides speak good English. Especially in potentially dangerous situations, good communication is of the utmost importance.
- Involve a quality monitoring system in your tours. Not through your guide, but anonymously. Let customers for example fill in an (online) anonymous questionnaire. Also let them write a review on your website.
- Some operators are afraid that the best guides will claim the clients for the next holidays and that they will work independently. You can prevent this by showing your face, your quality, your brand (logo) in all possible ways. You are in charge of the logistics, equipment, etc., so show that to your client. Meet and greet, and say goodbye to them personally.
Trek grading system: trekking travellers from Europe like to know what kind of trekking they can do at your destination. The generally do not like to be surprised by the level of difficulty of the trek.
- Describe the difficulty of your trek according to a trek grading system. Classify the different trekking routes in for example: easy, moderate, strenuous and difficult. Explain what each level of difficulty means and how travellers can prepare for it.
In mass tourism, around 80% of the revenue from a trip goes to airlines, hotels and other international companies. In trekking tourism (and other forms of adventure tourism), 70 to 80% of the revenue goes to local communities. This makes trekking tourism a very interesting market to focus on.
Germany and the United Kingdom key source markets for Asian Developing Countries: Germany and the United Kingdom are by far the largest European source markets for trips to Asian Developing Countries, followed by some distance by France and the Netherlands (Figure 2). Germans in particular are keen on trekking during their holidays. Travellers from the Netherlands and from the United Kingdom come in second. As you can see in Figure 2, the number of trips to Asian developing countries has been rising for the past few years. This trend is expected to continue for at least the next three years.
Market size: seven out of the ten largest markets for adventure/trekking travel retail sales are Western European (United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands) according to Euromonitor International. Between 2009 and 2012, the percentage of international hard adventure travellers from Europe increased by 54%, from 1.9% of the population to 4.9% (Figure 3).
Turkey by far the most popular Developing Country destination in Asia: Turkey is by far the most popular Developing Country destination in Asia for European travellers (Figure 4). Thailand, China and India follow at a great distance. Turkey can also be a trekking destination, however, Thailand, China and India are more popular trekking destinations. Other poplar trekking destinations for European travellers are Bhutan, Nepal and Vietnam. In general it can be said that trekking in south east Asian destinations (Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar) are softer in nature and also aimed at a combination of trekking and cultural encounters, whereas trekking in more mountainous areas (India, Nepal, Bhutan and China) are often more strenuous.
- Research competitor markets to see how they position themselves in product offering, quality and price.
Tourism expenditure on the rise: European hard adventure travellers have a higher average trip spending than soft adventure travellers (€649 vs. €668). This is a growth of 28% from 2009 to 2012. This increase is likely to be caused by the recovery from the global recession. It is predicted that adventure tourism expenditure will follow the general outbound tourism expenditure increase in Europe, which is estimated at 2% for 2016.
Trekking combined with Community-based tourism: this trend is especially seen in the less intensive forms of trekking tourism. European travellers that are going to Asia to do some trekking are very interested in combining it with close encounters with the local people. European trekking travellers are also quite keen on sustainability and fair tourism. This combination is fuelling the trend to combine trekking holidays with Community-based tourism (CBT).
- Include CBT elements in your product offering. For example, let trekkers stay with a local family overnight. They can participate in cooking a local dish and you can offer them the possibility to learn some things about their hosts’ culture (music, dance, handicrafts).
Slow travel: slow travel is a trend that has been seen on the tourism market for a few years now. European travellers are gaining a greater appreciation for the journey itself, as opposed to rushing from one highlight to the other. Trekking fits perfectly into this trend, as it is a slow mode of transport.
Solo travel: a study conducted by the New York Times indicates the demand for solo travel (in Europe and the United States of America) grew by 37% from 2013 to 2015. Solo travellers look for unique outdoor experiences and like to participate in the latest adventure activities they can enjoy alone or meet new friends with.
- Encourage independent travellers to book unique experiences that you offer on a seasonal basis, or for a limited time. Also look at our research about promising target groups in Europe for more tips on how to cater to solo travellers.
Mobile applications for trekkers: the increasing number of available mobile applications has also reached the trekking holiday segment. Mobile applications enable trekkers to find trails and walking paths, but also offer check lists for packing gear, instructions on making a fire, a compass or how to determine which constellation they see at night. There are several good apps for trekking tourism.
