Travel agents looking for a tested, recession-proof market niche might consider marathon runners, Amadeus notes. Some people’s idea of a vacation is sitting poolside with a cocktail, but for marathon runners, it’s logging grueling miles in a new city, then exploring the sites of the destination.While a specialized niche, marathon runners are often affluent and dedicated travelers.
Citing a Runner’s World survey of runners and triathletes, Amadeus notes growing interest in marathons. The discovery was that runners increased their mileage during the 2009 U.S. economic downturn, and only 25 percent said the recession affected their running. Also, 25 percent said that they planned to spend at least $500 that year on marathons, which included travel and lodging, Amadeus reports.
Even with the economy on an upswing, the recession-proof activity appears to be here to stay and with a growing interest in destination marathons, Amadeus notes. And beyond the runner’s high, medals and bragging rights, agents can maximize their experiences by turning these marathons into a total-package vacation.
Amadeus notes that its a race worth traveling for. Those who are dedicated enough to train for a 13.1 to 26.2-mile race might eventually find themselves wanting to experience a marathon outside of their training territory, especially during what is considered offseason. And for runners who live in hot climates will most likely travel to cooler climates to run summer races.
Due to the humidity and high-temperature weather, event planners do not hold races year-round in states like Florida, Amadeus notes. Runners who travel to cooler climates also make a vacation out of the trip, hence the destination marathon. Ask any marathoner, there is no better way to experience a different city or country than running through it within a matter of hours.
The destination is determined by the popularity of a particular marathon. Some marathoners even like to pick their destination based on the difficulty of the terrain they will be running on. The Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., receives high praise from runners, and every year, registration is filled at capacity. This large race event brings thousands of beginning and advanced runners to the nation’s capital, filling all hotels near the event start line, and increasing business all weekend, Amadeus says.
It is important that race weekend is stress-free, Amadeus says. "With all the dynamics of one weekend, it’s important for travel agents to maximize this opportunity by providing services to individuals and groups who are planning on participating in a marathon away from home. Training usually begins eight to 12 weeks before event day, and during that time is when runners plan their travel. With tight training schedules, runners find it beneficial to have a travel agent coordinate airfare, hotel, ground transportation and even tours."
Since most runners come in teams or large groups, race websites list hotels within the area that provide a discount rate for anyone participating in the race. Transportation to and from the airport are also noted on these websites, Amadeus says.
Resorts, particularly those that are all-inclusive, are appealing to runners because it makes their race experience less stressful. Having unlimited access to dining pre-race and post-race can be seen as an added value to runners. Those who stay on a resort will likely schedule their post-race massage as soon as they check into the hotel. Large groups such as nonprofit organizations are likely to stay at resorts during race weekend. It is easy to sell a resort stay to these groups because group members want to stay together and have common places to meet, Amadeus says.
Beyond air travel, hotel and transportation, a healthy diet is key for peak performance on race day. Many runners travel with a variety of nutrition needs and food preferences. Therefore, restaurants that can accommodate special dietary needs will be the restaurants of choice before the race, Amadeus notes.
Once the race is over and medals are awarded, the post-race activities begin. From tours to excursions, runners agree that some of the best sightseeing is done on a destination marathon. For example, tours are very appealing for destinations that are scenic and historical. Participants in the very popular Disney Marathon can purchase discounted passes during race weekend. Walking around Disney parks post-marathon is a long-standing tradition. It is a proud moment for runners to be able to say “I ran through here this morning.” This year, the Rock N’ Roll San Diego Marathon participants each received a pass to Sea World, Amadeus says.
For whatever reason marathoners have for choosing their destination race, it is a special event that they want to make memorable and enjoyable, Amadeus says.
Just like any leisure traveler, marathoners are looking for a stress-free, organized and fun experience. Therefore, keep in mind that the race is priority No.1 when booking a destination marathon. Marketing a stress-free experience that combines booking travel, getting to the start line, and maximizing on the destination would make for an unforgettable finish, Amadeus concludes.