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Adventure Tourism


Adventure Tourism is a term which is not easily defined.  Different people have different perceptions of what might constitute “adventure”.  For one person, “adventure” may be something as simple as camping outside in a tent, or walking through a wilderness area for an hour.  For another, this would be considered passive tourism, whereas adventure would mean participating in dangerous and physically (also maybe emotionally) demanding and challenging activities, such as climbing a sheer rock face or white water rafting in dangerous waters.

Even for those tourists seeking challenging experiences, the degree of challenge desired may be quite different.  Some will baulk at undertaking potentially dangerous activities like walking on a rope bridge across a deep ravine, and would find a trek through the jungle at ground level sufficiently challenging. Whilst some will find another’s "adventure" decidedly unpleasant, disagreeable, foolishly reckless, traumatic or boring.

Therefore, the first principle of adventure tourism is catering for difference:

  • different expectations,
  • different physical abilities,
  • different likes and dislikes,
  • different psychological make-ups.

It is not a matter of making an adventure less adventurous, or more exciting, nor is it a matter of participants’ ‘inferior’ or ‘superior’ physical or psychological resilience.  It is simply a matter of personal difference, and preference. 


The stimulation and intensity associated with adventure contributes to removing the experience from the routine of everyday life.  Exotic surroundings, new activities, experiences beyond anything one has ever experienced contributes to a sense of escapism.  Adventure is a chance to escape the everyday concerns of life.  Imagine being on top of Mount Everest.  Would you be thinking of anything else but just being there?  Enjoying the rapture of having achieved such a feat, the wondrous view and the elation of breaking your boundaries?  No wonder adventure is so popular.

The term ‘Adventure Tourism’ can represent many kinds of experience, and an almost infinite range of tourism situations.  What they all share is a participant’s sense of excitement and adventure, and of entering an experience or series of experiences that will take them out of urban areas into more natural and less obviously regulated environments.


People are motivated to undertake adventure tourism activities for different reasons.  Some may enjoy the anticipation of an unknown or uncertain outcome.  This could be undertaking something new and unfamiliar or the presence of a perceived danger in the activity.  This element of risk involved in an activity might be relished by some and feared by others.

There needs to be a degree of challenge in an activity for it to be considered adventurous.  A challenging event might have an element of danger, unknown outcomes and degree of difficulty.  This will attract different participants to the activity based upon their expectations and their willingness to cope with challenges.

There also needs to be a perceived reward on completion of the activity.  This is usually the sense of meeting a challenge and pushing themselves beyond their usual comfort zone.  This is referred to as an intrinsic reward, as it comes from within.  There may also be extrinsic awards such as a trophy.  An example would be gaining a place in a white-water kayaking race.

A sense of escapism is also important for an activity to be considered adventurous.  This is why most adventure tourism operations occur in natural areas.  In this way people can feel that they are really escaping from their normal lives.  A person might experience heightened senses, an adrenalin rush or a sense of calm following the experience.  Again, it is important to remember that adventure can mean different things to different people.  Sailing a boat around the Greek Islands may seem adventurous to some but not to others.


Activities associated with adventure can be categorized into the following:

  • Physical – e.g. hiking, mountain-biking and hang gliding.
  • Nature-based – e.g. bushwalking, birdwatching.
  • Cultural – e.g. pilgrimages.
  • Travel/Exploration – e.g. long-distance sailing, Silk Road treks.

These activities form niche markets within the tourism industry based on the activity undertaken and their setting.  They can vary in their “adventure” rating.  Guided garden tours would be considered not to be very adventurous, whereas camping in the Andes would be considered extremely adventurous.

Nature-based tourism can fall into both categories of “ecotourism” and “adventure tourism”.  However, nature-based tourism would not necessarily be classed as "ecotourism". Ecotourism embraces the principles of sustainable tourism, concerning the economic, social and environmental impacts of tourism, and as such is more specifically determined than simply being nature-based tourism. The type of tourism will depend upon the location of the activity, remoteness and degree of difficulty.

Do you know the full range of careers available in Adventure Tourism?

As a rapidly developing industry, there are a great range of careers available for roles in supporting or conducting Adventure Tourism business. Whether you are looking to develop your own business, or a career, or becoming an ecotour manager or tour guide we have a great selection of courses to choose from which will develop your understanding, skills, and practical knowledge.

Our courses include:

Adventure Tourism
Ecotour Management
Certificate In Adventure Tourism

Further links to courses of interest, and directories can be found at the bottom of this page.

If you are considering studying, and need help in determining which study path to follow, why not get in touch with our highly knowledgeable specialist Ecotour and Adventure tutors today? They will be happy to answer your questions, and explain the different study options which we have available.

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