Adventure Tourism: Is Every Adrenaline-Packed Holiday Safe?

Following the death of twenty-one-year-old Emily Jordan, New Zealand’s well-known adventure tourism industry has undergone a complete safety review. The industry was once considered safe beyond any doubt, but has seen its regulatory standards and operating procedures revised in a bid aimed at significantly reducing the amount of injuries caused by ‘adventure’ operators.

Jordan was one of several tourists aboard a ‘river-boarding’ expedition in Queenstown, one of the country’s largest adventure tourism locations. While the rest of her team managed to navigate the river’s rapids and small waterfalls without issue, Jordan drowned during the activity. The company which operated the tour was fined approximately £30,000 for failing to provide safety gear.

It’s a fine that many believe is completely insufficient. Emily’s father appealed directly to the Prime Minister – an action that is responsible for the latest enquiry into the industry’s safety standards. It’s revealed some alarming truths about adventure tourism operators, both in New Zealand and in other popular travel destinations such as Australia, the United States, and Spain.

A licensing system is likely to go into effect in New Zealand, which, alongside the new provisions and safety measures applied to adventure tourism businesses, will eliminate potential for death and serious injury. It’s a measure that many believe is necessary for the business to continue, but some of the most devoted adventure gurus feel that it may cause the industry’s thrills to suffer slightly.

In the end, it’s a difficult balancing act between providing safe service and offering an activity that still appeals to ‘adventurers’. The adventure tourism industry has built its reputation on providing a blend of thrills and adrenaline-fuelled risk. However, it’s a reputation that shouldn’t be ruined as a result of poor safety standards – adventure operators will need to give thrills without injuries.