Adventure tourism: Negative to the environment?

Following a conference announcement on a tourism research email list, one member responded righteously, asserting that the conference could not be “credible” since it occurs in a country which hun

Adventure tourism: Negative to the environment?

Following a conference announcement on a tourism research email list, one member responded righteously, asserting that the conference could not be “credible” since it occurs in a country which hunts whales.

The 2014 International Adventure Conference takes place in western Norway’s Sognal from November 24-26, in spectacular surroundings boasting a UNESCO World Heritage site and some of Norway’s highest peaks.

Adventure tourism is one of Norway’s many fun and gorgeous past-times. From summer kayaking around Svalbard to winter skiing in the southern mountains, beauty and excitement permeate the country.

That message generated a discussion about why adventure tourism might be viewed as being environmentalist, when it often is not. Jet-boating, 4×4 driving across desert dunes, and cruise ships gracing Greenland’s coasts are marketed as adventure tourism. None is particularly green.

Then, one list member pointed out that tourists joining a whale hunt could be considered to be adventure tourism. The Faroese driving pilot whales into a harbor for killing them is part of the Visit Faroe Islands website.

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Hunting more widely is indeed adventure tourism. Inuit guides will take tourists to shoot polar bears. ‘Canned lion hunting’ in South Africa breeds the big cats to be killed by a tourist. Shark fishing tours are bookable.

The ethics are hotly debated. Many jurisdictions outlaw such tours. Often, they continue illegally.

This indicates the importance of the Adventure Conference: To debate the morals, legalities, advantages, and disadvantages of different forms of adventure and adventure tourism. All the while, ensuring that policies and practices are based on science and factor in different views.

Norway, offering whale watching for tourists in addition to whale hunting, is a perfect location for these discussions, criticisms, and ripostes.

Ilan Kelman is a Reader in Risk, Resilience and Global Health at University College London. He has enjoyed mildly adventurous tourism, but has never eaten whale, hunted, or fished—and has no desire to do so.

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