How To Develop an Adventure Tourism Business in KZN

How To Develop an Adventure Tourism Business in KZN




Nationally and internationally there are a great many terms that are used to include adventure tourism. Some of these terms are adventure travel; ecotourism; nature tourism; outdoor tourism; special interest travel; soft adventure; hard adventure; spiritual tourism; cultural tourism; extreme sports; and the like.

However, for the purposes of this brochure we rather like the definition for adventure tourism used by the Canadian Tourism Commission and adapted as follows: “an outdoor leisure activity that generally takes place in an unusual, exotic, remote or wilderness setting, (sometimes) involving some form of unconventional means of transportation and tending to be associated with low or high levels of physical activity. The activity may entail some element of risk.” (

An adventure tourism business arranges a single adventure or a combination of adventure pursuits for paying tourists on scheduled or customised itineraries. The international trend is toward industry specialisation. This means that your adventure tourism business may focus on the adventure guiding and hosting aspects of the business and rely upon other specialist firms for transport, making of travel arrangements and other aspects of tour packaging. It is probably more cost-effective for your adventure business to concentrate on the aspects that you are good at (and have a specialised interest in) than to try to take on all the various responsibilities. Thus, you may provide the guiding, hire of specialist equipment and meeting of safety regulations, leaving the making of arrangements for accommodation and transport to other firms. The adventure tourism business will send qualified guides/adventure pursuit instructors to accompany the tourists.

Unlike other tourism businesses, the adventure tourism firm will rely heavily on the specialist interest, experience and skills of one or more members. For example, if you have not participated in adventure sports yourself and do not have a passionate interest in and commitment to a specific activity, it is unlikely that you will wish to engage in establishing a dedicated adventure tourism business. In other words, the specialist understanding required for adventure activities is a critical area of experience for a would-be adventure tourism entrepreneur.

If you intend to add adventure activities to a range of pursuits your existing tourism business already offers, you will wish to be aware of the content of this brochure, picking out what is relevant to you and what is intended for dedicated adventure tourism enterprises or new businesses.



1. Some adventure activities are, by their very nature, dangerous and can cause injury, and even loss of life, to persons and damage to property. Any enterprise providing access to such activities, must protect themselves against claims for loss or damage caused to persons who partake in the activities provided by the enterprise.

2. The first line of protection is to ensure that you and your staff are properly trained and equipped to provide supervision and guidance to participants in the activities provided and that your equipment, which such participants use, is in excellent condition at all times. You should also ensure that all participants are properly trained in the use of your equipment and in the rules of the activity in which they will engage. Needless to say, these rules should be designed to make the activity as safe as possible.

3. Claims for loss or damages are based mostly on negligence and you can guard against this by being vigilant at all times.

4. Before launching any adventure activity, you should ascertain what specific legal requirements pertaining to the sport or activity being pursued must be complied with. That can be obtained from the relevant sport or activity co-ordinating body. A list of some of the co-ordinating or controlling bodies is listed in the table at the end of the brochure.

      5. Be sure that you comply in all respects with those requirements and the law. MORE IMPORTANTLY, YOU MUST MAKE SURE THAT         EVERY PARTICIPANT IN YOUR ADVENTURE ACTIVITIES COMPLIES IN ALL RESPECTS WITH THE LAW!

      6. You should consult a reputable insurer or broker on your exposure to risk and, in particular, ensure that you have adequate                         public liability insurance to cover any claims that may arise. Be guided by your insurer or broker in how you structure your business               to ensure that you minimise your exposure to risk to the maximum extent. The Southern Africa Tourism Services Association                           suggests that if you convey clients in a vehicle, public liability insurance cover of between R5 million R10 million is essential. The                 actual amount will depend on a variety of circumstances, including the number of clients transported at one time.

7. You should also consult an attorney to advise you on steps that you should take to avoid liability for loss or damages arising as a             result of people participating in your adventure activities. This would include:

•  Requiring participants to declare in writing that:

i. They are aware of the risks associated with the particular adventure activity provided by you (the particular

risks should be stated in the written document), ii. they voluntarily engage in such activity, iii. they are old

enough and physically fit enough to cope with the rigours of the particular activity, iv. they voluntarily

waive any claims that may arise against you as a result of their participation in the particular activity and

indemnify you against any such claims by themselves or any person who may claim through them, e.g.: a

spouse or dependant children;

•      Exhibiting notices in every place where they can be easily seen stating that the activity may be dangerous,

that people engage in them voluntarily and that you accept no liability for any loss or damage suffered by

any person as a result of their participation in any such activity.

