Importance of Risk Management Preparedness in Adventure Tourism

12 May 2014

By: Jim Sano, ATTA Advisory Board Member and VP of Travel, Tourism & Conservation of the World Wildlife Fund (US).

Last year a jury awarded $41.7 million to a student that sued her school after contracting a rare tick-borne illness on a school-sponsored trip to China.  The illness resulted in significant neurological damage, including loss of speech and physical mobility.  Read the full case report and verdict.

The plaintiff’s complaint illuminates a list of risk management best practices, that if addressed prior to and during the trip, would have greatly mitigated the school’s exposure, including:

  • Selecting and supervising vendors and suppliers (the a faculty member of the school retained a China-based operator versus using a U.S. based tour operator)
  • Pre-travel health education - specific to the itinerary
  • Guide medical training
  • In-the-field safety protocols and practices
  • Critical incident command system, including communication protocols with the family
  • Medical assistance/evacuation partners
  • Release of liability and assumption of risk waiver, including provisions for arbitration and jurisdiction selection

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Regardless of the merits of this case, it underscores the downside risks of not covering the risk management bases associated with any client injury or illness.

Alice Gifford, ATTA's Director of Community Development, acknowledges that while the challenges around global adventure tourism safety and risk management standards are incredibly diverse and complex, the ATTA strives to provide its members with the resources, knowledge and tools they need to run their businesses safely and encourages them to prepare for these challenges.

ATTA members can access the following Risk Assessment and Management tools:


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