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News Article

Database feature: Safety and injuries in Adventure Tourism


Researchers monitor accident and injury rates

In the growing youth and adventure travel markets, clients risk accidents and injuries as they look for new and exciting experiences. Injuries and fatalities carry the potential to affect the tourism industries of destinations which have a strong adventure travel focus, such as New Zealand. Among the papers indexed on the Leisuretourism database this week is an analysis of a decade of injury monitoring in the New Zealand adventure tourism sector (Bentley and Page, 2008). This adds to a number of previous studies by these authors and co-workers.

The latest paper from Bentley and Page reports on findings from a summary risk analysis of studies conducted by the authors between 1996 and 2006. The paper ranks degree of risk for a range of factors for safety in adventure tourism participation. A conceptual model to assist risk management in the adventure sector is presented, and implications of findings for management and the adventure sector are discussed.

An earlier paper by Bentley et al. (2000) reports on a survey of 142 adventure tourism operators in New Zealand. The operators' reported client injury experience suggested that the incidence of serious client injuries was very low. Highest client injury incidence rates were found for activities that involved the risk of falling from a moving vehicle or animal (e.g., cycle tours, quad biking, horse riding, and white-water rafting). Slips, trips and falls were common accident events across most sectors of the industry. Perceived accident/incident causes were most commonly related to the client, and in particular, failure to attend to and follow instructions.

In the results of this survey, 379 client injuries were recorded by the 142 businesses, giving an overall injury incidence rate of 0.74 per 1000 clients. Only 13 of the injuries were reported as serious, over half of which were in water-based activities. Cycle tour operators had the highest mean injury incidence rate of the activity sectors surveyed. In another study in the New Zealand Medical Journal, Bentley et al. (2006) assessed injury claims by New Zealanders made to the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), and found that four activities (horse riding, mountain biking, tramping/hiking, and surfing) were responsible for approximately 60% of all adventure tourism and adventure sports-related injuries. In this study, horse-riding topped the claims list with 28.6 claims per 1000 participants. Adventure sport-related claims by New Zealand residents totalled over NZ$12 million over the one-year period of the analysis.

Another survey of New Zealand adventure tour operators (Bentley et al. 2004) conducted in 2003 assessed 27 adventure tourism activities. The highest client injury risk was reported in the snow sports, bungee jumping and horse riding sectors, although serious underreporting of minor injuries was evident across the industry. Slips, trips and falls (STF) were the major client injury mechanisms, and a range of risk factors for client injuries were identified. It is suggested that the industry should consider the implications of poor injury reporting standards and safety management practices generally. Specifically, the industry should consider risk management that focuses on minor (e.g., STF) as well as catastrophic events.

Injuries among overseas visitor to New Zealand are presented by Bentley et al. (2001). Approximately 19% of all injuries involved recreational/adventure tourism activities, corresponding to 8.4 injuries per 100000 overseas visitor arrivals. This figure can be compared to that for motor vehicle traffic accidents (12 injuries per 100000 arrivals), and suggests a significant recreational tourism injury problem in New Zealand. Injuries were concentrated in regions known to be major centres for adventure tourism in New Zealand, and were most commonly sustained by overseas visitors aged between 20 and 40 years. Tourist injuries were observed most frequently for activities that involve independent, unguided recreation, notably skiing, mountaineering and tramping. Of the commercial adventure tourism activities, horse riding and cycling were the only significant contributors to overseas visitor injuries.

The potential for litigation from adventure sports injuries is discussed by Callander and Page (2003). Page et al. (2005) compare surveys of adventure tourist injuries in New Zealand and Scotland. Accidents and injuries from outdoor recreation are reported in studies including Stephens et al. (2005), McIntosh et al. (2007) and Witman (2007). In Washington State national parks, Stephens et al. report that the most common preinjury activities included hiking (55%), winter sports (15%), and mountaineering (12%), and the most common types of injuries included sprains, strains and soft tissue injuries (28%), fractures or dislocations (26%), and lacerations (15%).

To find bibliographic records on this subject, try searching the database for '(adventure travel or adventure tourism) and (risk or trauma):de'. For a search on injuries from outdoor recreation, start with 'outdoor recreation and (injury or trauma or injuries)'.

Related article

Adventure travel: real risk, or safe thrills?

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • David Simpson
  • Date
  • 02 October 2008
  • Subject(s)
  • General Leisure and Recreation
  • Tourism