8.   You should also familiarise yourself and comply with all laws applicable to land use zoning (for location of an office); licensing and   registration; road transportation permits; public driving permits; regulations and by-laws. In this regard, reference should be made     to the brochure titled: How to Establish a Tour Operating Business also published by TKZN. You should also consult your Local           Municipality and an attorney. All tourism enterprises in KZN are required to be registered with TKZN. The Tourism & Hospitality           Education and Training Authority (THETA) should be consulted if you are concerned about any aspect of qualifications for yourself     or staff. Their web address is listed at the end of the brochure.

9.  Be aware that if you are not fully compliant with the law, you will expose yourself to claims for loss or damage, even if you have           covered yourself as described above. Claims under an insurance policy, including public liability insurance, will be refused if your     activity does not comply in all respects with the law.



Many of the activities that can be classified under the banner of adventure tourism may also be classified as soft adventure or extreme   adventure sports. The only distinction for the purposes of this brochure, is that we are concerned with adventure sports that are carried   out away from home and one or more service providers may be used for making the arrangements.

This is a list of recognised adventure activities. Some of the activities cannot be undertaken in KZN or South Africa (for example, bob       sleighing and climbing peaks of 8 000 metres), but they are included in the list for the purpose of making prospective entrepreneurs       aware of the extensive range of activities. This may open up opportunities for the really adventurous to possibly take or arrange tours     for clients to other countries.


AIR: 1. Ballooning, 2. Ballooning (long distance), 3. Gliding, 4. (Gliding aerobatics), 5. Gliding (motorised), 6. Gyrocopters,

7. Hang-gliding, 8. Hang-gliding (motorised), 9. Helicopters, 10. Light aircraft, 11. Light aircraft (aerobatics), 12. Light

aircraft (seaplanes), 13. Microlight aircraft, 14. Parachuting (base jumping), 15. Parachuting (sky-diving), 16. Parachuting

(sky surfing), 17. Paragliding, 18. Paramotors.


CYCLE: 1. Cycling (mountain), 2. Cycling (racing), 3.Cycling (touring).


LAND: 1. Adventure racing, 2. Canyonning, 3. Climbing (8 000 metre peaks), 4. Climbing artificial walls, 5. Climbing (ice),

6. Climbing (mountaineering), 7. Climbing (rock), 8. Climbing (scrambling), 9. Horse touring, 10. Hunting (professional with

firearms), 11. Hunting (professional with crossbow), 12. Hunting (professional with full bow), 13. Hunting (professional

with camera), 14. Natural world (birds), 15. Natural world (conservation), 16. Natural world (flora), 17. Natural world

(marine), 18. Natural world (safaris), 19. Sailing (land yachting), 20. Trekking, 21. Walking/Hiking, 22. Bungee jumping.


SNOW: 1. Bob sleigh, 2. Dog sledding, 3. Ice yachting, 4. Polar walking, 5. Ski (extreme), 6. Ski jumping, 7. Ski touring,

8. Skiing, 9. Skiing (heli-skiing), 10. Skiing (Nordic), 11. Skiing (speed), 12. Skiing (telemark), 13. Snow board touring,

14. Snow boarding, 15. Snow-shoeing.


UNDERGROUND: 1. Cave diving, 2. Caving.


VEHICLE: 1. Land speed, 2. Overland (4x4), 3. Overland (motor bikes), 4. Overland (trucks).


WATER: 1. Diving (scuba), 2. Diving (snorkelling), 3. Kayak/canoe touring, 4. Kayaking (sea), 5. Motor yachts, 6. Rowing,

7. Sailing (dinghies), 8. Sailing (multi-hulls), 9. Sailing (around the world), 10. Sailing (tall ships), 11. Sailing (windsurfing),

12. Sailing (yachting), 13. Surfing, 14. Surfing (kite), 15. Wake boarding, 16. Water-skiing, 17. White-water (hydroboard),

