We believe that adventures are about doing things that are new and different for each of us, doing things that can be a little scary but that also makes us curious to explore further.
The Adventure Framework
The framework helps explain how we approach adventures. It’s the tool we use to design and facilitate all aspects of the experiences we offer. We originally built it with a focus on individual tourism products but it also applies at the destination level as we build itineraries and packages.
Over the years we found that most experience frameworks are either built for other contexts or based on a narrow definition of adventure tourism, usually focused on safety or technical skills. That’s why we chose to develop our own framework, combining the elements needed for adventures that create connections with the place and people.
The framework is broken down into three sections: the elements that must align to create authentic adventures, the building blocks that create the adventure itself and finally the constraints we must consider to ensure that the adventure is sustainable.
Authentic adventures happen at the intersection where our motivations and those of our guests align with our destination’s sense of place.
The questions we ask ourselves for each of our products, itineraries and packages are:
- Why us? How does the adventure align with our goal to inspire our guests to play outside and help them experience their adventure so that they can discover the culture, people and natural beauty of the region?
- Why here? How does the adventure showcase our region’s natural beauty, the culture of outdoor adventures and the people who make it special?
- Why are guests joining us? How can we best help them be the heroes of their adventures by providing guidance, instruction, coaching, advice or the tools they need?
The Building Blocks
These are the details that need to come together for each adventure to create the connections with place and people.
It all starts with the goosebumps moment, the part of the adventure that rises above the everyday, leaving us speechless and in awe. This is the reason why we offer the adventure and why the guests choose to join us. It’s similar to the vision, theme or big idea that other frameworks use.
For the goosebump moment to resonate with our guests we need to find the right combination of activities, supporting moments and stories while making sure that we set up a safe environment where the logistics are handled seamlessly.
The activities we choose have the power to transform the experience. Snowshoeing forces us to slow down, sightseeing makes the region more accessible while photography allows us to capture the moment.
The smaller moments we encounter along the way make the whole experience more meaningful. These are the aha moments when things make sense all of the sudden, the pride that comes with overcoming a challenge and the connection we feel when we share those moments with others.
The stories we share help give those moments meaning and provide context for the adventure. We use the word story loosely, referring to communication that has the power to draw us in to create an emotional connection with the facts presented.
This requires us to set up a safe environment, physically and emotionally. Going outside of our daily lives is mentally demanding and requires a level of trust between the guest and the operators.
The logistics cover all the work that’s done behind the scene, the customer service and the small details that have a large impact on creating the experience for the guests.
Reinforcing memories can simply be a conversation over hot chocolate at the end of the tour, sharing the highlights and surprises of the day. This is the step that makes a collection of activities into a memorable experience.
Viable, Desirable and Feasible
These are the elements that go beyond the specific adventure. This involves asking ourselves a few questions to make sure that the adventure can be successful over the long term:
- Viable: Does it solve a problem for our guests and can it generate a profit or produce the outcomes required to sustain funding?
- Desirable: Does it have a positive impact, or can we minimize negative consequences, on the local community and environment?
- Feasible: Do we have the certifications, permits, insurance and resources needed to deliver the adventure?
These impact how we facilitate adventures and which products we offer.
BUILD FOR THE GUEST, NOT THE INDUSTRY
We think about adventures on a daily basis. We work closely with others in the tourism and outdoor industries. It’s easy to get trapped in the bubble, thinking that our guests have similar experiences to us.
We become indifferent to things we’ve seen before as we chase the high of finding a new adventure to offer. We chase novelty, showcasing the new shiny tour and trying to make sure we capitalize on the latest trends. We confuse novelty with innovation.
There’s a place for offering experiences designed for our industry and media partners. It helps to get the word out, it creates a buzz. Our guests don’t share our background however. We need to remember that what we’ve seen a thousand times is a new adventure for them.
The best example from our tours is fresh snow on evergreen trees. It’s easy to take it for granted, we see it on a regular basis. It’s easy to discount it, after all we’re heading to a gorgeous frozen waterfall down the trail. Most of our guests have never experienced this before. For them, this is the highlight of their adventure. It’s like walking in a Christmas greeting card.
We don’t control when it happens and we can’t promise they’ll get to experience it. What we can do is plan our tours with enough flexibility to allow them to slow down and enjoy the moment.
Remember to see our region through the eyes of our guests, even if it’s something we’re fortunate to experience on a regular basis.
The Adventure Development Process
Our first adventures were built intuitively, based on what felt right. It is only in recent years that we started to look deeper into why doing it this way works, in part out of a need to share our process with staff and partners.
As we started taking a deeper dive into how we’ve been crafting adventures we came to realize that the human-centred perspective of design thinking resonated with us. Our development process follows the familiar empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test steps of design thinking, adapted to our situation.
What makes these work great for adventure tourism is that they are built around a mindset and tool set rather than a strict step-by-step process.
As we worked on defining our adventure development process there are a few principles that kept coming up. These are the things that matter to us and that we need to keep at the top of mind throughout the process. These are:
- The guests are the hero of their adventure. Everything we do starts with empathy and is centred around the needs of the visitors.
- Embrace collaboration and different perspectives. Work together as a team, engage others in the conversation.
- Define the problem before searching for solutions. It’s not worth finding the perfect solution if it solves the wrong problem.
- Be biased toward action. Tackle projects that are big thinking but small enough to be delivered. Prioritize testing and iterations over studies.
- Continue to improve. Regular reflection allows us to improve the process. Be responsive to change and be willing to change the process if it no longer works.
At the most basic version, the process consists of planning for the adventure, facilitating the adventure and finally reflecting on the adventure as we look to continuously improve.
This simple approach works great for simple products offered as one-off adventures. Developing adventure tourism products that can be delivered multiple times consistently requires a little more work. The adventure development cycle breaks down the process into smaller components, making sure that all aspects of the adventures are in place.
Before we get started we need to set the stage and come up with a plan. This includes identifying the problem we’re trying to help our guests solve or the type of adventure we want to create. Next, we need to assemble a team that can bring different perspectives to the process and make sure that we identify any constraints that will need to be addressed.
We then break down the process of planning the adventure into three areas. The first one is identifying what will make the adventure authentic. This can take a lot of upfront work but luckily it shouldn’t change much from one adventure to another.
The second step is to experiment with various options as we build the itinerary. We start with a broad perspective on what it could be, then we narrow it down to a single itinerary. Finally, we need to test and refine the initial itinerary before we can offer it to guests. This allows us to work through challenges we had not yet considered and to confirm that our plans can work.
Facilitating the adventure includes the obvious: the guests taking part in the adventure. It also includes what happens before and after the tour. This is why sales and marketing are an integral part of a successful adventure.
Once the adventure is offered to guests the work isn’t done. The tour continues to be refined, at the guide level through reflection on how they can improve and at the company level through minor and major refinements of the experience offered.