A growing number of affluent tourists are travelling in search of adrenaline-fueled or adventurous outdoor experiences, providing an opportunity for rural South African communities to host them.
Adventure tourism is an international trend that is expected to grow in importance in the coming years, according to Andre du Toit, chairperson of the recently established Adventure Tourism Committee of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA).
The global adventure tourism market is expected to reach $4.6 trillion (R88 trillion) by 2032, growing at an annual rate of 28.7%, according to a report by Allied Market Research.Adventure tourism generally involves physical activities that take place outdoors and may involve an element of risk. Tourists may go hiking, scuba diving, paragliding, zip-lining, rock climbing and the like.
“Adventure tourism is really the main trend in travel,” says Du Toit, adding that the sector tends to attract high-income tourists, meaning the market is resilient to political and economic challenges.
At the South African level, Wesgro has compiled a report using data from the SA Tourism Department to provide an insight into local adventure travel trends.The majority of adventure tourists came from Europe, with Germany the most popular country of origin in 2021.Adventure was ranked as the second most popular activity for European tourists to South Africa in 2021.
Du Toit said that South Africa has a huge number of beautiful rural areas where adventure guides already operate, but that many tourists still stick to “traditional” tourist areas such as Cape Town.
He said the increased desire for adventure experiences by tourists presented an opportunity for rural communities in areas such as the Drakensberg, Karoo and parts of the Eastern Cape.
“We believe that adventure tourism is the major catalyst needed to ignite tourism in rural areas,” says Du Toit.
Jessi Sunkel, executive director of the South African Adventure Industry Association (SAAIA), said there was an opportunity for adventure guides in rural communities to come from those communities themselves.
She said financial barriers, experience and training as an adventure tour guide were barriers.
“As a guide, you can run your own business, so literally after four months of training and logging hours and getting experience, you can start your own business as a freelance guide,” said Sunkel.
Sunkel explained that the current requirements to become a guide are set to change and that SAAIA is working with industry bodies to make it more accessible to become a guide and to differentiate the training requirements for adventure guides from other guides in the tourism industry.
Du Toit said guides working in the adventure industry tended to have a natural sense of how to ensure the safety of their clients.
“The reality is that those who work in the adventure industry are risk aware,” he said.