Nature is the main criteria based on which adventure tourists choose their destination. These natural settings however are constantly exposed to environmental changes. The UNWTO (2014, p.75) identifies two dimensions of risk concerning climate change and tourism: The first is that tourism adds to the negative effects of climate change that are already occurring from other causes: “UNWTO research shows that tourism accounts for an estimated 5% of global CO2 emissions”. The second dimension of risk is that certain environmental changes can make destinations that are traditionally known for a certain type of experience less attractive or accessible to these tourists; a loss of snow coverage on summits can make climbing tourism less attractive. Natural sites such as traditionally popular hiking trails or sightseeing routes could also be eroded by climate change. Although not explicitly mentioned, natural hazards such as cyclones or floods caused by climate change would also fall into this category. Unfortunately, communities that are the most economically reliant on tourism are often also the most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change.
The UNWTO (2014, p.76) explains that adventure travel operators follow a rather pro-active approach to cope with climate change challenges: “Adventure travel companies’ success is reliant on core competencies related to the environments in which they operate as well as the activities they offer. Climate change threatens their ability to operate those activities in those environments. (…) Rather than take a reactionary approach, some adventure tourism companies are now focusing on the issues raised by climate change, including identifying the challenges, developing coping and adapting strategies, determining how to further develop and innovate their business, and attempting to mitigate any contributions to climate change that may be caused by their operations. (…) Adventure companies are encouraged to work across three major areas immediately: Strategy, operations, and marketing”.
Adventure tourism does not only have positive impacts on the local economy, it can also help to preserve the natural assets of a destination and to minimize the risk concerning climate change. “Market-based attempts at conservation – where economic realities and the concerns of all stakeholders are considered and met as far as possible – are having a higher long-term success rate than purely scientific or conservation-based strategies. (…) Leveraging market-influenced and outcome-based approaches for environmental protection can help minimize the risk carried by tourism businesses and destinations, and incentivize place-based environmental stewardship” (UNWTO, 2014, p.77).
In their Global Report on Adventure Tourism 2014 the UNWTO (p.76) explains how the adventure tourism stakeholders of the value chain adapt and collaborate to reduce the threats of climate change: “In the best of scenarios, measures beyond an organizational level will extend to community involvement and cooperation. Education and research on climate change and measures to adapt as a community will extend between tour operators, other value chain members, and stakeholders, so that all parties are knowledgeable about the stakes at hand. Cooperation can help create sustainable adaptation that is beneficial to all parties, and alliances between tour operators in the same regions and/or members in their value chain may reduce costs and improve adaptation results. The overall business strategy for climate change should promote operational adaptation that responds to reduce threats whilst increasing opportunities”. Adventure tourism operators need to be flexible to ensure customer satisfaction: “Operational changes such as employee training and de-centralization of field operations can provide the flexibility to adjust tours on the spot and ensure customer satisfaction on-the-go”.
The UNWTO (2014, p.76) identifies some of the strategies that tour operators use to avoid further deterioration of climate-impacted regions such as “water conservation, waste storage and removal, biosecurity and other similar practices”. Stowell (2014, p.83) emphasizes that adventure tourism operators are fast and innovative: “There is not much status quo to protect, so businesses in this space quickly jump to incorporating initiatives such as composting, recycling, alternative energy sources, reclaiming land, etc.”. The UNWTO (2014, p.76-77) advises adventure tourism businesses not to forget about their clients while taking care of the environment. “While local climate issues should be the driving force behind decisions about changing itinerary components, traveler interests and demands (in terms of both trends and seasonality) also must be considered”. The UNWTO (2014, p.77) further suggests educating consumers about climate issues: “Contingency planning and climate and environmental education for consumers should be employed to help set expectations”. They also acknowledge the benefits of adventure travel for travelers, nature and tourism operators: “Adventure travel itineraries that include conservation activities provide an opportunity for travelers to help maintain the environment as well as the tour operator’s activity base”.