Special Interest Tourism Market

2020 Analysis and Review: Special Interest Tourism Market by Activity – Environmental, Adventure, and Sport for 2020 - 2030

About the Report

Driven by traveler’s yearning for new experiences, special interest tourism has emerged as a niche market with impressive potential in the tourism sector. According to Future Market Insights (FMI), special interest tourism or (SIT) market is set to register exponential growth between 2020 and 2030. Leisure travel and adventure tourism are on rise within the special interest tourism market and this trend can be accredited to the fact that baby boomers are financially strong, better educated, healthier, and in general seek out novel experiences.  The special interest tourism market is riding on the soaring popularity of adventure and environmental tours.

In a new report, ESOMAR-certified market research and consulting firm, Future Market Insights offers in-depth insights into the market. The report uncovers hidden opportunities and carefully examines demand-and-supply equation for special interest tourism. Besides this, strategies adopted by leading players and impact of the same on the market are studied in detail.

Historical and Future Outlook

The origin of leisure travel can be traced back to the industrial revolution. Over the years, the tourism industry has been riding on increasing spending power. Besides this, growth trajectory of the sector has been dependent on various social factors such as proliferation of multinational (MNC) culture, improvement of transport, expansion of tourist-friendly infrastructure and others. Within the tourism industry, growth of special interest tourism has been remarkable.

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNTWO), 2018 recorded nearly 1.4 billion international tourism arrival. In a 2014 study, UNTWO has identified the exponential growth of adventure tourism worldwide, which allowed new destinations and unique tourism trends to come at fore. The report has identified adventure tourism as one of the fastest growing tourism sectors, attracting high value customers from around the world.

In 2018, tourism accounted for 2% of global GDP, despite which the industry was once again disrupted in 2020. With COVID-19 as a backdrop, priorities within the sector have shifted in response to evolving needs of consumers. While there is increasing emphasis on leisure travel, reluctance of people to travel abroad has shifted focus from international to local tourism.

In an effort to re-establish a harmonized approach around re-operating the tourism sector the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has launched “Safe Travels” stamp, intended to allow potential travelers to recognize establishments around the world that have adhered to standardized health and hygiene protocols. Such initiatives launched by international organizations will not only partake in revival of the tourism sector but are intended to overlook its growth trajectory. FMI has forecast the market to exhibit a CAGR of 22.4% between 2020 and 2030. 

How is Personalization Influencing Special Interest Tourism Growth?

The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report published in 2019 has attributed the price competitiveness along with natural and cultural diversity for South Asia’s emergence as an attractive tourist destination. This is clearly indicative of leaning preference towards personalization among tourists. In the near future, niche tourism push will get stronger, which most regions are looking to capitalize on. This will present a conducive environment for the expansion of special interest tourism since it focuses on customizing experiences for tourists to meet their needs.

According to Thing with Google, 57% of travelers are in favor of companies personalizing their buying experiences on the basis of their personal preferences, past choices, and behavior. There is high demand for niche and flexible experiences that can be tailored to suit a traveler’s goal. Companies providing this facility stand a better chance of sailing through competition.

Think with Google also revealed that 36% of customers are likelier to pay higher for travel experiences that are based on their personal interests. While the travel and tourism industry is already implementing customization, there is still room for expansion of SIT. According to FMI, the demand is predicted to get higher in response to shrinking group sizes of tourists.

As a matter of fact, the surging number of individual travelers are guided by their personal interest while visiting any destination and this forms the core of special interest tourism.

What is the Potential for Sustainable Tourism?

A research conducted by Booking.com has revealed that nearly 72% of tourists believe that it is time for making sustainable travel choices to save our plant and preserve it for future generations. An increasing number of travelers are adopting this mindset and are making their travel decisions keeping environment in mind. Sustainable tourism has become synonymous with responsible tourism. Its principles vastly rely on making responsible choices while travelling to minimize adverse impact on environment, society, and economy.

With notable rise in responsible travel choices, the demand for special interest tourism is poised to surge. The World Travel and Tourism Council has declared that members of tourism industry has improved their carbon efficiency by almost 20% in the last decade. With an intent of encouraging sustainable tourism, each year organizations such as Impact Travel Alliance and the International Ecotourism Society announce the most sustainable and least sustainable destinations for the year.

