“Something is really happening in the industry; something bigger than us,” said Ariel Cohen, co-founder of TripActions, a travel company that raised $154 million in financing Series C in 2018.
The statistics support Cohen’s assertion, too. More than $1 billion has been invested in travel companies over the last couple of years. Venture capitalists continue to seek out travel startups knowing that the online travel market will reach its expected peak in 2020 when its total worth will exceed $817 billion.
The question is: Which travel companies are desirable to investors and what makes them attractive?
The outdoor travel industry as a new player on the market
What venture capitalists are interested in ranges from travel and tourism apps to accommodation and experience startups – they want travel services that successfully cater to an already burgeoning market.
There is one particular branch of the travel industry that is likely to reach its full potential in the upcoming years – outdoor travel.
According to Academia’s reports, the international adventure travel market is showing a 21% CAGR since 2012. That’s just one of the reasons why there are so many new “adventure” and “experience” travel startups on the market.
“With a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15%, the adventure tourism market is expected to grow to over $1T by 2030,” explains Jon Kelly, a digital marketing consultant with OriginOutside.com, an adventure and outdoor marketing agency. “Marketing strategies that speak to the specific needs and desires of adventure travelers will become increasingly important for travel startups to succeed as the market for outdoor adventure travel continues to grow.”
Viktor Marohnic, the founder of 57hours, a new marketplace that connects outdoor enthusiasts with professional guides and instructors, explains his motivation to get into the outdoor travel business:
“We are passionate about introducing new people to adventure sports and watch their lives change for the better after discovering something new to pursue. We’ve traveled, explored, climbed, skied, and surfed in thousands of places and we love to talk about those experiences to those around us, but it makes us even happier when we see our friends take on these kinds of adventures on their own.”
It seems that more and more people share the same enthusiasm as Viktor since 57hours is rapidly attracting a loyal community of outdoor travel lovers.
The Adventure Travel Trade Association confirms these facts in its segmentation of U.S. travelers:
Are there that many outdoor travel participants?
If you were a rock climber you won’t be surprised that 3.2% of the population in the United States older than six years are regular climbers. This number will only increase after climbing’s debut at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Another interesting fact is that when it comes to the population aged between 6-17 years, 5.7% of them are climbing.
Sales reports show that the climbing industry reached new heights too:
- “the industry has grown by 13 percent in the 12 months ending January 2017.
- The industry has grown its sales by $52.9 million since 2014, reaching a four-year high of $175.5 million.
- 2012-2017 average annual growth for the indoor climbing wall industry was 3.9% in the USA. That’s over 39% more than the gym, health, and fitness clubs industry’s 2.8% over roughly the same period.”
Climbing is only one of the many activities that outdoor lovers pursue. Another report by Outdoorindustry, shows that Americans have been keen on trying different outdoor sports for some time:
- “144.4 million Americans, or 48.8% of the US population, participated in an outdoor activity at least once in 2016.
- Outdoor participation grew from 48.4% of the US population in 2015 to 48.8% in 2016. This represents an additional 2 million outdoor participants.
- 21% of outdoor enthusiasts participated in outdoor activities at least twice per week.
- Running, including jogging and trail running, was the most popular activity among Americans when measured by both number of participants and by number of total annual outings.
- The biggest motivator for outdoor participation was getting exercise.
- Running was the most popular outdoor activity for almost all ethnicities; however, Caucasian participants participated in fishing at a higher rate than running.”
Outdoor spending in 2017 according to Outdoorindustry report
All this data justifies and explains the growing interest in apps that help outdoor consumers improve their travel experience.
The outdoor travel industry’s infrastructure is ready to take off
“There are apps to book every element of a trip or vacation but nothing really existed like this in the professional mountain guide space. We wanted to create an easy-to-use platform where expert guides could share stoke for their favorite trips and connect more people to adventure in a fun and safe way,” explains Viktor from 57hours.
AllTrails, ViewRanger, 57hours, Spyglass, Airbnb (with its travel experiences) are only a handful of companies whose apps were developed to make consuming outdoor experiences easier. Because of this, these companies and others can focus on improving their efficiency and customer service rather than their digital infrastructure.
This is where venture capitalists and other investors come into play.
For several years now we’ve witnessed acquisitions within the travel industry: the travel-booking startup Hipmunk was acquired by SAP Concur back in 2016, which recognized the potential of the travel planning company TripIt and bought it for $120 million. Airbnb-competitors HomeAway, Pillow, and ApartmentJet were acquired by Expedia whose aim was to conquer the short-term rental market.
However, not all travel apps can say they ended up with a bunch of zeros in their bank account after acquisition, many were bought for small amounts of money. To keep the business running, travel companies need to be striking larger acquisition deals, especially considering the fact that building a travel business is cash intensive.
The market for investing in travel startups is hot – specifically, the outdoor activities segment stands out most. Let’s see what will happen in the industry this year and which outdoor apps are going to become the next big thing. All in all, one thing is sure – outdoor travel apps are taking off.