This startling figure has emerged from research into injury and fatalities amongst overseas tourists by Massey University's Dr Tim Bentley.
Dr Bentley, from the Centre of Tourism Research at the University's Albany campus, examined 15 years of hospital discharge and fatality data, to determine the extent of the adventure tourism problem. The project also involved Dr David Chalmers of the Injury Prevention Unit at the University of Otago.
Adventure tourism accounted for 18% of injuries to overseas visitors admitted to hospital between 1982 and 1996 and 22% of fatalities from 1979 to 1995. Of those, 50% resulted from mountaineering and tramping. The adventure tourism injury rate is 8 per 100,000, compared with 12 per 1000,000 for injuries while driving, despite the fact that many more tourists drive than take part in adventure activities.
Dr Bentley says such statistics mean New Zealand is on its way to being regarded as an unsafe destination. "In the US and Japan, people are already being advised not to come here because of the dangers. Tourism is our principal industry and these accidents are making a massive impact."
The research also shows that bungy-jumping, jet boating and rafting, all covered by government regulations, have much lower injury counts than cycling and horse riding, while skiing, tramping and mountaineering involve the greatest risk. They are largely unregulated and participants are in the biggest at-risk group of males in their 20's. Dr Bentley says those findings highlight the need for a regulatory code of practice for a wider range of Adventure Tourism activities.
There's also doubt about the ability of the Adventure Tourism industry to manage the risk to clients. "There are lots of small, unregulated companies out there with a seasonal workforce that comes and goes. There is also the danger that without the protection of ACC, people will start suing. In the US, travel companies have already been taken to court."
Dr Bentley says people who go out on their own are more likely to be killed, not those involved in commercial adventure tourism but the perception may be different."
15,000 injuries in 12 months
A 2007 injury study carried by Tim Bentley revealed that there were 15,000 cases involving adventure tourism and adventure sport in New Zealand over a 12 month period.