Agents seize touring and adventure momentum

By Samantha Mayling and Andrew McQuarrie

More agencies are developing specialist touring arms to seize on the opportunities presented by the sector, as one expert tipped adventure travel to soon become a mainstream holiday choice.

The Association of Touring & Adventure Suppliers (Atas) revealed the average booking value for supplier members in the first quarter of this year was £4,137 – up 17% on the same quarter in 2023.

The association’s director, Claire Brighton, said revenue from trade bookings was 20% higher than from direct sales, according to research by Atas in partnership with data specialist Radar.

Speaking at the Atas Leaders’ Dinner in London last week, she said: “The average earning [for agents] across Atas members was more than £650 per booking.”

Overall, bookings in the sector were 6% up on the first quarter of 2023, with revenue from those sales 10% ahead year on year.

Atas membership has grown to record levels over the past year, with 33 member brands, while Brighton reported an increase in agencies developing specialist teams.

The positive data was unveiled as Chris Roche, chief executive of The Adventure People, said he believed adventure travel is on the verge of becoming “mass market”.

He told Abta’s Adventure Travel Conference: “I think the customer is becoming everyone. We’re covering every age range, from early 20s to 70-plus, and all sorts of budgets.”

He predicted that more market entrants, an increase in mergers and acquisitions and a “race to use artificial intelligence” would lead to increasingly competitive pricing.

Kelly Cookes, chief commercial officer at The Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “There’s a great opportunity to earn a very healthy margin given the average sales value on these products.

“We have a dedicated adventure and touring community called Explorers; we are in the middle of our ‘Adventure and Touring’ month; and we have a campaign for members called ‘2024 is The Year to Explore’.”

Simon Oram, director at The Travel Shop, said: “I have tried to move more of our business to touring, with at least two e-shots a month dedicated to touring and adventure. Our bookings reflect this switch.”

Tricia Handley-Hughes, InteleTravel’s managing director for the UK and Ireland, said the homeworking agency is incorporating Atas modules in its specialist training area and planning a campaign with a touring partner to improve awareness and educate agents.

“I believe we can improve our performance in the adventure and touring sector,” she added. “Opportunities for tapping into the solo traveller market will appeal to our agents.”

Cruise sector mirrors growth

The cruise sector has mirrored growth in the touring and adventure market, with Clia revealing UK and Ireland consumers took a record 2.3 million cruise holidays last year, up from 1.7 million in 2022.

Clia UK & Ireland managing director Andy Harmer said research showed 71% of potential clients were “open” to taking their first cruise, adding: “There is a huge opportunity to continue to grow the number [of cruisers].”

A separate poll by MMGY Travel Intelligence with Clia and Travelzoo found perceptions of cruise as value for money had significantly improved, but most of those polled did not consider it a family holiday option.

Pictured: Agents enjoy an e-bike tour with G Adventures at Atas Experiences in Lake Como last month. Italy remains the top-selling destination for Atas members

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