18. White-water (inflatable canoe), 19. White-water (kayak), 20. White-water (river rafting).


i. Age of clientele

The nature of many of the adventure activities is that they demand high levels of fitness, especially those that are dependent upon people’s energy, such as climbing, hiking, or canoeing. This means that according to the activities your business is offering clients, you will need to have some means of assessing the fitness of the client to perform the activities. One of the complex problems faced by adventure tourism businesses is how to apply such judgement when there may be no legal guidelines or other regulations to assist in discerning the suitability of a client who wishes to engage in such activities. Some clients will be inclined to imagine that they are fitter than they are and can actually tackle some obstacle that they are not equipped to undertake. One of the ways around this may be to place an upper limit on the age of prospective clients. You should be aware, however, that every restriction on participation reduces the potential size of your market. It may be more effective, from a business point of view, to tailor a range of activities according to different age and fitness requirements, thereby increasing the size of your potential market. This may come as a surprise for some, but experience in the adventure tourism market suggests that the largest age group participating in such activities are people in their thirties, rather than people in their twenties. This means that they are serious about their activities, have probably accumulated quite a bit of experience and will be less likely to tolerate guiding by people with less experience than themselves. This has important implications for the guide’s age, qualifications, experience and capabilities.

ii. Guiding

There are a variety of levels at which guiding can take place in the adventure tourism industry. These range from individual guide experiences (e.g.: rock or ice climbing, paragliding) to group guiding experiences, such as river rafting, wilderness experiences or hiking trails. It is advisable to choose a limited range of activities that you will offer to begin with according to your own guiding experience and only expand the range of activities offered as your business grows. All your guides must comply with all the registration and safety requirements before taking paying guests on trips. Important information on guiding and the registration of guides is available from TKZN. It is particularly important to be aware that paying guests must be driven by registered guides/couriers because insurance cover is not valid unless such registration exists.

iii. Issues around physical fitness and endurance

If the activity requires specific levels of fitness, endurance, skills and experience it may be possible to specify that clients have evidence of their fitness, skills and/or endurance levels proven through participation in and completion of certain sporting activities. For example, the Comrades Marathon Association requires that entrants in the annual event should have completed a standard marathon event within a certain time limit within the few months preceding the marathon. They also specify that if participants in the Comrades race do not pass through the halfway mark in a certain time, they are obliged to drop out of the race on the grounds that they will not reach the end within the specified cut-off time.

The service provider could set out minimum requirements for individuals wishing to book activity time. It would be

desirable in your brochure to indicate likely constraints for clients wishing to participate in selected activities.

A graded range of activities from the easiest (perhaps suited to all people except those medically unfit) to extreme events (requiring demonstrated high levels of fitness and commitment), coupled with various categories in-between.

iv. Safety and safety regulations, medical and rescue service issues

Safety issues may arise directly, firstly, as a result of the activity being pursued (e.g.: a rock climber falls) and secondly, as a result of external factors over which the service provider has no control but for which contingency plans may be made (e.g.: weather changes resulting in climbers being trapped by snow falls).

There are a number of steps in preparing yourself to ensure client safety during the pursuit of the activity itself.

These are summarised but should not be treated as an exhaustive list for your specific field of activity:

•  Establish whether your activity or sport has a co-ordinating body or service providers association (e.g.: South

African Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association);

•  Establish whether such an organisation has a list of safety requirements and whether there are any legal requirements to be complied with (e.g.: that your guides be registered for the activities they are undertaking);

•  Establish the costs and time required to achieve such registration;

•  If there are no formalised safety requirements for the activities you offer, then try to develop some in discussion with other similar service providers. You may be on the cutting-edge of formulating guidelines that will make the activity safer, something which is in everyone’s interests;

•  As the owner of the business, ensure that you and your guides are familiar with the safety precautions and know

how to enforce them;

•  Ensure that your clients are briefed on the safety precautions and are shown how to implement them. Make sure

that there are broadly two situations when outside assistance may be needed. This may be if a client is critically injured or ill and may need to be evacuated, or, if external factors such as inclement weather (snow and ice or flooding) or a wild-fire jeopardises survival. The service provider must know what emergency steps to set in motion.

It is for these reasons that the following basic guidelines should be followed:

•  The authorities responsible for an area (e.g.: game reserve, World Heritage Site, wilderness area) should always be informed about the location of your intended activities and your itinerary so that medical or rescue staff know where to begin looking for you should it prove necessary. This will improve the chances of survival in the event of a serious crisis. Medical rescues and evacuations by helicopter are possible through a number of agencies. These services, however, have to be contacted to set them in motion. The Mountain Club of South Africa website ( has a set of important steps in accident reporting especially relevant for mountainous areas, but which probably hold true for most situations;

•   In cases where there are no authorities with adequate resources to exercise management over an area (for example, in some very remote areas that are not under the management of the conservation authorities, one is pretty much on one’s own) make sure that someone knows your itinerary and when you are expected to return so that at least friends or colleagues can institute a search or rescue should something like this prove necessary;

•  Aviation activities have their own requirements, which must be adhered to (for example, all cross-country flights

involving controlled air-space must be logged with the nearest flight control centre);

•  Ocean sailing possibly poses as one of the most risky activities in the sense that sea rescue is particularly complex

because craft may be blown off-course. Ensuring that the skipper is appropriately registered with the right ticket

see ( is an essential step for safe off-shore ocean sailing.

