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Will micro-adventures revitalize the future of tourism?

La micro-aventure ré-enchantera-t-elle le tourisme de demain ?
Published on
17 July 2020

Discovering the marvels of daily life… Such is the motto of a growing number of micro-adventures that offer short, temporary excursions that take place near your home. During the summer of 2020, the emergence of this trend should accelerate noticeably. How can players in the tourism industry take advantage of this new market?

Hélène Michel is a professor and researcher at Grenoble Ecole de Management who specializes in innovation and gamification. For three years, she has been leading research on “staycations”, a vacation mode in which people stay near their homes in order to rediscover a region they already know by exploring local wonders thanks to micro-adventures. 

How do you define micro-adventures?

For Alastair Humphreys, adventurer, author and lecturer, a micro-adventure is a short, nearby adventure that can be integrated into daily life. It's a trend that is growing around the world. All micro-adventurers have one thing in common: they are looking to escape mass tourism and only travel short distances from home. Local tourism is the definition of a "staycation".

The motivations behind this trend can be both economic and ethical (e.g., given the current climate situation, taking a plane for quick hop around the world is often seen in a negative light). In Sweden, we've seen the development of  « flygskam », or the shame associated with taking a plane trip.

The other important difference for micro-adventures is their timing. They can be described as integrating tourism into daily life. The goal is to add leisure and vacation time into one's daily schedule and thereby add a touch of marvel to daily life.

Who are these new micro-adventurers?

Il y a chez eux une volonté d'optimiser leur journée en tirant le meilleur parti d'un planning très contraint. Cette approche implique de chasser les temps morts ou peu intéressants du quotidien, en y intercalant des activités signifiantes. Ce désir d'être performant ou accompli sur tous les plans serait le propre des nouvelles classes dominantes, dites « classes aspirationnelles ».

Micro-adventurers are people who want to optimize their day by making the most of what are generally very busy daily schedules. This approach aims to rid a schedule of down time or uninteresting time slots and instead fill them with  significant activities.The desire to be high performing at all levels, including daily schedules, is a new characteristic of the emerging dominating class known as the "aspirational class".

These individuals are looking for accomplishment and personal advancement even in leisure activities. Original experiences help them feel productive and efficient in their use of time. Every morning starts as a normal day, but there's the added dimension of having accomplished something unique. This is similar to the desire some might have to integrate an hour of sports training into their daily schedule even if it represents an organizational feat. In the micro-adventure, there is also the added dimension of bringing nature into daily life.

What are the sources of inspiration for micro-adventures?

Micro-adventures are not a practice but rather a ritual that is built within the image of a community system. Primary references and inspirations include community platforms like Chillowé, The Others, or 2 jours pour vivre.

Seven days of experimentation in seven emblematic locations in the Alps...

Chanaz, Aiguebelette lake, Paladru lake, La Bastille, Chêne de Venon, and Petites Roches plateau… How can the Fabularium, a life-sized laboratory, inspire new approaches for micro-adventures?

The goal of our research on microadventures, which started three years ago, is to imagine the future of tourism. The Fabularium was launched last year with the support of the Territories in Transition Chair at GEM and was created by a local artisan. It's a mobile office that is equipped with a typewriter that can be taken apart and carried by foot. To imagine this creation, I was inspired by porters who used to carry goods and stories from one Alpine valley to the next. Once the machine is set up, it becomes a spectacular object that amplifies the experience. By writing a letter to express one's love, regrets or exit from a region, the user enables us to collect data that can be analyzed and help us discover new proposals. The Fabularium experiment will help us better understand the micro-adventure phenomena, the motivations of participants and various sources to help reconnect with our regions.

How can players in the tourism industry build on your experimentations?

Tourist offices, and equipment providers such as Opinel, Décathlon and Nature et Découvertes are very attentive to the development of micro-adventures. Their offers are evolving and the need to know what concepts, objects, initiatives and services will provide opportunities for marvelous experiences in mountain resorts. They need to understand how these emerging trends will influence their value offer and regional strategies.

Publication expected Spring 2021: "La Recherche Grandeur Nature". Presses Universitaires de Grenoble


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