DIY ADVENTURE TRAVEL: POST WORLD TRAVEL MARKET MUSINGS
DIY ADVENTURE TRAVEL: POST WORLD TRAVEL MARKET MUSINGS
It’s abundantly clear that the way we travel and what we look for from travel has changed remarkably in quite a short period of time. A cursory glance at your instagram feed (and the liberally applied #adventure) or even the Sunday Telegraph’s weekend Travel supplements proves our holiday dreams involve experiences rather than just relaxation now. Not for everyone mind, but a large portion of Gen X, Y & Z.
It might seem hilarious looking back on how our parents generation holidayed as families - caravanning in wet Wales, a week spent in a b&b at Hunstanton - but since package holiday travel abroad replaced this DIY attitude to vacation time, it’s almost as if travel and the adventurous spirit we channelled into it, took a nose dive for a while. Yep, parasailing behind a speedboat piloted by a greasy Latino on the Costa Brava was pretty snazzy at one time, but it’s naff now. Equally, group participation coach tours left little to the imagination.
And so to my point. It may appear, from these photos and the short film, that myself and a small film crew followed a beautiful girl around a Caribbean paradise for a few days on a shoot. In simplistic terms this is true. What we were trying to prove with the content created for the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism however, was that not only was there way more to the destination than (just) the beach, but also that as a blank canvas it held the promise of creating your own DIY adventure. Yes Cayman has high rise hotels, McDonalds, cruise ships etc. and these are all important parts of this tiny but proud Island’s economy, but what it does have to offer the 21st Century intrepid traveller (in search of a unique experience and a potential slice of danger/injury/mishap) speaks to a whole new and massively growing travel market.
So we find ourselves in 2019 where one can pretty much choose a destination as a blank canvas and write your own adventure (like some Enid Blyton fill in the blanks novel). Moose racing in the Yukon - there’s an event each March for you. Snow cave building experiences on an Alpine mountainside - check. Mountain Biking down volcanoes in Bolivia - no sweats.
To give you an idea, when Cayman said Yes to my proposal to the above concept, I went away and drew up a list of all the things I’d like to do on a week’s break there. I’m crap at lying on sun loungers, I don’t like spending longer in hotels than necessary and group activities turn me off. I’m no barometer for the travel industry in general please note, but having pursued these DIY adventures since the age of 18, when I left the safety of Jersey to cycle from Kathmandu to Tibet (in blissful ignorance of both the steep hills and Chinese border police with rifles) and having worked in the adventure lifestyle industry (sounds a bit poncy tbh) for over a decade I’m pretty certain I’m onto something.
Fortunately Cayman thought the same and were brave enough to let me present them with a shopping list of adventures that I’d like to see Katia take on. And not just take on for the sake of a ten second clip, but actually do. NB I can guarantee you that this woman can not only ride a rather free spirited horse complete with flared nostrils and massive eyes along a beach but also pick up kite surfing in an hour and a half, make SUP yoga look simple and stroll nonchalantly through what myself and the film crew called ‘death jungle’. It turned out we’d hit the season for abundant growth of a plant along the trail that would leave you with severe blistering and possible permanent scarring if you made contact. And this was another reason we carefully selected the right influencer who had serious, proven credentials and ability rather than a gigantic following.
There weren’t many options on my list that they said no to, and when they did it was for completely valid reasons e.g landing a helicopter on that reef isn’t possible..
So what am I trying to say here? Well perhaps we’re too quick to misjudge and write off certain destinations that might be seen as traditional, boring or not offering much in the way of adventure. Having recently attended the massive World Travel Market in London I came away feeling that although there’s been a huge shift in how destinations market themselves to us and non-traditional tourist routes i.e hotel bookings, package breaks etc there still remains a clear opportunity to speak to travellers (and pretty much all of us are travellers in 2018) in a better way. It was scary to think how much valuable money was taken from the local economy of many third world and developing nations to fund the shiny, multi-levelled stands at the Excel Centre earlier this month. I appreciate investment in tourism is vital to generate growth in the economy but I hope to see them direct their efforts toward more DIY adventure led tourism next year. Hotel bookings generate the greatest proportion of tourism income I’m sure, but just because you book a hotel it doesn’t mean you want to lie by the pool for a week. And why would you when there’s the opportunity to discover a new destination and culture on your own terms rather than the suggested itineraries and suppliers of a brochure?
For example, a quick glance on www.skyscanner.net tells me I could fly from London to Nicaragua for a week in December for £481. Pack my own inflatable SUP, chuck it in the back of a rented SUV for €44/day and the option to explore this seldom visited countries dramatic terrain of lakes, volcanoes and beaches under my own power is right there. And yes, you can mountain bike down an active Volcano. Cerro Negro it’s called.