We know how, during the 2010s, the Government of the Maldives actively implemented a brand new tourism mandate focused on growing and promoting local tourism. This was under the presidential administration of Mohamed Nasheed, when his government actively focused on expanding the country’s tourism industry outside of its conventional comfort zone.

Traditionally, the Maldivian tourism industry relied heavily on targeting affluent travellers. The country’s tourism industry has mainly focused on catering to middle to upper class tourists. In addition to this, the conventional tourism approach in the island nation was developing tourist resort islands geographically detached from residential islands; professionally speaking, the Maldives relied heavily on landlocked resort tourism.

However, with the emergence and successful hosting of the local tourism industry – or otherwise known as bed and breakfast or boutique hotel tourism, the island nation has attracted an entirely different segment of travelers to outside of affluent tourist markets.

Now, the island nation was a favorite spot for many backpackers, globetrotters, and lately, even digital nomads. However, despite the growth and boom in local tourism, the island nation is still not marketed to thrill seekers or adventure seekers as a potential destination with thrilling adventures.

What is adventure tourism?

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of what adventure tourism is, it’s also important to understand what it involves. First, adventure tourism is generally defined as the movement of people from various locations that place them outside of their comfort zone for exploration or relatively risky adventures.

Although popular among relatively young tourists, this type of tourism is experiencing successful growth as the industry takes travelers outside of their comfort zone, which can include activities such as skydiving, diving or even snorkeling. participation in extreme sports. Through these activities, thrill seekers or adventurers expose themselves to a certain degree of risk and physical danger.

As it is a relatively new tourism concept, there are no professional or specific definitions attached to adventure tourism. Most tourism commentators rely on the idea that it is a niche sector that has similar characteristics that overlap with other niches such as ecotourism, sports tourism, tourism of activity and adventure travel – thus, in the professional explanation, adventure tourism can be ambiguous for untrained or untrained people. layman.

There have been several definitions of adventure tourism, described by notable institutions and tourism commentators. For example, the Adventure Travel Trade Association describes adventure tourism as “tourism activity that includes physical activity, cultural exchange, or nature activities.”

Meanwhile, Muller and Cleaver comment that “adventure tourism is characterized by its ability to provide the tourist with relatively high levels of sensory stimulation, typically achieved by including physically stimulating experiential components with the tourist experience”.

In 1995, the Canadian Tourism Commission described niche as “an outdoor leisure activity that takes place in a habitual, exotic, remote, or wilderness destination, involves some form of unconventional transportation, and tends to be associated with low or high activity levels. .”

In another research paper, it was widely given a description which was described as “the sum of phenomena and relationships resulting from the interactions of adventure tourism activities with the natural environment away from the area of ​​usual residence of the participant and containing elements of risk in which the outcome is influenced by the participation, setting and organizer of the tourist experience.

Summarizing the different definitions, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said that adventure tourism “can be national or international, and like any trip, it must include an overnight stay, but must not last longer than one year”.

Diving and nautical activities alone do not justify the existence of adventure tourism

Based on the myriad of definitions from industry professionals and commentators, one constant can be inferred: the mere presence of physical activity such as diving or water sports does not mean that the tourist industry of one country caters to the adventure tourism niche.

In the case of the Maldives, it can be argued that although adventure travel and activity tourism are present, the concept of adventure tourism has yet to be widely marketed or promoted.

Although this is a personal opinion based on relevant and available information, I feel that most tourism commentators affiliated with or with a vested interest in the Maldivian tourism industry can dispute this argument. – and there is nothing wrong with that.

However, it is evident that the overlapping comparative characteristics between adventure tourism and a few other niches could lead to confusion in discerning one concept over the other. This could lead many to lean heavily on the idea that the existence of diving excursions and water sports activities is proof enough of the existence of adventure tourism in the island nation – not necessarily.

As described through various definitions, it should be understood that adventure tourism is about tourists who expose themselves to some degree of risk and danger. Although there is a notable risk factor associated with diving, the activity has become very attached to the identity of the entire tourism industry and so widely performed that it could also be considered a which, in turn, forms an integral part of the Maldivian tourism industry.

As for nautical activities, most of them are practiced with extensive safety measures and almost always under the supervision of coaches and guides that risk and danger factors are mostly eliminated or diffused.

A better excursion that can be marketed as adventure tourism

The island nation is home to more than 1,100 coral islands, of which around 200 are residential and around 150 are landlocked tourist resorts. This means that several other islands remain naturally intact and undisturbed by outside elements.

These islands are less frequently visited by locals, nor are they frequent places where passing ships drop anchor to rest. They are natural and realistically remote islands.

Several tourist resorts are geographically in close proximity to many of these uninhabited islands or at least within the same atoll where many uninhabited islands remain without man-made damage or corruption.

The idea is the active promotion of secluded “castaway island” excursions in which thrill-seeking or adventurous tourists can visit these remote islands through local ships and fully immerse themselves in the natural environment for determined periods without any help or external intervention.

Tourism promoters affiliated with or originating from the Maldives, in association with relevant tourism industry players and businesses (such as tour operators or travel agents) may also promote ‘island castaway’ tourism through a new tourism segment if the country wants to develop the adventure tourism niche.

In summary, it would be fair to say that despite the expansion of the country’s tourism industry to cater to the needs of thrill seekers and adventurers, there is relatively less or active promotion of activities that do fall within the niche of “adventure tourism”. Now may be the time to boost niche marketing if the Maldives tourism sector wishes to expand its tourism market segments.