South Africa boasts more than 800 adventure tourism operators, making it the most developed adventure tourism market in Africa. While some are very small, at best micro-enterprises or one-man-shows, the vast majority are well established and have a good track record of providing clients with value-for-money, high-quality adventure activities. The industry also has a good base of tourism products, such as a huge range of accommodation types and prices, as well as many other tourist activities to supplement an adventure holiday. Our legal framework is solid and access to high-quality emergency medical care means that, in the highly unlikely event of injury, clients can expect swift and effective medical support. This sets the adventure tourism industry of South Africa apart from that of the rest of the continent and should feature more strongly in our marketing of adventure holidays to international clients.

The industry currently relies heavily on domestic tourists, especially day trippers. Operators should pay careful attention to nurturing this important market. These clients are cost sensitive and seek to have fun whilst being assured that the trip or activity is safe. While price does matter to these potential clients, operators should be very careful not to compete on price only as this will inevitably lead to a race to the bottom. Many operators are missing opportunities to actively sell adventure tourism products to the emerging Black, Coloured and Indian middle class. As this group of people are embracing running and cycling as hobbies in significant numbers, adventure tourism operators could consider investigating marketing themselves via these alternative channels. Ways to ‘reward’ clients for participating, such as issuing certificates and medals; encouraging them to upload pictures to Facebook and Twitter (and say ‘tag your friends’) can further deepen penetration into the youth market. Innovatively packaging tours/activities can also go a long way to generate new business – such as family trips, ‘girls only’ trips and school trips, and the more familiar team-building events can also be undertaken. Operators can create an additional income stream by offering clients opportunities to purchase ‘action shots’ – photographs of themselves undertaking the activity – and other trinket-type souvenirs such as key rings, bumper stickers, badges and the like.

The Western Cape is home to most adventure tourism operators, followed by KwaZulu Natal and then Gauteng. Coastal provinces are at a significant advantage when it comes to building an adventure tourism industry, due to the presence of physical resources, such as the sea, mountains, rivers, dunes, open veld and nature reserves. For provinces such as Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape, the sector is seriously underdeveloped, so opportunities for expansion in these localities abound.