The Nature-Based Traveller
The Nature-Based Traveller
As restrictions began to lift around much of Europe roughly two years ago, after months of restrictions that kept millions of people in their homes and home countries, there was a collective urge to branch out and re-connect with natural spaces that had been unavailable to so many for so long.
This article will address the primary reasons travellers seek out natural spaces, followed by an assessment of the make-up of this traveller profile and the destinations that these travellers wish to visit.
The Draws and Benefits of Natural Spaces
Firstly, it must be noted that a desire to connect with natural spaces is nothing new, with travellers seeking the great outdoors for centuries. Kuenzi and McNeely, scholars from the international risk governance council and the world conservation union based in Switzerland, explain that as more and more people live an urban life, the amenities and conveniences that come with globalisation increasingly lead to a near complete disconnect from nature (Kuenzi and McNeely, 2008). Indeed, travelling to natural spaces represents the ultimate break from daily life.
The pandemic has only exacerbated this yearning, keeping potential travellers in some of Europe’s densest cities from leaving their homes. Out of the pandemic, those seeking natural spaces has gone on the rise, with “space to breathe” the new luxury (per Traveller Made in Forbes).
Natural spaces are also proven to be beneficial for your physical and mental health. As Forbes reports, “wide-open spaces are the perfect antidote to stressful living in urban environments”. The benefits of natural spaces for one’s health are already very well documented, improving a whole host of physical and mental health issues, with the UN Environment Programme drawing on extensive research that finds that proximity to greenspace has been associated with lower levels of stress and reduced symptomology for illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
The Nature-Based Tourist
It is in light of these benefits that we should begin to explore the profile of this kind of tourist. Using the Travellyze platform, our tourism sector focused data analytics platform, we can uncover the profile of the European nature-based traveller. Amongst European travellers, nature/outdoor experiences is the fourth most important factor, out of a total of 35 potential options, with 36.7% of those interviewed presenting a great importance to having access to such spaces on their travels. This demonstrates how important such experiences are to European travellers at the time of making a choice in destination, emphasising the yearning that many Europeans have to access natural spaces when travelling.
When we specifically look at those who show a great or extreme importance for nature or outdoor experiences, 30.1% are on a household income of €18,000 to €35,999 and 21.9% are on €36,000-€58,999. We also note that those on lower yearly travel budgets make up the majority of travellers, with 36.7% on budgets of €1,000-2,999 and 26.2% on €0–1,000. This reflects are roughly the exact same for the general European traveller when not considering those who showed an extreme or great importance for nature experiences.
Most notably is the dominance of search engines, with 48.8% of travellers laying claim to using this platform as a source of inspiration in travel decision-making. Online reviews sites (e.g., Tripadvisor) are also highly popular (48.8%) and perhaps unsurprisingly Travel TV programmes, (33.9%), with the latter providing the most visceral and visual representations of natural environments, sure to have an alluring effect on any viewer.
Most travellers book their accommodation directly via the accommodation’s website (34.7%), whilst 34.3% use price comparison sites such as Momondo and Sky scanner. 30.% claim to book package trips (including flights and accommodation) on OTAs (online travel agencies) whilst 29.8% book separate flights and hotels online via different booking portals/ travel agencies.
Canada– amongst the best perceived destinations
As one might expect, European nature-based tourists idealise destinations with the vast, awe-inspiring landscapes that we may identify with them, with Canada particularly sticking out. Excluding the European destinations from which we are basing our study on, looking at the perception ranking (how do travellers perceive of a destination that they have not yet visited) Canada is ranked first, with a 95.2% rating, followed by Iceland and Switzerland (93.8% and 93.1% respectively). In appeal (those who would like to visit one day), Canada again receives the highest rating (67.3%), followed by Iceland (65.9%) and Switzerland (63.9%). Regardless, it does worse in say short-term demand, but this could be explained by the high cost to visit the Canada from European markets, thus limiting this short-term demand.
Canada has an abundance of unique landscapes, culture, waterways and wildlife, offering a rich variety of deep ancient forests to stark, barren tundra. Looking back on the reasons why the nature-based tourist travels, “Executive Traveller” (2021) emphasises the therapeutical qualities on offer in Canada’s, such as “old-growth forests, untouched wilderness and panoramic vistas that instantly render your brain blissfully speechless with awe”.
Austria- First in experience and short-term demand
On the other hand, Austria is another destination that performs very well. When looking at those travellers that would like to visit in the next three years, it tops the list (with 27.8%), as well as amongst those that had a positive experience (88.3%), followed by the USA (87.9%) and Switzerland (86.2%).
Austria is another destination that we should not be surprised to see leading the rankings. On its official tourism website, we can see displays of stunning mountainous landscapes, with snow-capped mountains, forestry and lakes and rivers. It advertises these spots as escapes from the hustle and bustle of modern city life, perfect to unwind and relax, or embark on a thrill-seeking adventure.
The nature-bound traveller is guided by a desire to live something different, finding an antidote to everyday life. Natural landscapes offer this, providing us with endless benefits for both the body and mind. As identified in the Travellyze platform, Canada and Austria are two destinations that are highly sought after, perfectly encapsulating that which the nature-based traveller seeks, and which effectively market their destination offering.