© 2019 Andy Macnae

    What are Adventure Activities?

    Put simply this is ‘physical activity that involves excitement, challenge or risk’. This broad definition encompasses a fantastic variety of activity taking place in an equally great variety of environments. This variety is illustrated below. The list is by no means comprehensive!

     

     

    An attractive aspect of adventure activity is that the very definition of adventure depends on personal perspective. For some a walk up the local hill provides real challenge and excitement, with a little undercurrent of risk. For another maybe only a wingsuit flight stirs the same emotions. And because the experience is entirely personnel so are the rewards – the feeling of satisfaction, accomplishment and that post risk buzz that comes from pushing through personal barriers is the same regardless of the actual level of difficulty. And the adventure market has responded to this to offer lower risk and more accessible versions of established adventure activities. Facilities like indoor climbing walls, snow domes, ropes courses and zip wires provide challenge and excitement in safe and controlled environments.

    A word about Risk

    Risk is not an inherent aspect of adventure activity. Arguably the perception of risk is, but it is certainly not the case that most participants are seeking risk per se. Rather they seek an exciting and challenging activity and accept a level of risk that they are comfortable with. Risk can be 'subjective' – and so related to the participants level of skill and experience and hence their ability to manage risk (e.g. the ability to get up a rock climb without falling) or 'objective' where the environment has inherent risks that the participant cannot fully control (e.g. falling rocks).

     

    A very important evolution of the sector has been the development of very low risk versions of a given activity. These remove objective risk and much of the subjective risk so that the consequences of a mistake are much less severe. Climbing Walls, Indoor Ski Slopes, Surf Pools, Indoor Skydiving and Mountain Bike Parks are all examples of this. This development has played a huge role in driving participation in adventure sports.

    Why Adventure Activities?

     

    Adventure Activities are amongst the fastest growing elements of the Tourism AND Active Leisure Industries. This is because people of all ages are looking for more active things to do with family or friends. People are no longer satisfied by passive leisure experiences. Adventure Sports are an exciting, photogenic, social media friendly, and increasingly accessible option. Climbing, Skateboarding and Surfing are also in the 2020 Olympics so that helps!

    So let's look at this appeal in a bit more detail:

    For the individual

    The following all drive leisure choices. 

    • Keeping fit and active

    • Doing something different

    • Getting out into the country

    • Doing things with as a family or with friends

    • Meeting new people

    • Looks great on social media

     

    Adventure activities tick all these boxes boxes whilst offering a level of excitement and challenge that traditional leisure cannot! And this appeal is reflected in the numbers. According to Sport England's Active Lives survey 2.7m adults participated at least monthly in Adventures Sports in 2017-18. This is an increase of 213,000 over 2016-17 and this growth trend looks set to continue.

    For operators and developers

    Adventure activities offer an opportunity to differentiate a site whilst creating destination appeal. And fundamentally they give people what they want from their leisure time. This is a very attractive combination offering not just commercial return but also added peacemaking and branding benefits.

     

    Examples of the approach include:

    • Commercially successful stand alone adventure facilities e.g. Zip World N Wales, Rock Reef Bournemouth

    • Major attractions leading on an Adventure theme e.g. Bear Grylls Experience, Birmingham

    • Use of Adventure attractions (typically climbing walls, caves, ropes courses) to strengthen traditional leisure offers and increase sustainability e.g. Adrenaline Leisure Centre, Haslingden

    • Use of Adventure activities as anchors within large retail developments e.g. Ski Dubai, Adventure Hub, Yas Mall

    • Use of Adventure activities to strength and broaden the leisure offer within accommodation led destinations e.g. Centre Parks

    For governments

    All leisure and tourism strategies strive to achieve pretty well the same things. Whilst levels of ambition may vary the underlying aspirations are the same:

    • To get people of all ages more active

    • To have places that are distinct (‘something different’) and that attract people to the area

    • When people do come to the area to have them spending time and money with local businesses

    • To create good jobs for local people

    • To have people perceive the area positively as a  good place to live, work and play

     

    Adventure (Extreme) Activity is a proven and efficient way of delivering on these aspirations when done as part of an integrated leisure and tourism strategy. 

     

    In the UK:

    • Adventure Capital (Cumbria)

    • North Wales Year of Adventure and Adventure Passport

    • Fort William 'Outdoor Capital of the UK'

    And internationally:

    • New Zealand, starting with Queenstown, has made adventure an integral part of its image

    • Costa Rica is home to canopy adventures, zip wires, white water rafting and mountain biking and so very distinct from the rest of Central America.

    • Oman has recognised the importance of Adventure and put it at the heart of its tourism strategy

    • Ras Al Khaimah has invested in the world's longest zip line as well as a range of other adventure experiences

    • Dubai is developing Hatta as an adventure destination with mountain biking, zip lines and water sports​

    • The world's highest climbing wall and biggest indoor sky diving facility are being built in Abu Dhabi