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Much like last year, people are eager to get out and see the world in 2023. And many travelers want to do that while pedaling a bike, hiking through breathtaking landscapes, or paddling down a river. That’s why active and adventure travel tours are a popular choice for visiting bucket-list destinations near and far.
“Throughout the pandemic, as people got active through walking, hiking, biking, or on their Peloton, more people are wanting to keep that movement going even when on vacation,” says Graeme Montgomery, brand manager for luxury travel tour company Butterfield & Robinson. “Multi-active trips (a mix of biking, hiking and other activities) are really popular, as people are looking for well-rounded itineraries that bring the adventure, change pace from day to day and showcase the best of the region. Think rafting in Northern Greece, camel riding in Morocco, riding horseback in Iceland, or kayaking in Uruguay.”
With 2023 shaping up to be another banner year for travel, active and adventure travel tour companies are seeing some trends emerging. Here’s what to expect in the active travel tour space in 2023:
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1. Active and adventure travel tours will book up quickly
Active travel company Backroads has already seen a 60% increase in bookings more than nine months out for 2023 departures and the company expects to see its highest customer numbers of its 44-year history in 2023. The story’s the same at many other tour companies.
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“2023 is going fast,” says Heather Heverling, president of AdventureWomen, which offers more than 50 trips in more than 65 countries designed by and for women. “Guests are eagerly booking adventures and not just for travel in 2023; the excitement of 2024 is also rolling out.”
2. Japan is poised for a big year
Lots of travelers were excited to get back to Europe in 2022. For 2023, Japan is expected to be a hot destination as it welcomes back visitors. “As Japan has opened back up, we’ve seen a flood of interest from people wanting to go and visit those super iconic places in Japan,” says Alexandria Sanchez, U.S. consumer marketing manager at G Adventures, which offers a variety of tours for exploring the Asian country.
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Global tour company Intrepid has relaunched 12 trips to Japan ranging from seven to 24 days. That includes its signature Japan Real Food Adventure for sampling the country’s varied cuisine and Japan: Hike, Bike & Kayak tour for travelers who want to see the island in an active way.
3. Immersive experiences will continue to have strong appeal
A standard bus tour or high-end cruise doesn’t cut it for many travelers. “They really want to get into the country and experience all there is to offer,” says G Adventures’ Sanchez. “They want to try the food, they want to hear the language, they want to meet the people and see the faces behind the experience they’re having.”
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Travelers can definitely get that kind of immersion on G Adventures tours. And they can take it even further with one of the company’s “local living” tours that give travelers a real sense of daily life in destinations around the world.
4. Tour operators will keep working to help protect the places they visit
As part of its partnership with NatureMetrics and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, adventure tour operator Exodus Travels recently launched 20 Citizen Science Departures where travelers help collect environmental DNA samples for the eBioAtlas to monitor biodiversity around the world. The tours take participants to places like the Zambezi Valley and Vietnam, where they’ll help collect freshwater samples that provide clues about the species living in each ecosystem.
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At Intrepid, protecting the planet is a major focus. The company has more than 40 low-carbon alternative tours where carbon-intensive activities have been swapped for more sustainable options like walking and cycling and short flights have been replaced by train travel or other lower-emission transportation. Intrepid Premium tours offer high-end adventure travel that also incorporates sustainability. The new 10-day Premium Alaska tour, for example, includes lower-emission train travel, wilderness and conservation tours and a stay at the sustainably built Talkeetna Lodge.
“The luxury tourism market is booming, as is the looming threat of climate change,” says Matt Berna, president of North America for Intrepid. “Creating a more sustainable, high-end travel product has been a key focus for Intrepid … (People are) willing to pay for premium trips that offer an exceptional experience at an excellent value, while also giving back to local communities and positively affecting the environment.”
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5. Roughing it is an option, but it’s not required
Backpacking and camping can certainly be components of active trips and even family travel adventures. But if you want some physical activity during the day and a comfy bed at night, you can have that too. Escape Adventures leads a range of U.S. biking and hiking tours where travelers spend their nights in a tent. But on its new biking tour of Bentonville, Arkansas, private groups stay in a luxury vacation rental the company owns. “We offer both ends of the spectrum and a lot of stuff in the middle,” says company cofounder Jared Fisher.
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Travelers can also book active and adventure travel tours where they don’t have to be moving every minute of the day. Backroads’ Dolce Tempo tours slow things down a bit, offering easygoing biking, walking and multi-adventure trips to places like Switzerland, Napa Valley, Scotland and U.S. national parks like Yellowstone and Zion.
And while traditional bicycles will always have their fans, e-bikes will continue to help travelers of all ages and abilities pedal their way through scenic destinations. “A lot of people out there are still all about the fitness and don’t want to get on an e-bike,” says Escape Adventures’ Fisher. “But they do want to ride with their best friend who’s not as fit. So it’s really opening up the doors all the way around.”
6. Wellness will be on the wish list
G Adventures has been seeing increasing interest in its wellness tours to locations like Bali, Costa Rica and Iceland. “People want to have a life-changing experience,” says Sanchez. “They want to learn more about themselves or are seeking well-being, active moment, yoga, or different things that promote mindfulness.”
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“Adventure travel, with a focus on nature and being your personal best, is a celebrational tool for embracing life’s shifts,” says Heverling from AdventureWomen, which offers tours for breast cancer survivors in conjunction with the iRise Above Foundation and tours of Japan that explore the country’s ancient traditions. “At AdventureWomen, it’s less about age or athleticism but about a mindset … A driving force of why women are booking is prioritizing ourselves with an emphasis on life experiences. The post-pandemic world reinforces how vital it is to live boldly.”
6 adventure travel and active tour trends for 2023 originally appeared on TourScoop.com.
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TourScoop.com covers guided group tours and tour operators by offering comprehensive tour operator reviews, tour itinerary reviews, tour news and travel tips and advice tailored to guided tour travelers. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.