8 totally unscientific outdoor industry predictions for 2024
As we head into the New Year, it’s once again time to dust off the mighty MMGY Origin crystal ball and see what the future holds. As always, the following predictions are provided for entertainment purposes only, and we take no responsibility for their accuracy, or any life-changing decisions you make based on them. Unless they actually come to pass, in which case you should feel free to assume that we’re geniuses. Or just really good at guessing.
Prediction #1: Skiing will begin the return to its roots as a regional sport
This trend will be driven by inflationary pressures on food, lodging, airfare, rental cars, fuel, and other related expenses that will mitigate the value and appeal of multi-resort “mega” passes. Along with broader cultural shifts within the sport, this will cause skiers to stay closer to home, to the benefit of two skier groups: The affluent, and the locals. More affluent skiers will be less impacted by the higher costs associated with a ski vacation, and will reap the rewards of overall reduced skier visits, which means shorter lift lines, less crowded slopes, and in general, greater experiential return on their investment. Meanwhile, locals (and by “locals,” we’re talking about anyone within a two hour drive of a given resort) will benefit by the continued affordability of mega passes, the same reduction in skier visits that benefit the affluent, and the ability to pack lunch and sleep at home, thus avoiding the dreaded $30 cheeseburger and $800 hotel room that have become all too common.
Prediction #2: Despite an overall decrease in destination skier visits, the long-term net effect will be positive for ski culture
The cost barriers in destination travel mixed with overcrowding and a poor snow year across much of North America will force the current overemphasis on pass product marketing to shift gears and once again motivate skiers to want to ski. This will lead resorts to double down on appealing to their best guests in both marketing and product development, thus creating a more desirable product that’s built on a more sustainable growth model - not just “who can access the most resorts for the most appealing price”.
Prediction #3: AI will continue creating content when prompted, but it will also start consuming content, even when NOT prompted.
Soon (and we’re predicting it’ll be this year), AI will start routinely combing content and providing us the nuggets it thinks (knows?) we’re interested in. Search Engine Optimization will give way to AI Optimization, though exactly how that works and what it looks like will have to wait for next January’s predictions.
Prediction #4: Content creators will be faced with increasing adversity and competition.
The ever-crowding field of content creators will become even more competitive, leading effective creators to continue to become more niche. It will be harder to break through the noise to become a generic internet personality with longevity. The more niche the content the better, but ensuring that niche can sustain an audience will be the real difference maker.
Prediction #5: The homogenization of brands in the outdoor industry will continue.
The major players in the outdoor industry will continue ‘innovating’ to simply make different versions of the same product (i.e. The Aritzia SuperPuff, also found at Lululemon, Arc’teryx, the North Face, Patagonia, etc). This will create increasing opportunities for smaller, independent brands to position themselves as an antidote to consolidation and sameness, and break through the noise to capture the attention of consumers.
Prediction #6: Vertical retail brands will accelerate their expansion into the experiential space.
We’ve already seen brands like REI enter the adventure travel space, while Arc’teryx continues to grow its guided outdoor academies. Now, Norrøna, a Norwegian-based outdoor retailer, has launched Norrøna Adventure, offering brand enthusiasts the chance to book destination trips to Norway to take part in outdoor adventures that are aligned with the brand's product lines. Expect to see more brands jumping on this bandwagon.
Prediction #7: Outdoor culture will continue expanding away from the core.
Since the onset of COVID, the number of casual outdoor participants has continued to rise in conjunction with stagnation or even a decline in core participation. The increase in participation as well as funding and mainstream distribution of films like Free Solo have also led to more new and non-outdoor participants interested in news and media coming from the outdoor industry. These entrants, however, are questioning the core behaviour. Take this year's controversy with professional mountaineer Kristin Harila, for example. This story, unlike any of its predecessors, became a talking point in mainstream media and ended up leading to a lot of controversy with a large part of the conversation coming from non-core participants. The core outdoors has functioned within its own echo chamber for a long time and with its own unwritten rules. As new, more diverse, participants continue to grow the outdoor industry, they are questioning these practices, the worthwhileness of certain achievements, and are forcing us to evaluate the morality of certain cultural aspects of these core outdoor sports.
Prediction #8: Running will continue to rise, with a focus on community building and “runcations.”
As one of the biggest feeder sports into the outdoor industry (and one of the most accessible), we will continue to see running participation rise and the community the sport creates strengthen in 2024. Expect to see more run clubs targeting all levels pop up and an uptick in race participation for both road and trail.
Moreover, the growth in runfluencers on platforms like TikTok and Instagram are inspiring run-focussed tourism. Whether it be a weekend trip to NYC for the Marathon or tacking a day in Berlin onto a Europe trip for a run club event, more active travellers will begin planning trips around run events, or incorporate the sport into pre-existing travel itineraries as a way to see new cities and meet locals.
There you have it. Eight outdoor industry predictions that are (maybe) sure to come true. We’ll be back in 12 short months with a recharged crystal ball and a fresh batch of predictions, so stay tuned.