This shift has disrupted some of the conventional traditions commonly associated with tourist hotspots, and resulting in a trend where environmental outcomes are emphasized more than merely “experiencing” vacationing. Tourists nowadays are more interested towards experiencing authentic local culture, wildlife, and nature. Proliferation of sustainable tourism, backed by national tourism strategies is therefore pushing growth of special interest tourism.

Adventure Tourism Holds Sway in U.S.

The U.S. is one of the most popular travel destinations around the world and attracts millions of visitors each year. Besides this, adventure travels are highly popular in the country, making it one of the lucrative pockets for SIT. According to projections by the Department of Commerce, the U.S. is slated to welcome nearly 95.5 million visitors annually by the end of 2023.

Tourism in the U.S. has remained one of the biggest contributors to the country’s GDP. Cities such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and New York witness influx of a large number of tourists all year round. According to the International Trade Administration Industry and Analysis by National Travel and Tourism Office, the tourism industry represented 2.8% of GDP of the U.S. in 2017.

Lion’s share of tourism in the country comes from domestic travel, with over 2.29 billion Americans opting for trips within the country, as per Condor Ferries. In a report UNWTO has stated that adventure tourism is hugely popular in the U.S. The trend towards disintermediation in the U.S. adventure tourism sector will offer lucrative growth opportunities for special interest tourism.

The Adventure Pulse – a study on America’s adventure travel market has indicated that almost 71% of American adventure travelers are making arrangements for their tours themselves. With this trend gaining momentum, the demand for SIT is likely to surge exponentially in the U.S.

How is Government Aid Impacting U.K. Growth?

According to the UNWTO, four-fifth of tourists prefer domestic travel. Driven by this trend, the U.K. will reportedly register surge in special interest tourism. For instance, the prospects for seaside tourism and taking heritage tours are highly popular in the U.K. One of the key factors supporting expansion of the tourism sector in the U.K. is favorable government initiatives.

In 2015, Government had announced a three year £40 million Discover England Fund, a project dedicated to delivering world-class English tourism products to help inbound travel flourish in the country. The tourism industry in the U.K. is thriving however experts believe there is still considerable scope for expansion in the future. This in turn represents a conducive environment for the growth of special interest tourism.

Among other factors promoting SIT growth, impressive connectivity of the country has made it a popular spot for personalized travel for travelers from within Europe. The geographic proximity of U.K. with a number of nations across Europe has made it a popular destination for special interest tourism.

How Big is Opportunity for Special Interest Tourism in France?

Tourism in France plays a major role in the country’s economy. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), traditional sectors within tourism industry such as food services and accommodation account for nearly 6% of GDP. Tourism also steers growth across other sector. Thriving tourism industry has been catapulting special interest tourism in France. This trend is likely to get stronger especially as the tourism industry gains support from the government.

Since 2014, the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, which is responsible for promoting France as a tourist destination abroad and the Ministry of Economy and Finance, which is responsible for regulatory framework have assumed the responsibility for the country’s tourism policy. Thanks to involvement of government machineries, France has responded well to digitization of activities particularly relevant to tourist accommodation.

A UNWTO report has particularly cited the rising popularity of cycling tourism and biking tours in events such as Tour e France, which are spearheading growth of special interest tourism in the country.

Cultural Tourism Holds Sway in China’s Special Interest Tourism

The evolving tourism industry in China is directly linked to the surging outbound special interest tourist in the country. An increasing number of Chinese travelers are seeking adventure travel across uncommon destinations. Furthermore, studies reveal that some Chinese tourists have begun travelling abroad to partake in unique activities such as Cigar tourism in Cuba or recreational vehicle tourism.

China is also popular for lesser known cultural tourism destinations. According to a report jointly released by People’s Cultural Tourism and Magengwo, China’s renowned travel platform Beijing topped among popular cultural tourism destinations in China in 2019. With an increasing number of Chinese consumers embracing cultural tourism during holidays and taking keen interest on places of historical significance, special interest tourism is expected to thrive in the country.  

