The Experience 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.