Adventure tourism is mainly a combination of thrilling tourism based activities such as sailing, mountaineering, rafting, parachuting, trekking, hunting, angling, etcetera. It is becoming a vital rage for the generation that wishes to venture into the unknown adventure world, and a rapidly growing part of modern tourism. Adventure tourism is not only a source of fun and entertainment but also a crucial source of income for both the developed and the developing countries (Swarbrooke, 2012). However, adventure tourism is facing a serious downturn because of a combination of unfavorable factors such as political instability, global economic recession as well as economic crises. In spite of these factors, the industry is still generating income for the host countries. This is because of other factors that influence adventure tourism positively.
The first factor that influences the competitiveness of adventure tourism industry is the political state of the destination country. Political unrest and coup d’états are examples that jolt many companies within the tourism industry and lead to various negative effects. The political turmoil certainly makes international tourism investors and other companies that are involved in adventure tourism industry deeply uncomfortable with the situation. Buckley (2008) observes that political instability causes adventure tourists to leave early. For example, the number of international tourists in Thailand in 2008 decreased by 2.65 per cent and the income from tourism decreased by 5 percent from 2007. Political unrest has significantly affected Thailand’s tourism (Buckley, 2010).
Policy changes also fall under political factor. Development of policies may have a positive or negative impact on adventure tourism. For example, the reduction in the number of snowmobiles in Yellowstone Park negatively affects adventure tourism. On the same vein, when fewer people are allowed into the park on their machines, fewer people visit West Yellowstone in the winter. Closure of the East Entrance in the winter to the coaches and snowmobiles may also affect winter traffic in Cooke City. On the other hand, some policies serve to boost the number of tourists in a country. For example, When Kenya deployed security personnel to the coast to reduce insecurity and deal with the pirates, the number of tourists, both domestic and international, increased by 6 per cent (Ivanovic, 2009).
An idea that comes to mind upon the mentioning of the political situation and tourism is 9/11. During this moment, many tourists became afraid to fly, and, worse, planes were not allowed to fly for three days in the United States. Cancelled flights inevitably affect adventure tourism. Another example would be hunting in places like Pakistan and Africa. While there are majestic animals to hunt and mountains to hike, the unsafe conditions and unstable governments discourage tourists from taking the risk. While there is no country that enjoys ultimate political stability, countries that have relatively stable conditions record higher number of tourists than grossly unstable countries. A good example of a relatively stable country in Africa is South Africa.
The economic situation is a strong factor that influences the tourism industry. For example, an increase in the price of oil indicates that the era of cheap air travel is coming to a close. If the tourism industry in any country is to maintain a high level of competitiveness, then the country must establish a macroeconomic policy promoting stability. A country that spends a considerable amount of gross domestic income on gas and oil import may be at risk of persistent inflation if the oil prices are high. This, too, has a negative impact on fares.
Additional to this, a changing business environment involves a sequence of power shifts in the realm of economy. The inescapable rise in the oil price is a serious economic issue in the current global environment and the economic impact is of serious concern. The uncertainty over the availability of oil, size of reserve and fluctuations in price must engage the minds of government officials. It is essential to point out those major changes in the economic factors that drive tourism. Consequently, stable growth patterns and local economies constitute a reality that the tourism industry must consider as it examines investment opportunities. The world economic crisis has significantly affected the tourism industry (Ivanovic, 2009). This has a knock on effect as low ability to spend has reduced the number of tourists worldwide.
In economic recession, people lose their jobs and tend to save their income because of uncertainty of the future. They do not know when things will get better. When they cut spending because of economic recession, they stop spending money on luxurious goods and services. These include going on trips, eating at restaurants as well as basic recreation. All these activities are related to adventure tourism. Even if a person is weathering the storm comfortably, they may be cautious when spending. On the other hand, during the economic expansion people have more income and tend to spend it on luxurious services such as vacation and recreation. The engagement in recreational activities such as mountaineering and skating serves to boost tourism.
Socio-cultural situation is another factor that affects adventure tourism. Most countries and tourist destinations do not only differ geographically but also historically and culturally. This causes a lot of challenges as well as opportunities. For example, Thailand is known to be a land of smiles. International tourists know that Thai people are fond of smiling. In light of this, Thailand has become a popular destination for adventure tourists. On the same vein, a country that is rich culturally tends to attract more tourists than a country that lacks cultural diversity. A country that has a stable political situation is likely to show positive social activities. On the other hand, a country that has a history of political unrest and upheavals displays negative social activities, and, in turn, low ability to host tourists.
