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Adventure tourism - Is it all about the thrill of risk?

Adventure tourism - Is it all about the thrill of risk?
Author: Ida Kjellson
2 Commentries
Abstract: A study where the main motivators of adventure tourism are analysed, including risk, flow, insight and the feeling of achievement. From this study it will be possible to assess whether risk really is the main motivator for people to participate in adventure tourism or not.

Key words
Adventure tourism, risk, flow, insight, achievement.

Adventure tourism is a growing segment in the tourism industry in many different countries, and is based upon outdoor recreation, where risk is heavily involved and where risk is a big part of the experience (Hall et al (1992: 143). Adventure tourism was developed in the post-modern society, where it's more freedom and possible to make your own choices in what holiday and experience you are looking for (Bott 2009). Urry (1990) developed the term 'post-tourist' where it's more important to collect a series of experiences, rather than a collection of material items (Hudson 2003: 235).

Adventure tourism is currently enjoying a rapid growth of roughly 15% a year (Williams et al 2009), and has grown due to different reasons such as outdoor pursuit (Page 2003: 87), escapism from ordinary life and the feeling of success (Humberstone 2009). Adventure tourism is also characterised by involving physical effort, but can involve different levels of this and different levels of risk. This means that some activities are called 'soft' as there is less risk, and less skills and knowledge are needed. An example of that is horseback riding. 'Hard' adventure tourism however is more risky and involves more skills and knowledge. Some of these activities are bungee jumping and white water rafting (Page 2003: 87-88). This notion of risk is especially important in adventure tourism, as without it the experience would be seen as boring and dull (Mansfeld 2006: 154).

Many authors have primarily focused on risk as an aspect of adventure tourism; however this has meant that other notions have largely been ignored by these authors. Risk is seen as one of the main motivators to participate in adventure tourism, however authors like Walle (1997) believes that there has been too much concentration on risk in the literature, which means that it's important to investigate other motivations. Risk is about danger of physical injury or death to a person (Puchan 2004), and is something which separates adventure tourism from other ordinary outdoor and recreation activities (Weiler et al 1992: 144). This risk that comes from the activities will give the participants an adrenaline pump, but also generate a memorable experience (Page et al 2006: 495). From overcoming risk it's also possible to gain skills and knowledge needed to go further in adventure tourism. From taking part in a risky adventure tourism activity it's possible they become more used to the risk (Mansfeld 2006: 158).

There are however other motivations and rewards concerning adventure tourism. These motivations have largely been ignored or seen as less important by some authors, but it's important to assess them as risk can't be the only reason for participating in adventure tourism. Instead of risk, people take part in adventure reason to gain knowledge (Weber 2001), and become more self-aware and discover themselves (Sung 2004). This was further stated by Page et al (2006) who believes that the participants will learn something about themselves after their experience, and also gain a sense of achievement (pp. 80-81). Walle (1997) believes that adventure tourism is about insight, which gives the feeling of fulfilment and the possibility to build their self esteem. It's the feeling of success after overcoming risk and uncertainty that is the main motivator. The feeling of risk is instead an inevitable side effect (Walle 1997).

Insight is also linked to the notion of flow which can occur when taking part in an adventure tourism activity. It comes after achieving something, and overcoming a challenge, and when something demanding has been achieved (Weiler et al 1992: 145). It's described as an "intensely pleasurable state" (Fletcher 2010: 8), which comes after matching competence and skill with risk that is involved in the activity (Weber 2001). It's the control of risk which gives the pleasurable effect (Jones et al 2001).

A number of interviews were undertaken for this study, where the participants were asked what type of adventure tourism activities they had undertaken and what their main motivation was. Anna stated in the interview that she had skydived, while both Sian and Charlotte had skydived, bungee jumped and been white water rafting. They all believed it was a dream come through, and they all agreed risk was not their main motivator. They knew there was a certain element of risk involved, but it was the feeling afterwards that mattered the most. Sian admitted she had gained confidence from her experience and she believed she could do anything. Charlotte believed that it has made her braver, and makes her happy when feeling sad. Anna agreed it was an amazing experience which gave better sense of adventure.

The primary research together with the literature tries to show that risk is not the main motivator, but an inevitable side effect. Instead it's the feeling of achievement and bravery which is most important.

Key references:

Mansfeld, Y., Pizam, A. (2006) Tourism, Security & Safety - From Theory to Practice, Oxford: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann.

Page, S.J., Connell, J. (2006) Tourism - a Modern Synthesis (2nd Edition), London: Thomson Learning.

