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Titan 5-persons, 4,000 meter depth Source: OceanGate ExpeditionsThe catastrophic implosion of the submersible Titan during an expedition to view the Titanic wreckage 13,000 feet below the ocean’s surface not only led to the deaths of all five people aboard, but has also called attention to the rise in adventure tourism.

Before the pandemic, people were more content with traditional tourist activities. Walking along the Seine in Paris, going to art galleries, and lying on the beach historically were the go-to types of vacation activities. But now, activities not on most tourists’ radar increasingly compete with traditional tourism pursuits.

The main difference between traditional tourism and extreme or adventure tourism lies in the level of risk involved. Traditional tourism typically includes visiting popular tourist destinations, staying in comfortable accommodations, and participating in leisure activities like sightseeing, shopping and dining.

In contrast, adventure tourism usually involves higher-risk, more physically challenging and mentally stimulating activities. Examples include hiking or trekking, wildlife watching, snorkelling, safaris and cycling. Extreme tourism examples include bungee jumping, whitewater rafting and mountain climbing. The emerging frontier of adventure travel also includes space tourism where groups like Virgin Galactic are already sold out for when they start flying later in the year, and some marine life tourism and sustainable tourism.

All of these examples feature greater interactivity. For many tourists, it’s no longer enough to see things; rather they want all their

Tourism in extreme environments - Ice climbing on Cascade de Bellevue, Les Houches, France

Tourism in extreme environments – Ice climbing on Cascade de Bellevue, Les Houches, France.

senses stimulated in an immersive and engaging experience. In response, many tourism providers offer interactive experiences, such as guided tours, cultural workshops and adventure activities, allowing travellers to participate actively in their surroundings.

Adventure tourism has been growing steadily in popularity, and following a pandemic pause in travel, it has exploded over the last couple of years. For example, African safaris have seen the fastest growth among our members, jumping over 70% from last year. Hiking and camping trips are up nearly 50%, and demand for on- and off-road motorcycle tours is spiking. In the spring of 2023, the Nepalese government issued a record number of climbing and trekking permits for Mount Everest.

Exact growth figures are challenging to identify, but it’s estimated that the industry has grown by up to 15% annually. With increased riskier traveller activities, there are also questions about safety. Statistics on accidents and fatalities in traditional tourism and extreme adventure tourism can vary depending on the specific activities and locations involved. Still, there’s no question that travellers’ risks are more significant than they were in the past.

In general, extreme adventure tourism activities have a higher risk of accidents and fatalities than traditional tourism activities. According to a study published in the Journal of Travel Research, extreme adventure tourism activities have a fatality rate of approximately 0.14 deaths per 100,000 participants. In comparison, traditional tourism activities have a fatality rate of approximately 0.03 deaths per 100,000 participants.

Global Rescue is projecting a record number of rescues in Nepal this year, including on Mount Everest, partly due to the high volume of mountaineers in the area but more significantly due to many climbers and trekkers embarking on journeys that are beyond their physical capabilities. Rescues of climbers from Mount Everest have been necessary for years, but they have become more common as access to the tallest mountain in the world improves.

Rescue operations can be costly. Traditional travel insurance policies may not cover extreme adventure tourism activities since they are usually considered high-risk activities beyond the scope of standard insurance coverage. Most conventional travel insurance policies have exclusions for activities like scuba diving, paragliding, and mountaineering, and only Global Rescue will send our personnel to the site of injury or illness. Individuals facing a medical emergency who do not have rescue and medical evacuation protection can incur costs of up to $300,000 or more. With medevac protection services, the cost to the individual is zero.




Written by: Dan Richards




Dan Richards is CEO of The Global Rescue Companies, the world’s leading medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services provider. He currently serves on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board at the U.S. Department of Commerce, is an Ambassador for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team, and is a Global Member of the World Travel and Tourism Council.