THE HASSLE OF SEARCHING OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES ONLINE
Outdoor and adventure activities from hiking over fishing, kayaking, mountain biking to snowboarding and surfing mean the world to me. Being active out in the nature gives me my energy and was the main reason I had moved to Sweden in 2012 for the first time and then again in 2015. I simply could not think of a better place to engage in this kind of lifestyle then the far north. After I had moved in 2012 I quite quickly became frustrated with the way this particular tourism segment is catered. I felt as if everything I wanted to do comes with a large hassle organizing it. Why is it so much easier to find and organize urban activities online then it is to find activities outdoors?
Long hours of Google research, translating whole homepages, reading through years old blog entries in the search for information and sending lots of emails to activity operators finally resulted in me getting fed up with it. When I came back to Sweden in fall 2015 I started Nordic Adventours. A tool to simplify the search and planning process for outdoor activities in the Nordics. A tool I definitely would like to have myself.
A REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: A DOG SLED TRIP TO LAPLAND
In the winter 2012/13 I planned to head north to Lapland to take pictures of the northern lights and ride a dogsled. With the help of Google I found operators of both northern light tours as well as dogsled tours and even northern light dogsled tours in abundance! Unfortunately It also became obvious that most of them were definitely a couple of years behind in terms of web design and online marketing. Half of the homepages was in Swedish or Finnish only. Others did not include any pictures or so little text that I did not really understand what it is they offer or how I can actually book with them. Most of the tours I found did not include any information about their pricing. The once that did varied so much in the extended of what is included that it was impossible to compare them.
I ended up sending out emails to ask for quotes for the tours that were not initially priced, building an Excel sheet to list all the tours and adding costs for transfers and accommodation to those which did not already include it… After I finally chose one and wanted to book, it was booked out. I did not travel up to Lapland that year… and it was only 3 years later that I decided to attempt this journey again. This time I started planning early. It turned out that in 3 years not much has changed. In fact it was still the same hassle, just that the companies that have already been sticking out positively in 2012, stuck out even more now.
THESE ISSUES ARE COMMON FOR ALL KINDS OF ADVENTURE ACTIVITIES
All these inconveniences are not only a problem among the dogsled and aurora guys in Lapland. It is in fact a problem you will find in pretty much any outdoor activity segment. You will face the same issues trying to hire a fishing guide, rent mountain bikes, book a self-guided kayak trip or go heli-skiing. There are always one or two companies sticking out. They obviously put a lot of effort in their online marketing and you will usually feel that in their pricing as well. All the others blend together to some sort of grey mass of unattractive homepages which offer tours you can only really compare to each other once you as a customer do the extra effort of further research. But not many people are willing to do this extra effort.
HOW CAN WE CLOSE THIS GAP BETWEEN THE OPERATORS AND THE TRAVELERS?
We have been taking a closer look at both sides, the operators and the travelers. Two things became very clear. Number one: The challenges adventure operators face differ a lot from the ones faced by operators of urban activities. Number two: Adventure travelers do not have much in common with mass or urban tourists at all.
FIRST WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND HOW OPERATORS WORK
We as travelers expect operators to offer individualized activities and at the same time strap them into standardized tours so that they are bookable through an availability calendar. Tough task.
To be fair, one has to understand what is happening in the background of these companies. Most operators that work in adventure tourism are rather small. The average team consists almost entirely of guides who spend the majority of their time out with their clients. Even if they are not, they are most likely still not specialized web developers or experienced online marketers. Many inconveniences for the customers also directly result from the companies’ serious dedication to the highest tour quality possible. This is for instance the case when guides firmly, and often rightfully, believe that only them really understand the different needs of potential customers and thus insist to be directly contacted. Even if this takes away the possibility of a quick online booking. Many adventure activities offer high individualization possibilities and thus demand direct coordination with the tourist. They are unique, that is the beauty about them.
The truth is, operators of adventure activities face managerial challenges which are unique for their niche and are not that easy to solve without external support. At the end of the day, nice looking homepage or not, the majority of them actually is great at what they do. They simply do not have the resources to commit to online marketing and instead focus on doing what they do as good as possible. So how could you blame them? We don’t blame. We want to help.
Nevertheless, this market’s inconveniences on the customer side can not and should not be ignored.
ADVENTOURISTS PLAN AND TRAVEL DIFFERENTLY – BUT NOBODY SEEMS TO CARE
Due to the very special nature of their interest adventure travelers became the most independent segment in tourism. No other type of tourist does so much research and planning him/herself. Also no other type of tourist is more active online while doing so. This means both searching for recommendations of fellow travelers as well as posting them. No other type of tourists relies more on blogs, travel apps and online tools. And yet their interests are severely under-catered by the available booking portals, trip planning tools and other online services. Destination management organisations (DMOs) and local tourist offices try to deliver help and inspiration over their homepages, but have the tough task to cater all potential tourist segments at the same time. They have the ungrateful jobs to be the experts of everything. Unfortunately, more often than not, this makes them experts of nothing instead.
This crux reached a point where most niche travelers stopped using generalized, mass market information sources entirely. Nowadays niche bloggers such as Backpacking North, magazines like the German Outdoor Magazin as well as social media influencers like the Swedish pro surfer Freddie Meadows are considered the most credible sources of information by their audience.
WE UNDERSTAND BOTH OPERATORS AND TRAVELERS – AND STRIVE TO CONNECT THEM
With the Nordic Adventours platform we are building a highly niche focused bridge between ‘Adventourists’ and adventure operators. We do not bore adventurous people with stuff they are not interested in. Instead we deliver them credible information and inspiration directly from operators, influencers and fellow Adventourists. By gathering and presenting what’s out there, our platform supports travelers with their planning as well as operators with marketing and product development.
We are your nordic adventure experts.
Nordic Adventours – North only. Adventure only. No urban stuff.
Are you an adventure activity provider? Read in this blog post more detailed how Nordic Adventours works for you!
Are you Adventourist yourself? Sign up for our newsletter to not miss our blog entry which explains how we can make your life easier!
Rather check a video of Moritz pitching the idea behind Nordic Adventours? Click here.
Interest in the adventure tourism market? Check the free report on Adventure Tourism provided by the UNWTO – Great read!
Also published on Medium.