Worldwide interest in volcano tourism is rising, offering great opportunities for destinations with volcanic sites. These fascinating natural phenomena make your destination stand out and provide a unique story to tell. Europe is a strong market for this niche of adventure tourism. European travellers usually visit a volcanic site as part of a broader holiday. For some, volcano expeditions are the main purpose of their trip. Safety and quality are key for these relatively risky activities.
Contents of this page
- Product description
- Which European markets offer opportunities for volcano tourism?
- Which trends offer opportunities on the European market for volcano tourism?
- Which requirements should volcano tourism comply with to be allowed on the European market?
- What competition do you face on the European market for volcano tourism?
- Through which channels can you get your volcano tourism products on the European market?
- What are the end-market prices for volcano tourism products?
Both dormant and active volcanoes attract millions of visitors per year. Many of these volcanic sites are situated in developing countries, providing local communities with a unique opportunity.
Within volcano tourism, there are various types of trips. Some travellers stick to relatively light activities such as sightseeing, hiking, mountain biking and camping. Others are looking for more intense activities such as mountaineering or volcano boarding. The real thrill-seekers can even join special eruption tours to witness a volcano in action – a unique experience.
Volcano tourism and the active tourism that it generates are a specialised niche within the adventure tourism sector. If hiking on a volcano is part of a broader holiday, this activity is called “soft” adventure. For “hard” adventure trips, the main purpose of the visit is mountaineering on a volcano. This type of holiday may involve an international trip along several volcanic sites. However, the majority of volcano and adventure tourists are “soft” adventurers.
As with adventure travellers in general, volcano travellers can be of all ages. They are generally experienced travellers from higher socioeconomic groups.
European volcano travellers are looking for a quality product and service at a reasonable price. Examples of quality for active and adventure travellers include good organisation at the destination, friendly and helpful staff, experienced English-speaking guides, reliable equipment, as well as clean and comfortable accommodation.
They want value for money at all levels, from luxury to basic arrangements. However, it is important to distinguish between value for money and low cost. These travellers are prepared to pay for unusual experiences, excellent guides and good-quality accommodation. They simply expect a fair price for what they get.
- Ensure that the administrative and communicative process is smooth.
- Work with well-trained and experienced guides who have good English skills. They should also have extensive knowledge of volcanoes to share with travellers.
- Make sure that tours stick to their time schedules.
- Make sure that you can deliver what you promise. Strive to exceed your guests’ expectations, rather than disappointing them after an unrealistic sales pitch.
Health and safety measures
Obviously, volcano tourism can be a risky business, especially when it involves active volcanoes. Vehicles, equipment and accommodation have to be safe, while guides need to have excellent local knowledge. They must know which places are safe to visit and which are not, as well as the procedures in case of an emergency. This aspect is especially important, considering that travel insurance may not cover all activities involved in volcanic tourism. Higher-risk activities require additional insurance.
- Make sure that you have a risk management strategy in place. For more information, see our 10 tips for risk management in tourism.
- Pay attention to general 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 24-hour 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.
- Organise training programmes for your staff on safety skills, such as the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s Guide Training course.
- If you offer activities that require extra insurance, clearly state this matter on your website.
Safety is important to European travellers, especially because some developing countries are politically unstable. Most commercial tour operators do not offer holidays to countries which their Ministry of Foreign Affairs has declared unsafe. This policy has led to a drop in tourism arrivals to Mali, Egypt and Venezuela, for example.
- Keep potential customers updated on changes to 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 probably 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 country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs such as the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Interacting with locals
As with adventure travellers, European volcano travellers are looking for authentic experiences. They want to engage with local communities and interact with the people; for example, by staying in accommodation run by locals.
- Include local people in your product; for example, by visiting a local community, market or event, offering local handicrafts workshops or serving local food.
Sustainability is even more important in adventure tourism than in other sectors, especially on the northern and western European market. Although it is not the primary motivation of volcano travellers, they expect their tour not to damage the environment. Other important aspects are social and economic sustainability to benefit the local community. This expectation leads European tour operators to require sustainable suppliers, preferably with sustainable tourism certification.
- If your business is sustainable, promote this aspect on your website and in the information that you provide to European tour operators.
