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Adventure tourism

An overview of adventure tourism.

Adventure tourism often involves travel to remote, exotic, or even hostile locations in order to take part in challenging activities.

It is defined as:

… a trip that includes at least two of the following three elements:
  • Physical activity
  • Natural environment
  • Cultural immersion
(Adventure Travel Trade Association cited in United Nations World Tourism Organisation, 2014, p. 10)
Adventure tourism typically splits into ‘hard adventure’ and ‘soft adventure’.
Hard adventure tourism is often high risk, involving lots of preparation, commitment and skill. Activities might include skydiving, scuba diving, mountaineering, caving etc.
Soft adventure tourism has a perceived risk but this is generally low and therefore requires minimal reparation, commitment, and skill. ‘Soft adventures’ are usually guided by professionals and might include activities like kayaking, backpacking, white-water rafting, etc.
Tourists seeking out adventure tourism tend to be younger than in other areas of tourism and the focus is on the experience.
To create this experience, tour operators and agents are often involved so while adventure tourism may seem very different from mass tourism, and in a lot of ways it is, there are some similarities giving established operators and agents a way to expand their offerings.
There are two main differences between adventure tourism and mass tourism in that the destination community and suppliers are integral to offering the ‘experience’ adventure tourists are looking for. Adventure tourists are often looking for a more sustainable way to travel and partake in these experiences and so sustainability has also become a key factor in adventure tourism. Though this is a fast-growing sector of tourism, it is still small and the scalability of its sustainable practices have yet to be proven.

Your task

Conduct a short piece of research to discover what the most common adventure tourism activities are and where they are.
Why do you think these are the most common destinations and activities in adventure tourism? How is it affecting the local community, economy, and environment?


Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA)(2014). Education for the Business of Adventure Travel. cited in World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) (2014). AM Reports, Volume 9 – Global Report on Adventure Tourism. UNWTO.

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0 Images © Getty Images
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