The country also offers special packages such as Beijing Theme tour aimed at helping visitors experience numerous attractions and landmarks across the city. According to the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED), the market share of emerging tourism economies will surge from 45% in 2016 to 57% by 2030. The same report identified China among the top four places for inbound arrivals in 2016. With tourism in China forecast to thrive, the demand for special interest tourism is expected to rise in the coming years.

How are Government Schemes Supporting India’s Special Interest Tourism?

India has been intriguing travelers and tourists from around the world. The country’s rich cultural heritage and traditions are known to leave a lasting impression on travelers visiting India. The country has remained a popular destination for special interest tourism. Government schemes and packages intended to support the tourism industry have been aiding the expansion of special interest tourism in India.

For instance, Swadesh Drashan Scheme in India is intended to develop theme based tourist circuits on principles of sustainability, competitiveness, and high tourist value. Furthermore, the Ministry of Tourism has time and again taken up concerns pertaining to taxation to the Ministry of finance that prompted the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council to announce a cut in tax rate on hotel room tariffs.

Such developments and initiatives are poised to have considerable impact on India’s burgeoning special interest tourism. Also implementation of multi-pronged promotional campaigns such as “Incredible India” by the Department of Tourism is encouraging special interest tourism in the country.

What Purpose Steers Growth of Special Interest Tourism?

Special interest tourism trend is primarily driven by rising demand for various recreational and adventurous activities during tours. FMI has forecast adventure tourism to emerge as the fastest growing niche in the tourism sector. The fact that it is resilient and supports local economies by attracting high value customers is encouraging adventure tourism, enabling growth within the activity segment.

For instance, hiking across Grand Canyon rim-to-rim trail is one of the highly popular destinations for adventure tourism. In 2019 Grand Canyon National Park was designated by the International Dark-Sky Association as International Dark Sky Park (IDSP) in June 2019. Such accreditations are indicative of popularity of destinations offering adventure sports.

According to FMI, an increasing number of millennial travelers prefer adventure sports, which is creating lucrative scope for expansion in the activities segment.

Which Activity Attracts Most Tourists?

Environmental tourism has emerged dominant in terms of activity. Wildlife watching tourism is highly popular especially in protected areas. National parks and wildlife sanctuaries are considered two most important tourism assets within the sector. According to UNWTP Report, titled ‘Towards Measuring the Economic Value of Wildlife Watching Tourism in Africa,’ 7% of global tourism relates to wildlife tourism, a segment which is growing annually at 3%.

The rising focus on sustainable tourism since it helps in meeting needs of tourists as well as economic needs of local people has drawing focus towards the category. Furthermore, growth in the category will be aided by various government initiatives. For instance, in a bid to attract international travelers amid ongoing pandemic, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture in Malaysia is seeking to tap into niche tourism activities across country’s green zone destinations. 

Which is More Preferred Booking Channel?

An increasing number of corporate and individual customers are gaining from ubiquitous technologies, including digital media. The advent of smartphones and their surging applications are creating a plethora of possibilities for the travel industry. For instance, in-person booking systems are designed to improve interactions with consumers. Similarly online booking of tours is a trend that is undoubtedly skyrocketing.

Despite the evident benefits of booking online, several companies and tourists continue to remain loyal to indigenous over-the-phone booking system. In addition to being time-consuming, the system requires more staff and resources. These factors are negatively impacting prospects for in-person booking while steering growth in the online booking segment

Competitive Landscape

The special interest tourism market is fairly fragmented, with a majority of companies focusing on improving their service quality and portfolio and are adopting eco-friendly approach to stay relevant in the industry. Besides this, there is ample focus on expanding online presence to reach a wider demography.

  • For instance, Saga has launched a new range of special interest tours for tourisms looking to spend their vacation while pursuing their passion and exploring new ones.
  • Tourism Department of Kerala has launched Monsoon Tourism Packages in 2019 to attract more travelers during the monsoon season. The plan was to create packages exclusively to aid travel agencies during the season. This package is available through the official website of Kerala Tourism
  • To boost tourism the Tourism Authority of Thailand had compiled a list of more 200 of the country’s amazing destinations, covering various aspects of Thai tourism including special interest activities into one eBook platform in 2019. This was intended at making it easy for potential visitors to access required information on any place or activity.