A good example to demonstrate the impact of social aspect on tourism is Kenya. This country is culturally rich, and the Kenyan nationals embrace beneficial traditions. The country is culturally rich, but different, and this attracts tourists at a great magnitude. Some of the dances that are known to attract tourists include Luya’sisikuti. The community performs this dance during the planting season to appease the ancestors so that their crops can thrive. The Kikuyus perform Bigi dance to exorcise the evil spirits and cure illnesses which are believed to be caused by evil spirits. On the same vein, Kisiis perform a planting dance to encourage people to work hard. Finally, the Kalenjins in Kenya believe that dancing can help to resolve conflict between two warring sub communities. These dances form a social domain that attracts a large number of tourists. On the other hand, Somalia, Kenya’s neighbor, is known for its political instability that negatively affects interaction among people. As a result, the country earns little income from tourists. Terrorism threats in several countries around the world have affected adventure tourism negatively. For instance, the bombing incident in Bali in 2002 contributed to a reduction in the number of tourists in Indonesia.
Environmental issues constitute a significant factor that affects adventure tourism. Natural disasters such as hurricane Sandy and Katrina and the tsunamis are examples of disasters that affected adventure tourism in the surrounding regions. Hail storms, tornados, mud slides (for example Beartooth Highway) are also examples of the environmental effects on tourism. On the same note, a tropical resort can lose customers when it is windy or when it rains. As a result, these resorts have policies that state that if a tourist leaves early on account of weather, money cannot be refunded. Weather affects adventures such as skiing to a great magnitude. If there is a good snowstorm, a sky hill may triple its normal business. On the same note, big resorts like Big Sky may have more reservations.
Environmental issues have intensified as pollution levels have become so severe that tourists walk the streets with handkerchiefs on their faces. Worsening the situation are the traffic jams that add significantly to noise and air pollution. Environment issues have created negative impacts within the tourism industry. Cleaning beaches and tourism destinations may help to relieve the environmental concerns and improve the quality of sea water at beach areas. On the other hand, an attractive environment serves to boost tourism in a country. If the weather is conducive, more tourists tend to flock to such destinations. For instance, during winter, most tourists from America flock in East Africa where the environment is conducive. Other tourists' destinations, which are not negatively affected by environmental factors, such as global warming, record high numbers of tourists per annum (Lawrence, 2008).
Other motivational factors include technology, education, natural resources, monuments, historical places and cultural events. Changes in technology are influential in tourism. As Ivanovic (2009) specifies, improvement in transport has always been an enduring force of driving changes in tourism. Changes in technology bring about a technological breakthrough in air transport which brings more and more international tourists to various destinations. One of the effects of technological advancement has been the creation of economies of scale. This implies that more people can travel cheaply, quickly, and more easily covering greater distances than ever before. This means that the economic class of people who would aspire to international travel is broadened considerably. The advent of the numerous low cost carriers within various regions further broadens the class.
Education is also a motivational factor that influences the tourism industry. Most educational initiatives across the world are led by tertiary and higher education institutions and flourishing hotels. The students are equipped with essential skills that allow them to receive, handle and entertain tourists. This training gives the tourism industry a substantial boost. Last but not the least, culture influences the tourism industry. A country with distinct regions of rich cultures, as well as monuments, creates terrific opportunities for tourism attraction. A country that is rich in monuments, museums and natural sites will tend to have a higher number of tourists than a country that is not endowed with these resources (Lawrence, 2008).
In conclusion, a number of factors that affect tourism have been highlighted. It is the responsibility of the decision makers to take actions and deal with situations that might occur and create change to obtain better results for the industry. However, getting clear solutions for the adventure tourism industry is not easy because the industry is linked to politics as well as other factors that affect its performance. While human beings can control some factors, other factors are well beyond human control. For example, it is difficult to reduce or increase the amount of snow or prevent natural disasters such as hurricanes. There are several opportunities to address the issues that negatively influence adventure tourism. The stake holders should strive to address them to develop tourism across the board because it is a strong backbone for the economically weak countries. As the policy makers address the negatives, they should also clarify the factors that influence tourism positively and seek to use the strengths to cover the weaknesses.