- Take a look at the above-mentioned mobile applications and see what they could mean for your business. You can also look at mobile applications for tourism in general, as they can also prove to be interesting for your business.
For more information, see our study about European tourism market trends.
5 . What requirements should your trekking tourism product comply with to be allowed on the European market?
Buyer requirements can be divided into:
1. Must: requirements you must meet to enter the market, for example legal requirements.
2. Common: requirements you need to comply with to keep up with the market.
3. Niche: requirements for specific segments.
No legal European requirements: for trekking tourism that is offered outside the European market, there are no additional legal European requirements applicable.
- Although European partners will not pass on legal requirements, you have to comply with the legal requirements in your own country.
Reliability: European tour operators are looking for reliable, professional partners. They therefore often request their partners to adhere to a code of conduct they have set up, generally including health and safety requirements, business ethics and social responsibility. Furthermore, they see membership of national and international sector associations and networks as proof of reliability and professionalism.
- Study the codes of conduct of tour operators in your target country and see how they correspond to your business practices. If necessary, adapt your business practices accordingly to increase your chances on the market.
Become a member of relevant national and international sector associations. For example your own country’s tourism trade association, or trekking associations like the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal.
Liability: most European travellers contract travel insurance before going on a holiday, especially for more risk full holidays such as trekking. However, European tour operators increasingly ask their partners for liability insurance to cover possible damage and accidents of their customers, especially when it concerns travel outside of Europe. This is because their own liability insurance does often not cover damage caused by third parties. Tourism providers that have such insurance have a large advantage.
- Communicate to your customers the importance of contracting travel insurance, especially if your company does not have liability insurance.
Contract liability insurance and communicate that you have such insurance. If it is not possible to get a liability insurance in your country, you should constantly push with your authorities and trade associations to make such insurance possible. Also discuss this with (potential) European partners as they might have some influence as well.
ISO for adventure tourism: trekking tourism is considered a niche market within adventure tourism. 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 is used in the United Kingdom.
- Study the ISO standards on adventure tourism. Use them to enhance your safety performance.
Also check for possible voluntary standards in your target markets.
Porters’ rights: Tourism Concern (an organisation in the United Kingdom) has started a campaign for porters’ rights, and published a set of guidelines for tour operators from the United Kingdom and highlighted the important role they play in ensuring appropriate working conditions for porters. Since then, these guidelines have been incorporated into many trekking operators’ wider responsible tourism policies.
- To successfully cater the younger group in this segment, emphasise on the adventure element of your product. Include different options for activities or accommodation so that younger travellers have the feeling they can compose their own unique trekking experience.
Go to the website of Tourism Concern and check their porter guidelines in the paragraph ‘what can you do?’. Look at their main recommendations concerning carrying weight, wages, training and equipment and develop a policy based on their code.
Sustainability: trekking is predominantly done in natural environments, which makes preserving these environments essential for the future of trekking tourism. Trekking tour operators in Europe therefore find sustainability very important. To show your commitment to sustainable travel, you can adopt sustainable practices and even apply for sustainability certification. There are many different labels available for the global, European and local markets, which makes it difficult to choose or recognise a label. Examples of global credible sustainable and/or green tourism certification programs are Green Globe, STEP and Travelife. Examples of local initiatives in Asia are Green Lotus in Vietnam or Green Leaf in Thailand.
- Familiarise yourself with the requirements of sustainability certification to understand what is expected from suppliers. Integrate sustainable practices into your product and mention your concern for sustainability in your promotion.
Consider applying for sustainable certification to help you stand out from competitors. Find out if your country has its own sustainability label and apply for it. Make sure the logo is visible on your website and that your company is visible on the website of the certification body.
For a list of other relevant standards for tourism, check ITC’s Standards Map.
For more information, see our study about European tourism buyer requirements.
The main trade channels for trekking tourism providers from Developing Countries in Asia that are aiming at the European market, are local inbound tour operators, specialised tour operators and direct sales.
