Wake up call for adventure companies

By Franz Fuls. 2 June 2013

The adventure tourism industry as we know it is about to change. Adventure companies and their guides need to prepare for the change, or risk being left behind. 2 May 2013 the International Standards Organization (ISO) announced their development of a new standards for adventure tourism. The goals of the two new standards are to manage the associated risks and maximise enjoyment. ISO intends publishing these standards in 2013.

ISO what?

The International Standards Organization is the world largest developer of voluntary international standards. ISO was founded in 1947 and have published more than 19 500 international standards covering almost all aspects of technology and business.  They develop standards in cooperation with their international member bodies, but they do not certify organizations against these standards. Simply put they are the custodians of the standards of the world. Members of the International Accreditation Forum and member bodies perform audits on organizations that want to be certified on a specific standard.

OK, so what are these new standards all about?

According to ISO, the adventure tourism industry grew by 17% between 2009 and 2010 and they expect that adventure tourism will make up 50% of all tourism activities by 2050. With the help of experts from various countries ISO is developing two standards: Safety management systems (ISO 21101) and Information to participants (ISO 21103). They are also developing a technical report called Leaders – Personnel competence.

ISO21101 sets out the safety requirements for adventure tourism providers and is all about providing a safe service to their clients.

ISO21103 specifies the contractual aspects that a provider must provide to potential participants.

Will this benefit me as an adventure tourism company?

We expect that certification will be voluntary and driven by customer demand. You will benefit if your clients expect you to be certified and you are. Your competition that are not certified stand the risk of losing business.

It will have clear benefits to be certified, demonstrating to the clientele that the operator is responsible and follows standardised safety management practices. How effectively these standards are will be determined by client awareness and their demands, and the affordability of certification.

Will these new standards work?

ISO standards are proven to be a very successful competitive advantage for companies that have the funds and resources to certify. It does however not mean that an uncertified company is offering a poor quality service.

Auditors in ISO standards are generally expensive, to an extent where their flagship standard, the ISO9000 series is mostly adopted at huge expense by companies where their clients specify it as a pre-condition for trade. If the certification bodies of the new standard do not make the new standards affordable we can expect only the biggest and largest adventure tourism companies to certify, like luxury cruise liners and the biggest alpine guided ski companies.

Another critical success factor is whether the adventure tourism industrys acknowledge the standard. The ‘experts’ that ISO is involving in the development of the standards need to be recognised by the industry for the standard to be successful.

If we can’t win them, let’s join them. How do we become involved?

Whether you are an independent adventure guide or a great adventure company, whether you provide activities in mountaineering, rock climbing, ski trips, white water rafting, diving or any other adventure activity: be sure that the industry is about to change.

ISO has established technical committees in many countries to develop these standards. It is at these technical committees that the experts identify what the new standard will look like. It is to the benefit of all adventure tourism companies to contact their associations and governing bodies and to encourage them to get involved by contacting the member association in their respective countries. Once the standards are published, certification bodies will start with awareness campaigns to inform companies and their clients, and to start certifying operators. We can expect this to start happening early in 2014.

Small adventure companies that are not certified, stand the risk of being side-lined by large operators that will ensure that they comply. Be prepared, be informed and get your trade’s representatives involved on the technical committees where they can help develop a standard that will work for you.

Do you think this standard will improve the adventure tourism industry? Will you apply for certification? We’d love to hear your views!


About Franz Fuls

Adventurer Freelance Journalist Photographer Bunny Hugger Engineer January 2014 I depart on a 2,500km eco-expedition called Triwaters Tour. The website link is in my profile. Go check it out.

5 comments on “Wake up call for adventure companies

  1. Some major changes have happened in New Zealand in this arena

  2. I nominated you for the Super Sweet Blogger Award! Congratulations and thank you for your incredible contributions to the blogging community! Even if you don’t pass it on, I hope I at least brought a smile to your face : ) http://projectlighttolife.wordpress.com/2013/06/08/super-sweet-blogger-award/

  3. Your point about getting involved at the onset and not complaining later is good advice.

    There idea of communicating risks is important… but to attempt to remove all risks through excessive red tape would be to kill the spirit of adventure itself.

    • wise words, Darron! If the adventure industry at large does not accept the standard it will fail. On the other hand, if ISO markets it aggressively through their members operators that does not comply may become marginalised. I hope this standard will not go overkill on red tape!

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