Tapping into adventure travel: tips for outdoor retailers from ATTA President Shannon Stowell

An interview with ATTA president Shannon Stowell

In the fall, Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) in conjunction with the George Washington University released its 2013 market study, the Adventure Travel Trends Report. It shows the $263 billion adventure market has grown 63 percent since 2009.

Tapping into that revenue stream has been a hard nut to crack for outdoor industry businesses. So, we contacted ATTA President and former specialty retailer with Shannon Stowell for his take on the opportunity in adventure travel for the outdoor industry.

SNEWS: What’s the untapped potential here for outdoor manufacturers and retailers?

SS: It’s vast. The latest ATTA study shows that adventure travelers spend $82 billion on gear apparel and accessories annually. Adventurers headed on a trip spend seven to 10 times what a typical specialty retail customer does.

SNEWS: Where’s the disconnect with the outdoor market?
SS: Adventure Travel is a hard market to connect with — it’s disperse. When travel customers are new to an activity, they don’t know where to go for the gear they need. I think there is a lot of untapped potential to build brand loyalty and recognition. Build relationships with operators in your area and offer promotions, discounts, pop up shops. Or reach out to ATTA. We have relationships with more than 20,000 travel professionals. We build relationships across the outdoor and travel spaces. In fact, we have a new director of strategic partnerships to help us formalize this.

SNEWS: What’s your first piece of advice for a company that wants to tap into travel?
SS: Make someone on your team responsible for those relationships. You have to engage in the community to be part of the community. Get to know people and find like-minded companies. Then, roll your sleeves up and figure out how to work together. Or let ATTA help you with that task. We’ve brokered deals where a destination helps underwrite the cost to get a brand onsite for a photo shoot. The manufacturer shows product in a captivating location. The destination gets exposure to a core audience of passionate consumers. We’ve set up joint press trips for Kelty and Ireland, Columbia and Jordan, Marmot and Iceland Air. We worked with Deuter and Norway on a sweepstakes that had 45,000 entrants, a Teva Whitefish Montana Behind the handlebars campaign that reached 270,000 people via Facebook, and a photo/video contest for Osprey and Montana that got a million participants. Through the ATTA, you can have access to tour operators and destinations and the ability to create partnerships, as well as possibility of direct communication with consumers.

SNEWS: What kind of product does the adventure travel market need?

SS: Most guided adventure travel is soft, and that’s where the revenue is. Safari, walking, hiking, biking … The gear is luggage, clothing and footwear, headlamps, binoculars, first aid kits, not climbing ropes or four season tents. Tour operators and manufacturers should be doing deals right and left. The market is blowing up.