- Do not exaggerate your sustainability performance (so-called “greenwashing”).
- For more information, see our study of European tour operators’ need for sustainable suppliers.
Interest in volcano tourism is rising
More than 100 million people travel to active and dormant volcanic sites worldwide every year and the popularity of volcano tourism is rising. Iconic volcano sites attract increasing numbers of visitors. For example, Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park attracted around 1.9 million visitors in 2016, a steady increase since 2009. Because visits to volcano sites are usually part of a broader holiday, there are no specific data for volcano tourism per source market.
Europe is a key source market
European countries continue to be the most important source market for adventure tourism. In 2017, Europe was the main source market for companies in Africa, Asia, Europe itself and South America.
This figure indicates that Europe is also a key source market for volcano tourism as a subsector of adventure tourism.
For more information on European traveller numbers in general, see our study of European demand for tourism in developing countries.
New and unique experiences attract European travellers
European travellers are increasingly looking for new and unique experiences, especially millennials. They want to return home with a “story to tell”. Physical and exciting activities are becoming a popular vehicle for their natural and cultural discovery. This development creates a growing demand for special interest holidays, such as volcano tourism, that is predicted to continue. Few stories are more exciting and unique than experiencing a live volcano!
- Clearly define and promote what is unique about your destination and product. Personal storytelling makes all the difference. Tell your story as well as that of your community and lifestyle. How does living near a volcano affect your daily lives?
- Join forces with other local businesses. Recommend them to your visitors and ask them to return the favour. This process keeps visitors in your area for longer and adds another local touch to their trip. That way, it benefits everyone involved!
The popularity of family adventure travel is increasing
Multigenerational family travel is becoming increasingly popular. Grandparents, parents and children travel together to create lasting memories as a family. Visiting a volcanic site can be a great family trip, with light activities when young children and/or seniors are involved.
- Offer family-friendly accommodation such as adjoining rooms.
- Package your product with family-friendly activities. Include fun and educational aspects.
- Consider targeting specialised tour operators for family travel.
- For more information, see our study of Explorative tourism by families with children.
Demand for flexible itineraries is on the rise
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 development 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.
This trend is especially clear among experienced European travellers from mature source markets in northern and western Europe. If they are not familiar with your destination or activity, they often hire a specialised tour operator to create a fully independent tour (FIT) designed specifically for them. Considering the fact that volcano tourism is such a niche market, European travellers are likely to enlist the services of a specialist.
- Be flexible in your offering. Offer tailor-made products and give your customers the option to build their own package.
- To work with tour operators specialised in tailor-made volcano and active tours, study their current product range. This information gives you an idea of their needs and expectations, so you can make sure that your product appeals to them.
The influence of online reviews and visual storytelling is growing
European adventure travellers increasingly research and plan their trip online. To gather information and share experiences, they use review sites, social media, travel forums and blogs. Online reviews and feedback from fellow travellers have become important sources of information. This type of User Generated Content is key, as 83% of consumers trust earned media above all other forms of advertising.
Visual storytelling is especially important for volcano and adventure tourism; for example, on platforms such as Instagram. In fact, 72% of adventure travel professionals consider visuals core to how they communicate and tell their brand’s story. More than two thirds of them expect photography and video content to become even more important in the coming years.
- Maintain a strong internet presence and online marketing strategy, including social media.
- Use photos and videos to bring your story alive. Volcanic sites are perfect for impressive visual storytelling. For more information, watch this webinar series on visual communication in adventure travel by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) and Libris.
- Use current customers as ambassadors for your company and area. Encourage them to share their experiences and visuals on social media, write blogs and review your company.
- For more information, see our 10 tips for online success with your tourism company.
For more general industry trends, see our study of European trends on the tourism market.
For general tourism requirements, see our study of which requirements your services should comply with to attract European tourists.
As a specific niche of adventure tourism, some additional requirements apply to volcano tourism.
Visitors are not always included in local risk management strategies for residents living near active volcanoes. This situation makes it essential for destinations and businesses to have their own clear safety guidelines in place. These guidelines need to include detailed information on evacuation procedures, escape routes and shelters in case of emergency.