Report Scope

Attribute

Details

Forecast Period

2020-2030

Historical Data Available for

2015-2019

Market Analysis

USD Million for value

Key Regions Covered

North America, Latin America, Europe, East Asia, South Asia, Oceania Middle East & Africa

Key Countries Covered

US, Canada, Germany, U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Poland, BENELUX, Nordic, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, GCC Countries, Northern Africa, South Africa

Key Segments Covered

By Activity, By Purpose and Region

Key Companies Profiled

Martin Randall Travel Limited, Audley Travel, Trafalgar, Wild frontier, Carlson Holdings, Inc., Cox & Kings Ltd., Flight centre Travel Group, National Geographic Partners, LLC., EF Educational Tours, and Booking Holdings, Inc., among others

Report Coverage

Market Forecast, brand share analysis, competition intelligence, DROT analysis, Market Dynamics and Challenges, Strategic Growth Initiatives

Customization & Pricing

Available upon Request

Key Questions Answered by the Report

Q1. Which is the most lucrative market for special interest tourism?

France and U.K. are more popular destinations for special interest tourism, catapulting Europe to the forefront of the global market.

Q2. Which is the most popular activity in special interest tourism?

Environment tourism will remain highly popular among tourists seeking special interest tourism. Increasing focus on travelling sustainably will enable expansion in this segment.

Q3. What purpose is encouraging special interest tourism?

Activities are primary motivating factors for special interest tourism. Activity tourism aims at combing aspects commonly associated with eco-tourism and nature tourism to offer recreation, education, and other benefits to tourists

Q4. Which are some of the leading names offering special interest tourism?

Some of the leading companies offering special interest tourism are Martin Randall Travel Limited, Audley Travel, Trafalgar, Wild frontier, Carlson Holdings, Inc., Cox & Kings Ltd., Flight centre Travel Group, National Geographic Partners, LLC., EF Educational Tours, and Booking Holdings, Inc., among others

Q5. What is the future outlook for special interest tourism?

The demand for special interest tourism is forecast to surge considerably in post pandemic period. The rising focus on sustainable tourism will augment the demand. While growth was massively affected due to unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak, government efforts towards reviving the tourism sector will aid expansion in the future. 

Enquiry before Buying

  • Is this research conducted by Future Market Insights?

    Yes, the research has been conducted by expert analysts of Future Market Insights through a combination of primary research and secondary research. To know more about how the research was conducted, you can speak to research analyst.

  • What research methodology is followed by FMI?

    FMI follows a methodology that encompasses demand side assessment of the market, and triangulates the same through supply side analysis. This methodology is based on use of standard market structure, methods and definitions Request detailed methodology.

  • Who are the respondents for primary research?

    FMI speaks to stakeholders across the spectrum, including C-level executives, distributors, product manufacturers, industry experts. For a full list of primary respondents, please reach out to us.

  • What are the sources of secondary research?

    FMI conducts extensive secondary research through proprietary databases, paid databases, and information available in the public domain. We refer to industry associations, company press releases, annual reports, investor presentations, and research papers. More information about desk research is available upon request

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Key Segments

Purpose

  • Activity
  • Educational
  • Discovery
  • Hobbies
  • Challenge
  • Relaxation
  • Health & Therapy
  • Day Tours

Activity

  • Environmental
    • Ecotourism
    • Nature-based tourism
    • Wildlife tourism
    • Others
  • Adventure
    • Backpacking
    • Mountaineering
    • Whitewater
    • Rafting
    • Bicycling
    • Others
  • Sport
    • Golf
    • Tennis
    • Sailing
    • Soccer
    • Cycling
    • Kayaking
    • Scuba Diving
    • Others

Booking Channel

  • Phone Booking
  • Online Booking
  • In Person Booking

Regional Outlook

  • North America (U.S., Canada)
  • Latin America (Mexico, Brazil, Rest of LATAM)
  • Europe (Germany, U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Poland, BENELUX, Nordic, Russia, Rest of Europe)
  • Middle East and Africa (GCC Countries, Northern Africa, South Africa, Rest of MEA)
  • East Asia (China, Japan, South Korea)
  • South Asia (India, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia)
  • Oceania (Australia, New Zealand)

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