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.
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.