Focus on specialised tour operators: trekking tourism providers in established trekking destinations can approach both specialised and mainstream tour operators. Destinations that are considered more emerging are advised to approach specialised tour operators that are specialised in specific types of trekking, countries or specific levels of difficulty. Such tour operators mostly offer tailor-made tours (FIT) to their customers and need reliable local partners such as inbound tour operators or Destination Management Companies (DMCs) to select packages/tours for them and help them organise the trips.
- Approach tour operators that already offer trekking (or otherwise active) holidays in your region (not necessarily in your country). Below you can find an overview of sources that can help you in your
Trekking tourism providers in Asia, such as accommodation providers, transport operators, attractions and activity providers should also focus on working with local DMCs and inbound tour operators as many European tour operators prefer to work with an inbound tour operator instead of directly with tourism providers.
Trade associations, trade events and databases are good sources to identify specialised tour operators. Some examples of such sources that can be relevant for trekking tourism providers in Asia are:
- Adventure Travel Show - an adventure travel event, held annually, in January, in London.
- Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) - global trade organisation for the adventure travel industry. Go to ‘Membership’, ‘Active members’ and ‘Tour operators and accommodations’ and search for tour operators in your main target markets. ATTA also organises the Adventure Travel World Summit. Attending this event might be a good opportunity to meet adventure tourism tour operators.
- European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Associations (ECTAA) - go to ‘Members’ and select ‘Full members’ for an overview of travel and tourism trade associations in almost all European countries, including the key source markets for trekking tourism.
- Fiets en Wandelbeurs - cycling and walking trade fair, held annually, in February, in Amsterdam.
- ITB - large tourism trade event in the EU, held annually, in Berlin, Germany.
- Tour Natur - walking and trekking trade fair, held annually, in September, in Dusseldorf.
- World Travel Market - business-to-business event for the global travel industry, held annually, in November, in London, the United Kingdom.
You can also look for specialised tour operators by searching on search engines like Google. Examples of keywords are ‘trekking’, ‘hiking’ or the translated equivalent of your target country. In advanced search, narrow your domain to the extension of your target country.
Join domestic and international trade associations to increase your image as a reliable partner for trekking tourism and gain access to networks.
Attend relevant trade events in your target market, preferably together with other local tourism businesses, to increase awareness and develop an image that will position your country (or region) in the market place as a viable trekking tourism destination.
Direct sales: with the emergence of new technologies, European travellers increasingly look for trips independently and book directly with local tourism providers through the internet, especially younger generations. As a result, locally based operators are gaining market share. Directly targeting trekking travellers through the internet therefore also offers interesting opportunities. Backpackers and other independent travellers are often interested in going on a trekking trip while on holiday. These trips are often short, taking between 2-4 days, and not very high in difficulty. They are often booked on the spot using a local tour operator.
- Have a professional, high quality website with quality photos and videos. Also invest in online promotion such as Search Engine Optimisation as having a good website is useless if customers are not able to find it.
Respond quickly to enquiries through your website or by email. The European travel market is very competitive and both travellers and tour operators will soon look for alternatives if they do not receive a reply within 24 hours.
Search for trekking tourism portals in your target country, offering your products at such portals can increase chances for direct sales. Also look on Facebook for trekking groups, as they are an increasingly important channel.
For an overview of the trade structure for tourism, see our study about European tourism market channels and segments.
Value for money: tourism is a relatively price sensitive and competitive industry as travellers have many destinations and types of holidays to choose from. Price therefore plays an important role in the decision making process of travellers, even more in times of economic uncertainty.
- Focus on offering value for money by including unique, authentic products in your offering. Emphasise these experiences in your marketing, preferably enhanced by photos and videos.
Refer to our study about competition on the European tourism market, as competition in trekking tourism is based on the same aspects as competition in the long haul tourism market in general.
- Center for Responsible Travel - publishes reports about the responsible tourism market.
- Earth Net - European Alliance for Responsible Tourism and Hospitality, aims to promote the concept of responsible tourism in the world. Go to ‘What is responsible tourism’ and ‘Publications & Resources’ for an overview of trends, ethic codes and other information about the responsible tourism market in Europe.
- UIAA - International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation. Association for the extreme variety of trekking, on their website you can find information about the product, sustainability and a list of members.
For all of CBI’s tourism-related market intelligence documents, go to our Market Intelligence Platform for Tourism.
This survey was compiled for CBI by Globally Cool in collaboration with CBI sector expert Theo Nagel.
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