According to Swarbrooke (2003, p.14-16), adventure is “where participants are voluntarily putting themselves in a position where they believe they are taking a step into the unknown, where they will face challenges, and where they will discover or gain something valuable from the experience. (…) Although specific activities don’t define adventure, it is apparent that adventure entails action. Adventure is not a passive experience: it’s engaging”.
They conclude that an adventure tourism experience will:
- Be of a heightened nature – a stimulating context which will induce a range of emotions (of which excitement will be key), and separate it from everyday life
- Entail intellectual, physical or emotional risks and challenges – mentally and physically absorbing
- Be intrinsically rewarding, providing opportunities for enjoyment, learning, and self-development
Swarbrooke (2003, p.16) further explains that “certain settings and activities are strongly associated with adventure experiences (…). They facilitate the emotions, thoughts and sensations that define adventure”.
Tourism researchers differentiate between hard and soft adventures. The following figure illustrates the continuum of soft and hard adventure involving “differing degrees of ‘challenge, uncertainty, setting familiarity, personal abilities, intensity, duration and perceptions of control’” (Lipscombe, 1995, cited in Swarbrooke, 2003, p.33):
Millington et al. (2001) however suggest a simpler differentiation: “Hard adventure requires some experience and proficiency in the activity prior to the tourism experience, whereas soft adventure does not necessarily require previous experience” (Swarbrooke, 2003, p.33).