Adventure tourism is a subcategory of tourism that is rapidly rising in popularity. Adventure tourism can be defined as a guided tour where the main attraction is an outdoor activity in nature, which is exciting for clients and may require specialized equipment (Buckley, 2006). The rapid growth of this kind of tourism is due to the desire for unique holiday or sporting experience. The adventure tourist has an enthusiasm for the activity that does not necessarily involve the environment. The natural environment where the tourism activity takes place and the tourism experience cannot, however, be separated.
Risk is an essential element of the adventure tourism. The search for risks is usually the key motivation for the tourists. However, different people perceive risks in different ways, and as such, there are various approaches towards the issue (Buckley, 2006). Adventure tourism involves risks, thus, improper management of the risk(s) could lead to disaster, financial loss, litigation and in some instances even death. For the case of mountain biking, the enjoyment obtained if from balancing the fun and the perceived hazards. There are apparent risks involved in mountain biking for an adventure tourist. Therefore, concerned parties should take steps to reduce these risks with the various risk assessment and management methods.
Without proper risk management, the adventure could turn suddenly disastrous. This may be due to the tourist taking part in an activity that is beyond their abilities resulting in fear, hurt, life threatening injury, and eventual death of the tourist. However, emotions differ from person to person. The activity that causes fear in one person may be exciting and enjoyable or very uninteresting for another.
The next course of action is to identify the risks involved in the activity. These may include strategic risks such as the nature of the terrain, which the tourist has no control of, and the climatic changes. The other types are operational risks of such adventure activities and reputation risks of the activity itself or the service provider in the public eye (Buckley, 2006). In this case, appropriate risk identification methods such as listing the apparent risks of the activity should be used. In addition, such tools as a decision tree, incident investigations or SWOT analysis help in identifying the risks.
The next step after risk identification is assessing identified risks. There are various methods of assessing them. The main ones are safety management methodologies, tree-based methods and qualitative risk analysis methods. Qualitative analysis examines the order of events with emphasis on the events that could convert a potential risk into a calamity. This involves identifying the events that could cause accidents and then analyzing them separately. This method applies to instances of vague safety measures and allows preventive action. Tree-based methods conducted out based on likelihood and the significance of the occurring risk (Burke, 1999). It may include risk mapping, fault, and event tree analysis. It is useful in quantifying the likelihood of occurrence of an activity that would lead to serious injury. The fault tree works well in both qualitative and quantitative analysis. The risk assessment carried out on clear criteria of likelihood of occurring, the projected impact on the sport and the effectiveness of mitigating the risk. The event tree consists of an analysis of probable causes beginning at an organization level and moving down to the sporting equipment, e.g. the bike, and to the examination of the mountain terrain. The quantitative analysis includes the estimation of the probability from previous occurrences or by using simulation techniques, for example, the Monte Carlo method. It also considers the consequence of the risk from historic data such as the natural calamity data or climatic patterns. The techniques to facilitate quantitative analysis consist of sensitivity analysis, simulation, and decision trees.
After risk identification and assessment, identification of the risk management models depends on the appropriateness of the chosen activity. The Burke’s risk management model plainly follows the basic sequence of the risk management process (Burke, 1999). Appropriate response needs starting from the risk control center. It clearly outlines how each section could be integrated together. It may also provide a basis of setting the tolerable risks depending on the objective of the sport adventure. The setting of the objective is an essential component of the Burke model as it defines the role of the risk management process.
To mitigate the identified risks means to decrease the impact and reduce their occurrence in time of the adventure sporting activities. Such risks include biking accidents, falling rocks from the mountainsides, and the failure of protective biking equipment. Consequently, careful inspection of the sporting equipment and careful mapping of the mountain areas from available data to avoid sections prone to rock and landslides can mitigate the risk and ensure safety. Another method is to transfer the risk to a third party by way of insurance or by contracting medical services during the adventure. In addition, mitigation can reduce the chances of financial loss resulting from injury during the adventure. The final risk management process is the monitoring and re-evaluation the management technique to update it according to the prevailing circumstances (Burke, 1999). This is to check the effectiveness of the risk management model and make relevant changes where necessary.
In conclusion, risk is an essential part of tourism adventure and sport. This is because adventure and risk go hand in hand; it is a fundamental part of the adventure experience. Risk management helps in overcoming the pitfalls associated with risks. An appropriate management model should be chosen this is with the aim of mitigating the risks and maximize the adventure experience.