What is modern-day adventure tourism?
Last year I climbed a volcano in Bali and camped on the side of the mountain overnight to watch the sunrise the following morning. Sounds adventurous right? Except that the following morning the mountainside was filled with hundreds of other tourists who had wandered up that morning for the same purpose. As the crowds wandered past my tent, all saying a cheery ‘good morning’, I reflected on what constitutes an adventure.
The Adventure Travel Association says that adventure tourism must include at least two of the following:
- Physical activity
- Natural environment
- Immersion in a new culture
According to this definition adventure tourism is not necessarily about scaling dangerous mountains, or diving with great whites. It’s about connecting with a new culture or environment in a way that is exciting and stimulating. This usually equates to a travel experience that is in an environment that is unusual or remote, where the traveller will experience challenges, novelty, excitement and a sense of discovery. These travel experiences tend to include a high level of physical and sensory stimulation, and a perception that you are taking risks.
Typically tourism experts categorise adventure tourism as either ‘hard adventure’ or ‘soft adventure’. Hard adventure tourism includes high risk activities that require lots of preparation and skill. Think free diving, mountaineering, and caving in uncharted territories. These experiences also tend to be pricey. For example climbing Mount Everest will set you back around $20 000, and that’s assuming you already have all of the gear. There are also strict criteria for the required permit, so this type of adventure is inaccessible for most people.
But you don’t need to be a wealthy adrenaline junkie to enjoy adventure tourism. Soft adventure tourism still has a perceived risk but it is generally lower and therefore more accessible. Soft adventures might include kayaking, backpacking, or parasailing. Of course there is still some risk involved in these activities, but the difference is that you can participate with minimal or no experience and preparation, and you’re likely to be led by an experienced guide. me
These categories can be problematic because the level of risk can be highly subjective. For example, a tough hike for an experienced hiker will feel much less adventurous than it will for a novice hiker. So in reality these categories are blurry and somewhat subjective.