A government review of safety in the adventure tourism industry understates the extent of problem, says a safety specialist who contributed research data to the report.
The review was ordered by Prime Minister John Key after an English tourist drowned in the Kawarau River while river-boarding. The report, made public this week, found industry-wide safety inconsistencies.
Professor Tim Bentley, the director of the School of Management’s Healthy Work Group, says the figures included in the report are low because many injuries go unreported. “I’ve studied adventure tourism injuries for the past decade and many injuries to overseas visitors are never reported to official bodies such as the Department of Labour.”
Professor Bentley has researched the industry extensively. His latest paper A decade of injury monitoring in New Zealand adventure tourism industry was published in the Tourism Management journal and supplied to department staff carrying out the review.
He says one of their recommendations – for a comprehensive injury monitoring system – is something he has been advocating for many years. “We need a single body to collect and collate the information and this system should include reporting near misses as well. If you want to do something about a problem you need to understand it.”
Professor Bentley says the report does reflect the many injuries in certain areas of adventure tourism, such as horse riding and quad biking. “It is where you can’t control behaviour of participants that there is a bigger problem. With bungee, you can control behaviour minutely and control the technology and activity location, but with something like mountain biking or horse riding there is far less control. This is where we have to have to better manage the organisation of activities and build a safety culture.”
Professor Bentley says it is essential that registration is mandatory for all operators in the adventure tourism industry regardless of risk profile of the activity. “We need to see how far-reaching the registration they are suggesting is, because it is not clear at the moment."