Saturday, July 1, 2023

Marketing News of the Week: Extreme Travel and Dark Travel

With the recent news surrounding the "catastrophic implosion" of the Titan submersible bound for the Titanic's final resting place, two new terms have repeatedly been mentioned: Extreme Travel and Dark Travel.

According to Wikipedia, "Extreme tourism (also often referred to as shock tourism) is a niche in the tourism industry involving travel to dangerous places (mountains, jungles, deserts, caves, canyons, etc.) or participation in dangerous events." Extreme tourism is a relatively small subcategory of adventure travel, whose advisors say makes up between 5% and 15% of their overall business.

Craig Curran, president of DePrez Group of Travel Companies and an extreme traveler himself explained, "Extreme adventure tourism is more like a lifestyle, a small community made up of like-minded travelers who see themselves as explorers, willing to test the limits of the body and mind in the name of human exploration and hoping to deepen their knowledge of the world and of themselves."

Stacy Fischer-Rosenthal, president of Fischer Travel Enterprises, a membership-only agency that costs $150,000 to join, offers adventures, such as, aerobatic gliding, gorilla trekking, and glacier walks. She explained, "We aim to make our clients' dreams come true, in whatever shape that may come."

And then, there's the Titan...according to Travel Weekly, the fatal deep-sea dive of OceanGate Expeditions' Titan captured the world's attention and thrust so-called "extreme tourism" into the spotlight. The Titan submersible promised a deep-dive to the Titanic wreck, and parent company OceanGate Expeditions sold seats for $250,000 each, but on its first Titanic-bound dive this year, the Titan imploded, killing all five people aboard and prompting scrutiny of the dangers of this type of travel.

According to CNN Travel, "Much of Titanic's magnetism comes from the hubris and glamor involved in the original tragedy," explained Brent McKenzie, a professor at Canada's University of Guleph and author of the upcoming book entitled, Dark Tourism: Is the Medium Still the Message. "The fact that so many lives were lost, and that the ship was 'unsinkable' and the famous people on board seems to ensure ongoing interest...Titanic tourism is one of the more established industries in what's become known as "dark tourism." More and more tourists are drawn to sites and attractions related to death, tragedy, and suffering."

Despite extreme risks and extreme price tags, travel industry experts don't expect demand for extreme tourism to wane any time soon. Travel advisors who curate these experiences say participants find too much value in high-risk, high-reward adventures to be deterred by the potential dangers even when the realities of catastrophe are realized.

When talking about extreme tourism, an example that typically comes to mind is space tourism. "Space exploration would likely be priced between $250,000 to $500,000 per seat, reserving your space years in advance," Joshua Bush, CEO of Avenue Two Travel, said of using suppliers like Space Perspective or Virgin Galactic. "You are in the millions for other experiences like SpaceX, [which] is extremely difficult to accomplish."

Yacht-based heli-skiing trips to Antarctica with U.K.-based luxury tour operator Pelorus start at around $750,000 to upward of $1 million, the company said, with demand increasing since December 2021.

Other examples include aerobatic gliding; extreme via ferrata (rock climbing); heli-skiing and heli-hiking; mountain climbing; deep-sea diving; and bear and gorilla trekking.

From a marketing perspective, clearly, there are people who will pay for extreme travel adventures, But is extreme travel worth the risk?

Image Credit: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

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