What is adventure tourism?

Big daddy of tourism sector United Nation’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has not defined adventure tourism yet. However, global association of the traders Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) has defined the term.


Definition by ATTA


According to ATTA, adventure tourism is a trip that contains at least two of the following three elements:

  1. Physical activity,
  2. Natural environment, and
  3. Cultural immersion


All three elements are necessary for a complete adventure trip.

For example, Nanda Raj Jat in Uttarakhand, India incorporates all three elements of an adventure tourism trip. This trip includes 20-day trekking (physical activity) along Himalayan trails (natural environment) in Chamoli district and an interaction, especially with local residents and an opportunity to watch and be part of their religious practices (cultural immersion).

This definition does not explicitly mention the inherited feature of the tourism: Risk.


Definition by Indian Ministry of Tourism


According to the ministry,

Adventure tourism is active tourism that combines experiences, local interactions, and physical activities to explore and connect with self, nature, and communities.

This definition has all three elements mentioned in the ATTA definition and an extra element-self exploration and connecting with self.

This definition also does not explicitly mention the organic feature of the tourism: Risk.


Definition by the Survey 1993


I conducted a questionnaire survey in Rishikesh (Uttarpradesh / Uttarakhand) in 1993 to understand adventure tourists’ preferences. The questionnaire included the most important question: What is an adventure?

The questionnaires were randomly distributed to one hundred (100) tourists.

The analysis revealed that an adventure trip is a visit to a natural area to do the following:

  1. Connect, experience, and conquer nature
  2. Undertake risk: survive in climatic extremes, hazards, adverse topographic conditions
  3. Be in unexplored wilderness
  4. Stay in non-traditional accommodations
  5. Minimal use of equipment and facilities
  6. Test mental and physical endurance by participating in challenging activities


All three definitions have three common elements:

  • Natural environment
  • Physical activity
  • Connecting with communities


Complete definition of adventure tourism


I think that a complete definition of the adventure tourism has five elements:


  1. Risk related to physical activity, remoteness, and unfamiliar locale
  2. Natural environment, especially unexplored, relatively less explored, or with minimal urban influences
  3. Physical activity that tests both mental and physical endurance
  4. Cultural immersion
  5. Minimalism that supports eco, responsible, and sustainable tourism and discourages mindless consumerism

The Nanda Raj Jat trip mentioned above contains all these five elements. Three elements have already been discussed. Here I highlight the remaining two elements. A big part of the trail lies in remote area. And the thin trail runs along the edges of tall spurs hemming deep valleys at many places (Risk). There are not any glamping options. It’s good. Trekkers have to travel light to save energy and money and enjoy the serenity (Minimalism).


What is your take on the new trend catching scores of tourists’ fancy?


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