Hundreds of outdoor activity centres failed to apply for safety licences before last month's official deadline. The Adventure Activities Licensing Authority had received only around 900 applications by last week, less than half the estimated number.
The AALA, run by the Cardiff-based company Tourism Quality Services, is compiling the first national register of such establishments. Centres that missed the August 1 deadline are now breaking the law by staying open.
Marcus Baillie, chief inspector for the AALA, said that there could be several reasons for the shortfall. Centres were unaware of their obligation to register, had incorrectly assumed that the regulations did not apply to them, or had changed the activities they offered to avoid the need for a licence, he suggested. Others may be waiting for staff to come back from holiday or simply attempting to evade licensing.
Centres that were continuing to operate without a licence were running huge risks, he warned. "If there was an accident they would leave themselves dangerously exposed," said Mr Baillie.
However, he said that legal action was unlikely and that the AALA was taking a softly-softly approach of contacting centres and helping them with applications. "We are not an enforcement agency, and it is unlikely that anybody would be prosecuted for a first offence. We are trying to help. "