How adventure travel has changed in recent years

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The landscape of adventure travel has changed in the past few years thanks in part to global events like Covid-19 and a shift in experience priorities for many travelers. Off-the-beaten-path destinations, more authentic experiences and trips tailored to your preferences offer one-of-a-kind adventures for a more demanding travel demographic that seeks to explore beyond the cookie-cutter tour route.

A person in a blue jacket sits at the edge of a cliff overlooking a scenic fjord with rugged mountains and a village below.
Authentic and conscious world exploration is now easier than ever thanks to these new adventure travel trends. Photo credit: Unsplash.

Growth in the adventure tourism industry means new travel opportunities

Adventure tourism often focuses on visits to unique landmarks and activities like trekking, cycling and other activities to showcase the best and often unseen side of destinations. Local guides and residents make experiences authentic by sharing their knowledge and perspectives.

Despite global disruption to travel in the last five years, the adventure travel industry is expected to grow by 19.5% per year, according to research by Allied Market Research. As a result, companies like G Adventures and Intrepid Travel have positioned themselves to become adventure tourism giants by offering immersive, small-group adventure travel to worldwide destinations.

At sea, the cruising industry has also taken notice of this trend. In recent years, cruise lines have begun providing more tailored adventure travel experiences on board and at exclusive ports of call.

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The rise of sustainable tourism

Travelers are increasingly focused on eco-friendly travel. mentioned in their 2023 report that sustainable travel is important to 80% of people.

Noting this trend, several adventure travel companies make responsible and eco-conscious tourism easy to plan. Many now have sustainability initiatives that can either offset your travel impact or minimize the generated carbon footprint from the get-go.

Responsible travel with leading adventure companies

Well known in the industry for exciting trips with local guides, G Adventures and Intrepid travel have also set a high standard for responsible travel with their initiatives.

  • Respect for local communities and environments: Through their G for Good program, G Adventures helps travelers engage respectfully with local communities. They patronize locally-owned businesses to keep tourism money in the community.
  • Environmental restoration efforts: The Trees for Days program at G Adventures plants one tree for each day their customers’ travelers. They’ve planted over 1.8 million trees to date to help offset the environmental impact of travel around the world.
  • Giving back to communities: Intrepid Travel started the Intrepid Foundation to support the communities where they operate. They fund education, employment and medical care in international communities.

When comparing G Adventures vs Intrepid Travel on their responsible travel initiatives, both companies have shown an ever-evolving attitude to respect and benefit the local people, cultures, economies and the environment. More global companies are taking notice and incorporating these initiatives into their trip and experience goals as well.

Adventure travel that reduces carbon emissions

With more travelers focused on reducing their environmental impact, travel companies are stepping up to the challenge. G Adventures has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. By 2050, they want to be at net zero carbon emissions on their trips. Intrepid Travel already offsets all of their trips’ carbon emissions by purchasing carbon credits associated with six key international projects.

Cruise lines are striving to be more eco-friendly as well. Carnival, the largest cruise line company, strives to be carbon neutral by 2050. They’ve launched ships that run on liquefied natural gas and are developing systems to conserve energy onboard. Royal Caribbean has also championed its environmental responsibility, especially with its latest addition, the Icon of the Seas, which is powered by liquefied natural gas, treats its own waste, and produces its own water.

How tech has pushed adventure travel

The increasing availability of WiFi and cell coverage, even in more remote locations, is changing the way people travel. Some say being connected is a modern-day benefit, while others feel it takes away from the raw essence of being somewhere remote. Unless traveling to extremely remote places, long gone are the days where you could completely disconnect from civilization. Even at the remote peaks of the Himalayas, you can record your adventures through photo and video and share them live with everyone at home.

With the power to inspire and educate, this instant social sharing has pushed travel boundaries. Remote and previously unknown destinations now feel more accessible and achievable to less adventurous travelers. 

Tech can also serve to create a more comfortable travel experience. For example, cruise lines are integrating groundbreaking tech into their ships. On the best Carnival cruise ships, the OceanMedallion program gives all passengers a small wearable disk that pairs with their mobile apps and works as a:

  • Door key
  • Tap to pay card
  • Locator for family members
  • Wayfinding
  • Food ordering system

Tailoring adventure experiences to individual preferences

With so much social content generated online, modern adventure travelers now seek to create more tailored itineraries that will set them apart and give them a more genuine experience at their destination.

Some adventure companies, like Intrepid Travel, with their tailor-made trips, let you create an entirely customized adventure trip. Others offer a wide variety of trip styles to fit different tastes, such as multi-activity trips, twenty-year-olds trips, rail-focused trips, scavenger hunts, photography tours, golden age trips and luxury trips, among others.

Even on a cruise, there are plenty of options to match an itinerary to your preferences. This is especially true on bigger and newer cruises like the Icon of the Seas with its seven pools, the world’s first onboard water park with six water slides, theaters, a casino and over 40 dining and drinking spots. Thanks to this focus on tailored adventures, cruising has surged in popularity, according to CBS News, with its passenger volume outpacing pre-pandemic numbers since 2023. This year, the cruise industry is expected to hit a new high of $36 million as spending on experiences has climbed 65% since 2019.

You can further personalize your trip by looking for things to do at your destination and set out on your own. For instance, if you are cruising or traveling in Mexico and looking for things to do in Cozumel, you’ll find dozens of activities, from beaches to snorkeling to food tours, that are tailored to different travel demographics.

Explore beyond travel trends with modern adventure tourism

Travel has always been the ultimate way to explore new places and cultures, but the evolution in travel in recent years makes it even easier to personalize your adventures. New technology, customizable adventures and a focus on sustainable and responsible travel mean that every trip will be a unique and genuine experience that can have a positive impact to the destination and the planet.

Norbert Figueroa of is an architect and travel writer on a mission to visit all 195 U.N. Recognized nations, and beyond. He shares his adventures and passion for travel, architecture and cultures on his blog and social media.

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