Each adventure activity should be able to quantify the risks associated with the activity and identify the scenarios under which rescue or medical services may be needed. The service provider should have a planned course of action for the most likely scenarios. The level of rescue and medical experience and risk should be explained to the client so that when signing an indemnity form exonerating the service provider from responsibility, they are aware of what the risks are that they are willingly entering into.

At the end of the brochure is a list of medical rescue-oriented websites, many of which have useful associated information. (See Medical Rescue)

v. The need for excellent first line medical first-aid skills

The service provider should have guides with recognised first-aid skills of a level suited to the level of risk associated with the activity. There should be adequate medical and first-aid equipment available within reason as may be influenced by the location of the activities being pursued. For example, the level of medical facilities available at a rugby match in a city may include ambulances, medical tent with stretchers, life support systems and the like. On the other hand, a group of climbers tackling high mountain peaks in remote locations will only be able to have the benefit of very basic medical equipment that can be carried in ruck-sacks and the level of medical knowledge of the most well-trained first-aider or doctor accompanying them. The time to obtain more sophisticated medical assistance, even if helicopters were used, could be hours and even several days.

The St Johns Ambulance is one of a suite of similar service providers who can train guides up to the necessary level

of first-aid skill required by those guiding the activities being undertaken (see

vi. Locations for specific activities (e.g.: kayaking, rock climbing)

Usually people entering into an adventure tourism business would have had some experience with their own adventures in the fields being offered. This means that if you aspire, for example, to take paying clients on overnight canoe trips, you would have already done many such trips yourself and therefore you would already have knowledge of where such activities are possible. This would be true for all adventure tourism service providers. The nature of adventure tourism is that specialised knowledge is needed about the activity, the locations available, the risks associated with different locations and the likelihood of specific problems arising that may be life-threatening. It would be very negative publicity and marketing for your company to be proven negligent, leading to the loss of a client’s life.



Marketing and Advertising

Email and internet access are especially important for tourism marketing. Experience of firms in the adventure tourism market confirms that email access for communication and a website for advertising bring in much of their trade. In other words, they would not survive without such access. Internet access also provides access to the websites of other service providers and this is useful in linking one’s business to the activities of others. TKZN has contacts to which they could refer you for advice on websites and marketing. You should also be aware that there are adventure tourism marketing opportunities overseas, especially in New York (USA) and in Australia.

A fundamental component in the marketing of your product is communication. It is vitally important that email enquiries are replied to with intelligent and easily understandable letters. The email is likely to be one of the important windows through which you, your firm and the products can be exposed. You must use someone to reply to enquiries and requests for information who can spell correctly and communicate clearly.

Physical Location of your Business: The question of where you should locate your business is a complex one and requires some careful thought. You may feel that you should be located near the area where your activities take place or alternatively that you should be located in the city nearer to most of your clients. Some of the aspects that you should consider in answering these questions are:

1. If you feel that you should be located in the city nearer to your clients: How many clients can I take on a single trip? Is specialised transport (e.g.: 4x4, kombi, luggage and equipment trailers) needed to reach the destination? Are multiple destinations used for the adventures? Do I have available, or can I afford the appropriate transport to convey my clients comfortably and safely to their destination(s)? Can the market afford to pay me to provide the transportation?

2.  If you feel that you should be located at an adventure location: Is suitable accommodation available at the venue? Is only one venue used for the adventure activities you offer? Is the venue reached easily and without specialised transport? Is there somewhere safe for clients to leave their vehicles? Will clients find you easily?

Equipment: The equipment needs for adventure tourism range from sophisticated scuba-diving equipment, rock-climbing ropes, karabiners, harnesses and helmets, to 4x4 quad bikes and mountain bicycles, depending upon what activities are being offered. Almost all adventure tourism has the need for some specialised equipment; even camping requires waterproof tents, portable cooking and sleeping equipment, plus the vehicles in which to transport such equipment.

