A Message from Shannon Stowell March 31, 2020

31 March 2020

Watch the Video at This Link

Dear ATTA community,

I’ve been meaning to record this message for almost a week now and as I’m sure you can relate, daily changes means this has been re-written about 10 times. Today I’ll share updates and point to hope in a difficult time.  

We are aware of several ATTA members who are actively fighting COVID-19 infections. You have our empathy. Sadly, a long-time member lost his battle last week with the virus. This weekend it hit us at the ATTA very hard and personally. With profound grief, I let you know that one of the ATTA’s team, Aliaa Abaza, passed away last weekend due to the virus. We want to give her the honor she deserves with a proper tribute - that will be coming separately. 

We feel a weighty responsibility to get the ATTA through to the other side of this crisis. Not only for our businesses, our communities, and our people, but for the world at large who needs the adventure travel community to survive and thrive, to continue to offer healthy tourism offerings to guests.  

Because tourism is coming back. It always does. But it will look different, and we don’t know when.

What will it look like? Hard to say. However, it’s not hard to imagine that people will be more drawn to small groups and nature-based trips. That people will appreciate expertise and safety provided by trusted operators or specialists. That over-crowded and enclosed types of tourism will be viewed with a wary eye. What set of events could we ever imagine that would shut down and even cast into question the value of existence of some forms of mass tourism?  

Adventure travel is positioned well to serve the customer of the future. And adventure travelers will be among the first back. The future will be our time. We still have to get there. Like many of you, the ATTA is subject to the forces wreaking havoc on the industry. Today I have a few announcements and requests.

Firstly, hard news which I know will land very close to home: 

  • We’ve reduced our team to the bare minimum to stay connected, engaged, and poised for recovery
  • We’ve applied for disaster relief loans
  • We’ve postponed AdventureElevate from May to September in Eugene, Oregon - I hope you can join us to bond and begin the renewal
  • And this year’s 2020 Adventure Travel World Summit is officially postponed until September 20-23, 2021 and the new host destination will be announced soon
Here are some things we’re doing:
  • We will support those hit hardest, namely tour operators, travel specialists and accommodation members in this time of hardship. Those memberships that are up for renewal will have the opportunity to be extended for a period of time at no cost. 
  • We are maintaining and updating a COVID-19 Guide for the Adventure Travel Industry on AdventureTravelNews.com.
  • We are offering a series of webinars and virtual gatherings designed to bring the community together to learn and share.
  • Last week we held a Virtual AdventureConnect in Latin America and nearly 500 people attended. Collaboration was the theme and the NEED.
  • We will offer, through the generosity of one of our members, crisis communications support to help you, our members, retain trust in your brand and prepare the content and communications strategies you will need to recover.  Members can access this support by requesting a virtual meeting via [email protected].
  • We contributed to an industry task force to lobby the US Congress and Small Business Administration for relief for tourism companies, hoping that any relief will in some measure trickle out to the supply chain.
  • We conducted a COVID-19 survey, revealing how much your businesses are hurting and what support you need.
I do have a few requests:  
  • Stay with us. We need you in our community. I ask that we band together for hope, inspiration, a common voice and the recovery phase we know will come, eventually. If you can afford to renew, please do.
  • Be a hero: If your business is doing well or you have the capacity, help someone else in the community, or contact us if you’d like to find a way to give back. We’re working on several ideas that can help the ATTA community weather the storm. 
  • Be an expert: If you have advice that can help members get through this difficult time in the fields of legal, financial, PR, crisis management, etc. please contact us. 
I used a rafting metaphor in my last communication - about how we were about to hit some Class 5 rapids. To continue this, some rafts will high side but get through. Some will sustain damage and need repair. Some rafts will need to share resources to make it through, Some rafts may not make it. But if we work together and throw lifelines, we will get through. 

There is some good news out there, about the planet getting a chance to breathe and heal. I think we, the adventure community, have the opportunity to help re-train travelers and reposition travel where responsible tourism is the only path for the future. Let’s create a future where sustainable, responsible Adventure Travel is just Travel.

It is not clear when we’ll all get to see each other again in person but when we do, it will be glorious. I don’t know of another business community that loves each other quite like this one. Take care of yourselves and those around you. Love to you all.

Shannon Stowell
CEO, Adventure Travel Trade Association