A year after joining Vision Travel Solutions as senior manager of the company’s Active Travel Division, Pat Rochon says that Canadian interest in the adventure travel market is growing steadily, as more agents and clients learn about the ever-evolving sector.
Rochon has more than 17 years experience in this particular sector of travel, having visited at least 136 countries across all seven continents. He previously served as national sales manager for Adventure Center and has also worked as a college instructor, teaching about eco-tourism and sustainable travel. Since joining Vision last July as part of the company’s bid to enter the lucrative niche market, Rochon said that the number of regular agents he works with is triple the original estimate.
“I have 66 (agents) that I deal with on a regular basis,” Rochon said, adding that those numbers translate to approximately $1.9 million in sales.
Those numbers are expected to climb as more consumers and agents discover what exactly 'adventure travel' entails, a term that can prompt different reactions from person to person and between regions. Part of that process, Rochon said, is explaining and, in some cases, redefining, what the 'adventure' means: taking away the “Tarzan and Indiana Jones” image and replacing it with yoga mats, bicycles and hiking treks, among the most popular travel activities within this segment.
“In places like B.C., ‘adventure’ is fun and exciting while in the east, it’s still considered scary,” mused Rochon, adding that one agent he spoke to defined adventure travel as “no toilet paper.'
“I don’t use the term ‘adventure’ – I say ‘small group holidays,’ because that’s what they are. When I say that, people think it’s great and the first question is, ‘How come I’ve never heard of this?’”
The answer to that last question, Rochon said, is two-fold.
“Part of it is that in winter, people are bombarded with sun vacation packages,” he said. “The other part is that there’s a misconception that adventure is expensive. However, you could spend $2,400 for a week in Tuscany, having this cultural experience, or you could pay $1,000 just to lay on a beach.”
Another factor in growing the market is targeting what Rochon calls “mid-range” clients – travellers who may not necessarily want to take part in a $6,000 week-long cycling adventure in Hawaii, but would purchase a $2,000 package to any one of the world’s adventure destinations.
While South America continues to be a dominant force in the adventure travel market with destinations such as Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos, Rochon said that African countries like Rwanda – most often associated with poverty and the nation’s 1994 genocide – are among the emerging players.
“Rwanda has been the most magical country I’ve been to,” he said, recalling in particular his encounters with the country’s gorilla population on a recent trip. “It’s clean and polite and the people now are so happy to have tourists.”
For agents, Rochon said, much of the market’s growth is dependent on researching the various packages offered and having the knowledge to answer their customers’ questions about the market.
“It’s about doing that research into the various destinations and ultimately, closing the sale. It’s a bit more painful, but a little bit of effort and thinking outside the box will benefit them in the long run.”