Voluntary safety standards
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 and use them to enhance your safety performance.
- Check for possible voluntary standards on your target markets.
Adventure Tourism Development Index
The Adventure Tourism Development Index (ATDI) assesses a country’s potential for adventure tourism. The scores are based on ten pillars, including safety, natural resources and infrastructure. The ATDI tells European tour operators which destinations are attractive for adventure tourism development. It also tells you in which areas your country is performing well, and perhaps even more importantly, in which it needs to improve.
Currently, the top 10 developing countries most attractive for adventure tourism development are:
- Costa Rica
- the Philippines
The Philippines, Armenia and Kazakhstan are among the most rapid climbers in the ranking, improving their performance considerably.
Other up-and-coming destinations in the index include:
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Cabo Verde
- Use the ATDI to compare your destination with competitors. See in which areas popular destinations for adventure tourism such as Chile are doing well.
- Look at the performance of your own country. In which areas does it score well? Emphasise this aspect in your marketing message. In which areas is it underperforming? Research how you can help your destination to improve.
Developing countries with volcanic sites
Around 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes are located around the Pacific Ocean. This area is commonly known as the Ring of Fire.
Latin America is home to a great number of volcanic sites. The Central American Volcanic Arc includes volcanoes from Mexico to Panama. In South America, the Andean Volcanic Belt in the west stretches from Colombia to the south of Chile. Popular destinations for volcano tourism in this region include Costa Rica and Ecuador.
Australasia also contains numerous volcanic sites. Some of south-east Asia’s best-known destinations for volcano tourism are Indonesia and the Philippines. Along the east of Oceania, popular sites include Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.
Figure 2: The Ring of Fire
Source: Globally Cool.
Outside of the Ring of Fire, volcanoes also occur in Africa, particularly along the East African Rift, making Ethiopia a popular volcano tourism destination. Other famous volcanic sites are situated in the area between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
- Study the product offer and marketing of popular destinations for volcano tourism and learn from them.
For more general information, see our study of what competition you face on the European market for outbound tourism.
For an overview of the trade structure for tourism, see our study of Channels and segments of the European tourism market.
Focus on smaller specialised tour operators
Adventure travellers are more likely to use professional services such as tour operators and guides than non-adventure travellers, especially when it comes to lesser-known developing countries or more challenging activities such as volcano tourism. As a result, tour operators remain the most important trade channel.
Smaller European tour operators specialised in volcano tourism or in your destination offer the best opportunities. You can identify them via trade associations, events and databases.
- Adventure Travel Show – annual trade fair for adventure tourism, January, London;
- Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) – global trade organisation for the adventure travel industry; organises the Adventure Travel World Summit. You can search for members;
- ITB – annual tourism trade fair, March, Berlin;
- Top Resa – annual tourism trade fair, September, Paris;
- World Travel Market – annual tourism trade fair, November, London.
Generating direct sales
Although European adventure travellers research their holiday online, they still prefer to book through traditional channels. However, it is important to be visible online. It increases awareness of your product, your professional image and your trustworthiness, as well as your chances of direct sales. You can promote your product on adventure tourism websites/portals. For instance, go to Reviewing.co.uk for a list of adventure tourism websites/portals by activity. Other relevant options include:
Travellers have many destinations and types of holiday from which to choose. This variety makes tourism a relatively price-sensitive and competitive industry. The price of a long-haul trip consists of three dimensions:
- the exchange rate between the currencies in the country of origin and the destination country;
- the cost of transport to and from the destination country;
- the price of goods and services that the traveller consumes in the destination country.
European tour operators do not disclose the purchasing prices of their tourism products. According to industry experts, their margins vary between 10 and 25%. The prices of holiday packages vary widely, since they depend on a lot of factors such as:
- modes of transport
- period of travel
- number of travellers
- length of stay
- type of accommodation
- activities included
- Check which countries have cheap direct flights to your destination; for instance, at Skyscanner. This availability gives you a competitive advantage in those countries.
- You can compare prices for adventure travel products online; for example, at Volcano Adventures.
- Tourism Boost has some useful online tools for pricing tours and accommodation. These tools help you to determine the break-even point and the ideal retail price of your tourism product.
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