Walle, A.H. (1997) Pursuing Risk or Insight - Marketing Adventures, Annals of Tourism Research 24 (2) 265-282.
Adventure Tourism
Author: Anna Mawford

I have chosen to comment on this paper as I found the subject of the paper particulary interesting having taken part in adventure tourism myself I understand the concept of the adrenaline from adventure tourism activities such as skydiving which I have done myself. From my sky-diving experience

In your discussion you mention how risk is normally associated with adventure tourism and that the concept of risk is the main focus for most authors of adventure tourism literature. The opinion that adventure tourism is associated with risk, danger and adrenaline is backed up by Kane & Tucker,(2004). The suggestion that despite that risk may not be the only motivation is also discussed by Kane and Tucker . The other motivations that adventure tourists could have is the fact that adventure tourism activities are different and a break from the normal tourist experience. (Kane &Tucker,2004:231). The article by Kane & Tucker primarily focuses on white-water rafting and discusses the relationship between the participants experiences and the ideas of authors of adventure tourism literature. Kane & Tucker,(2004:227), found that the people who enjoy white-water rafting are motivated by the concept of a more extreme experience but risk is was not such a big factor.

Adventure tourism is part of the expansion of modern tourism and the tourists desire to experience a more diverse form of tourism. (Kane & Tucker,2004:231). The risks associated with adventure tourism are increasingly reported in the media, however despite this adventure tourism is beginning to increase in popularity and the risk involved does not seem to put people off. (Bentley,et al:2007:3). The fact that the risk of adventure tourism does not deter tourists from taken part in adventure tourism does not mean that the risk is necessarily the motivation. It may just be that the risk of the activity is not really thought through by the tourist as they may have such a desire to do
something different and escape 'the norm', that risk is not even an issue.

In my experience of skydiving, I definitely did consider risk but it wasn't my motivation for doing it . My main motivation for doing it was the adventure, the fact that it was something that not everybody did and it gave me a real sense of achievement when I had done it.


Bentley, T, Page, S, & Macky K,(2007), Adventure Tourism and Adventure Sports Injury : The New Zealand Expereience, Department Of Management and Internatinal Business, Massey University at Albany, Private Bag 102904 NSMC, Auckland , New Zealand. P3

Kane,M,J & Tucker, H,(2004), Adventure Tourism: The freedom to play with reality, Tourist Studies, 2004,(4), 217-231
it's all about the risk!!!
Author: Sanam Iqbal
This paper has been chosen to be commented on as adventure tourism is an interesting topic and is a form of tourism that is becoming quite popular amongst many individuals. This paper has outlined the many aspects that are linked with adventure tourism and has acknowledged that risk is a key element in this form of tourism.
Adventure tourism is fast growing market and is increasingly being explored by individuals seeking a new form of tourism. Often adventure tourism is locates in unusual, exotic, remote or wilderness destinations (Novelli, 2005). When the term 'adventure' is used many images spring to mind of what individuals perceive as an adventure (Swarbrooke et al, 2003). The words that are often used to advertise adventure tourism are the following:
• Thrill
• Adrenaline
• Fear
• Risk
• Excitement
• Awe-inspiring
• Elation
• Challenge
• Conquer
• Expedition
It is often quiet astonishing how these assumptions are made just simply by using the term adventure. It is already assumed by us what adventure means before even looking at an academic definition of the word and this mainly due to some of the stories we have read in our youth (Swarbrook et al, 2003).
The author if this discussion paper has expressed that the physical aspect is one of the characteristics of adventure tourism. In most cases this is correct as some of the following activities involve physical activity:
• Trekking holidays in Morocco and Asia
• Bike-riding in South Africa
• Swimming amongst sharks in South Africa
• Cheetah watching in Namibia
• Whale watching in Norway
• Taking part in bull running in Spain
• Sky diving in Spain and Florida
However this is not always the case as there are some non physical aspects of adventure tourism and this includes gambling trips to self-indulgent sun, sand, sea and sex destinations for journeys in search of spiritual enjoyment (Swarbrooke et al, 2003).
It has been expressed by numerous authors that risk is one of the key elements associated with adventure tourism. It was mentioned by Buckley (2006) that risk and accidents have been investigated more thoroughly than any other aspect of adventure tourism. This was supported by Page et al (2005), Clift et al and Wilks and Page (2003) who have also stated that risk is a crucial issue in adventure tourism.
Adventure tourism can mean different things to different individuals who participate and there are various levels of risk. A majority of adventure activities are outdoor activities and each have their own levels of risk involved (Novelli, 2005). There are also many motivations behind an individual's choice to participate in this form of tourism. This can be that they want to experience new levels of risk as they can be a thrill seeker and some others participate for the excitement and tranquillity. There are some individuals who take part in adventure tourism for personal fulfilment and to test their own ability as to how far they can go or to see what they can achieve. Adventure tourism whether it is hard or soft it is placed well into the niche tourism market as it attracts various groups of people. These individuals have specific interests that fall in to a common theme which then produces a product that is recognised worldwide (Novelli, 2005).

Reference list:
Buckley, R. (2006) Adventure Tourism. London: CABI.
Novelli, M. (2005) Niche Tourism: Contemporary Issues, Trends and Cases. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Swarbrooke, J., Beard, C., Leckie, S. and Pomfret, G. (2003) Adventure Tourism: The New Frontier. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.