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Becoming an Adventure Travel Specialist? – Waterways Travel


Written By: Sean Murphy, President, Waterways Travel



As anybody knows who has been to an “Adventure Travel Trade Show”, it is clear that Adventure Travel is a huge and growing a growing segment of the travel industry.  Unfortunately, what makes it difficult to sell for most agents is that Adventure Travel is a “catch all” term for dozens of very different types of activities that attract like-minded travelers.  The list is endless, but includes trekking, white water rafting, kayaking, mountaineering, skiing, scuba diving, cycling, zip lining, horseback riding and potentially dozens of other activities including SURF TRAVEL.


Question: How is any one agent supposed to be a specialist in all these different niche markets?

Answer:  They are not.


Sure, some agencies may have an agent or two who is a practicing enthusiast of one or the other, but really the key is choosing the right supplier in each of the niche markets you feel your client base may be interested.  For example, an agent in Missoula Montana may know their clients are interested in white water rafting; where an agent in Huntington Beach California would know that a good percentage of their clientele would be interested in Surf Travel; and even if their core clients are not, their children certainly are.


Be sure to choose one or two wholesalers for each niche market you feel may best represent your core clientele.  Build a relationship with those providers and they will help you help them.  Most wholesalers, including WaterWays Surf Adventures, are happy to work with your clients directly to answer the difficult questions; protect agent commissions and pass the client back once the sale is confirmed.


This approach also keeps the agent unfamiliar with the specifics of any niche market from appearing uninformed when presented with specific detailed questions.  I know, as an agent myself, I hate advising a client “I don’t know, let me find out”; I want to have the answers immediately to close the deal.  If an agent has to repeat this line too many times, the customer will lose confidence they chose the best agent to handle their needs.  On the flip side, if an agent has a relationship with their client, and loops in a Specialist Wholesaler into an email chain to answer difficult questions specific to their niche market travel passion; that client will be thankful and respect that the agent is looking out for their best interest.  In addition, that nice market specialist is also likely to be better equipped to really sell a trip by delving into the excitement levels of the adventure.  Let them do the upsell!


Use your email lists wisely.  The chances are Adventure Travel is not the bulk of your business, but is an area of your business that could see significant growth through existing clientele.  Be sure to include some adventure travel options on your agency newsletters.  Approach a wholesaler prior to drafting newsletters to obtain quality images to peak your client’s interest.  Photographs sell adventure travel. Ask your specialist what they may recommend for the Sales Timeline associated with your email blast.  For example, it makes no sense to promote skiing in Utah in a newsletter going out to clients in April as the season is over.  If you expect a 2-8 week lead time for the booking cycle, ask your specialist what they would recommend for a trip in June if the newsletter is scheduled to go out in April, and see if you can get some discounts only available to your database for some specific dates – set yourself apart from the others, do something special, do something different.


Surf Travel has the appeal of being both Full Adventure and Soft Adventure so may appeal to a more board segment of your client base.  For example, some surf trips to Costa Rica ( ) include surf lessons, horseback riding, quad runners, zip-line and Yoga which may appeal to a family or group of people interested in “testing the waters” of adventure surf travel.  In contrast, a trip to Pohnpei Nemberala Beach Resort in Indonesia may appeal much more to the serious advanced level enthusiast.


Adventure Surf Travel also makes a nice supplement to many standard travel packages.  For example, your clients visiting Machu Picchu in Peru may like to extend their stay to experience one of the longest left breaking waves in the world at Chicama Surf Resort  This is a “Bucket List” experience for any surfer as waves can break for up to 1 mile, offering 3-5 minute rides.  If you have clients staying on the main island of Tahiti, or Moorea, why not suggest booking a few days of surf guide service; these guides will safely take your clients to any of the breaks on island by boat and/or vehicle, and if the surf is small offer other more local style activities.  As you know, upselling a clients will not only enhance their experience, but adds nicely to each bookings commission structure.


Finally, don’t be afraid to test the waters and reverse a growing trend.  It is generally accepted that the younger Adventure Travel enthusiast is much more likely to contact a supplier directly than go through a travel agent.  Efforts you make now to capture some of this market may very well earn you a loyal client who will return to you as the source for future travel needs both adventure and leisure.  As the bulk of any niche market traveler will concentrate around that activity in one form or another, it is important to capture their confidence early to build a long term relationship and longevity for your agency.