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding about the provision of equipment: It is very important that as a service provider, you should be absolutely clear to your clients about what you provide and what you expect them to provide. If you are only catering for South Africans, they may be able to provide some or all of their own equipment, depending upon the activities. For example, many adventure outings will require rustic camping, sleeping in caves or under the night sky. In such instances South Africans may be required to bring their own sleeping bags (rated for temperature ranges suitable for the conditions likely to be experienced). However, if foreign tourists are being catered for, they may not be able to bring their own sleeping bags (because of space and weight constraints when they fly) and you will need to provide such equipment on a hire basis. Typically a service provider will provide bulkier equipment for the activities to be pursued. This may include bulkier items such as tents, tables, chairs, gas cooking equipment and portable showers, whereas the client would provide the sleeping bag, personal belongings and possibly cutlery and crockery (the range is to be specified by the service provider).

Typically a service provider would also provide specialist equipment. So a dive operator, for example, would provide for hire: scuba equipment, wet-suits, flippers, weight belts, face masks and the like. The service provider would also provide the boat, although it would usually be included in the price of the adventure rather than identified as an additional item for hire. This approach leaves the clients flexible and able to provide some of their own equipment, but leaves the service provider able to contain and direct the group by limiting the number of people to those who will fit into the boat provided. When deciding about the type and quality of equipment, you should keep the following issues in mind: Equipment must be of an appropriate design and quality for the purpose for which it is to be used. Where safety is dependent upon the equipment type chosen, it is essential that industry standards should be used in guiding choices of quality and design. Equipment may be divided into that which is needed for the actual activity, such as ropes, harnesses and belay points for bungee jumping, hot-air balloons and that which is needed for emergency use, such as fire extinguishers, first-aid kits and tools. You will need enough equipment to enable the activities to be safely carried out, for example, climbing ropes should be adequate to the length of the pitches of the climb chosen; quad bikes should be able to carry enough fuel to complete the routes chosen and the like.



South African Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (SAHPA) is the controlling and licensing authority for the recreational

sport of hang gliding and paragliding in South Africa:

The South African Power Flying Association and The Aero Club consists of the following sections:

Power Flying, Gliding, Parachuting, Aerobatics, Ballooning, Hang Gliding and Paragliding, Aero-Modelling, Homebuilders,

Microlighting, Experimental Aircraft and Virtual Aviation. Aero Club is affiliated to the Federation Aeronautique


•  No competitive recreational flying activity in South Africa is recognised without Aero Club approval. This includes world record attempts.

• Directory of Airborne Sports in South Africa

• KZN MTB Commission:

• Professional Hunter’s Association of South Africa (PHASA):

• Southern African Tourism Association:

• South African Endurance Horse Riders Association:

• The Mountain Club of South Africa offers a volunteer specialist service in mountain search and rescue, together with

government institutions and other volunteer organisations: http: //

Go to the MCSA homepage and follow links to a range of service providers in the hiking and mountaineering field:

httpi:// or httpi://

• Hiking Federation of South Africa:

• Motorsport South Africa is the controlling body of all motorsport in South Africa, including circuit racing, rallying, off- road, motocross, oval racing, karting, speedway and trials:

• Scuba diving:

South African Sailing is the amalgamated body of two previous associations, the South African Yacht Racing Association and the Cruising Association of South Africa, both of which were initiated in 1970s. These two organisations and now South African Sailing (SAS), have administered the sport of competitive and recreational sailing since that time. The main functions that South African Sailing performs are as follows: liaison with international bodies and liaison with Government departments, maintains a database of registered Class Yachts and Dinghies, maintains a register of Offshore Yachts, maintenance of offshore safety standards and skipper certification.

General: South African Sailing has offices in Germiston, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town that exist to promote sailing as a sport and provide assistance to yachtsmen. This is the main website.

From here you will be able to find out more about the incredibly diverse attractions of canoeing and kayaking in South Africa, from the world-class sprinting venues, slalom and wild water disciplines, to the hugely popular long-distance river racing season that forms the backbone of the sport.

• A useful facility is the grading of South African rivers for skills required

• The International Ecotourism Society:

•  SA Tourism:

(011) 895 3000

•  Southern Africa Tourism Services

Association (SATSA):

086 127 2872/(011) 866 9996

•  Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN):

(031) 366 7500

•  Business Advice Centres:

Durban: (031) 308 9920

Pietermaritzburg: (033) 264 3100

KwaNgwanase: (035) 592 0125

Stanger: (032) 599 9087