Active Family Travel: A Niche Within a Niche

by Ana Figueroa
Active Family Travel: A Niche Within a Niche

These days, active travel sells and families are a top active travel market.

It’s no surprise then, that tour operators and destinations are enhancing efforts to market to this niche within a niche.

Travel agents who promote active options for families are finding them a good way to bolster their bottom line.

Active experiences . . . .
Family travel is the main component of Patty and Javier Duque’s agency, Tikal Travel in South Gate, Calif. The Duques have noticed a definite trend lately: Clients are asking about active travel options before deciding on a destination.  

“It used to be that more people wanted to stay a week in the hotel,” said Patty Duque. “Now, families with kids of all ages want to go to an outdoor setting where there is plenty to do.”

The interest in active travel coincides with another well-documented tourism trend—the quest for authentic experiences.

“The desire for experiential family travel has definitely widened the market,” said Richard Harris, senior vice president of product content and operations for Abercrombie & Kent.

“Parents increasingly want to have the same quality of vacation with the kids as they would have alone,” Harris said.
“Active and enriching experiences are what everyone is looking for right now.”

Nature and culture
Interaction with nature is a frequent component, if not a requirement, of active family travel.

“Clients ask about ecological places, thermal waters, volcanoes and forest hikes. More and more, they also ask for places where they can enjoy culture as well as be active,” said Duque.

Duque’s suggestions for clients typically include Costa Rica and Central America.  

“Guatemala has lots of Mayan ruins and archaeological parks that aren’t as crowded as Chichen Itza and other well-known places in Mexico,” said Duque.

For families looking for even more adventurous activities, Brazil and Peru are top picks.  

More product
The good news for agents researching active family travel is that tour operators have increased their product lines.  

“Growing numbers of families want to experience this type of active travel, especially in the summer,” said Jaclyn Leibl-Cote, director of strategic product for Collette.

“Costa Rica, Central and South America are great places to have fun and enjoy lots of soft adventure such as rafting,” Leible-Cote said.

“It lets kids work off their energy, understand more about nature and learn about different cultures.”

Know the options
Not all locations, activities and tours are appropriate for every member of the family. And it’s risky to sell active travel without being well-versed in the destination.  

“Especially when it comes to soft adventure, agents have to know what options exist,” said Harry Dalgaard, founder and president of Avanti Destinations.

“For example, in Machu Picchu, do clients want to do the Inca Trail?,” he asked. “You have to realize there is more than one way to get there. Once you start opening the can of worms, the traveler might know more than you do.”

Bottom Line
Even if clients want to stay closer to home, one message is clear. Active travel is good for the bottom line.  

“I tell agents that the most important part of the selling process is qualifying clients,” according to West. “Find out what they like to do. You might specialize in all-inclusive beach vacations, but there are lots of soft adventure options.

“Zip lining, snorkeling, swimming with dolphins are huge with families,” she said. “Your clients will want to do those things, believe me. You might as well sell the excursions ahead of time and earn commission on them.”

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