Mitigating risk for adventure tour operators and their customers is crucial to ensure the safety and security of all parties involved.
The recent drowning of two Singaporean tourists after their canoe capsized in the Crocodile River, North West province, put the need for risk mitigation firmly in the spotlight again.
“The primary reason [to mitigate risk] is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all involved – whether it is the business, its staff or the traveller. We are all in tourism and managing risk is everyone’s responsibility,” said Andre du Toit, SATSA Adventure Chapter Chair and Safari and Tourism Insurance Brokers (SATIB) Head: Business Development.
Tourism Update asked Du Toit what tour operators and other tourism suppliers could do to mitigate risks for all parties.
Conduct a thorough risk assessment
According to Du Toit, the first is to ensure operators comply “with the law of the land”, and where legislation is “thin on the ground”, operators have to look at industry best practices.
“This can be found by looking at international standards and those developed locally by experienced operators in your sector,” said Du Toit.
He added that, because the South African adventure industry was considered a leader in many fields, in particular the rafting sector, operators would need to conduct thorough risk assessments of their operating environment and develop standard operating procedures that included safety protocols, emergency procedures and staff training.
“Brief activity briefings are essential and open communication with participants with regular updates of potential risks to enhance overall safety is common practice,” he said.
Regarding insurance, Du Toit advised all tour operators to have liability cover that specifically included the activities they offered, as adventure activities might fall wide of standard Public Liability offering.
Code of Good Practice and toolkits
SATSA created its Adventure Chapter in 2020 with the aim of exploring the opportunities within the adventure tourism sub-sector, by engaging stakeholders to unlock the country’s potential as a leading adventure tourism destination for local and international guests.
The inbound industry association has now embarked on a self-regulation process by creating a ‘Code of Good Practice for Adventure Operators’ that will soon be released following extensive industry engagements.
Du Toit explained: “This will be accompanied by toolkits that assist operators entering the industry to establish Standard Operating Procedures, Safety Protocols, etc.
“We have working groups comprising industry leaders establishing activity-specific standards that will also be circulated and become the benchmark for responsible operators and entrants in the future.”
He cautioned, however, that operators should not wait for these standards to emerge and should do regular risk assessments, establish robust safety protocols, regular staff training, compliance checks and consult with specialist brokers like SATIB to ensure that the correct liability cover was in place.
“Associations like SATSA play a huge role in facilitating collaboration between industry stakeholders, sharing best practice and monitoring emerging trends to enhance risk mitigation, so I would encourage adventure operators to join SATSA on this journey of self-regulation.”
Challenges and opportunities
Du Toit highlighted that the risk factor was inherently higher in the adventure sector but, through mitigating risk, there were several benefits.
“By mitigating risk we all benefit – customer satisfaction is achieved, the reputation of the establishment is enhanced and it fosters a positive industry image.”
He further noted that challenges still persisted with regard to mitigating risk, although the opportunities were immense if implemented successfully.
“Challenges include navigating changing regulations and qualification requirements, training and retention of staff, the cost of implementing safety measures and the cost of the adventure liability insurance.
“The opportunities are vast as we have much to offer and are arguably at the base of our largest tourism growth opportunity. Mitigating risk will build trust, give a competitive edge to those practising responsibly, provide easier access to insurance products at better rates, and position SA as top adventure destination globally,” Du Toit concluded.