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A note from Shannon Stowell to ATTA Members March 17, 2020

2 Minute Read

Hope is not a business strategy. But……. we will still very much need it in these trying times. Especially with the WHO declaring the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11.

Several years ago I went rafting with my cousin and brother on the Arkansas River near Salida, Colorado. The normal flow for this river during that time should have been around 2000 cubic feet per second. Due to a drought, the water flow was at 400, a fifth of what it should have been running. It created very difficult rafting conditions with rocks rising out of depths that normally would be submerged. 

We reached a point where we pulled over to scout a rapid and there was literally not one channel on the river that was as wide as the raft. Portage would have been time-consuming and difficult. Hope is not only not a business strategy; it’s also not a rafting strategy. However, hope played a very important role in this moment – hope that we would creatively find a way through. Simply launching and hoping wouldn’t be enough but we’d need to work hard and think differently. And be a little crazy. 

Rafting down Chagres River, Panama

We came up with a plan and launched. For some of the rapids, my brother shouted to Chris and me to ‘high side!’, allowing him to bump and weave through the bony river, literally hitting some of our obstacles. Then we reached the point where the river was too narrow for the raft. My brother ran this part alone. He approached, discarded his oars into the boat, grabbed the rope along the right edge of the raft, stood on the other side and pulled up with all his body weight and might, as though he was trying to flip the boat. It was like a car up on two wheels momentarily as the river rushed him through the spot, scraping the raft on both sides and popping out the other side – a little worse for the wear but free and clear.

Some of the upcoming challenges we face as an industry, as organizations and even as individuals looking into the daunting months ahead will require us sometimes to work together to ‘high side’ our rafts. We will scrape rocks. We will see narrow spots that seem impassable. We will experience damage. We’re in touch with many of you and know how grim your situation currently is. 

Wringing our hands or expecting failure accomplishes nothing good. Experts and medical professionals will need to do their best to contain the virus. We must contain our fears, work together, and be wildly creative as we seek to squeeze through this next rapid.

This is an event, not a permanent state, although certainly the travel industry is going to look different for a long time if not forever. Adventure travel companies and professionals are among the grittiest, smartest, most positive people in business and I look forward to working alongside you and hearing how YOU led and made it through the crisis. Here’s a great article by Harvard Business Review to get ideas on how to do so.

Rafting under pouring rain in the Chagres River

Looking forward to seeing you soon at AdventureELEVATE or the Adventure Travel World Summit or at one of the upcoming AdventureConnects…. Or better yet – out on a river.

All my best,


2 Comments to A note from Shannon Stowell to ATTA Members March 17, 2020

  1. Jeffrey Lehmann

    Hi Shannon,
    I love your story! It reminded me of many moments running the unchartered 500 mile long Roosevelt River in Brazil a few years ago with two Brazilian special forces colonels. Adventurers have to be resourceful to survive and at it’s core that’s what the ATTA is made of… adventurers.
    All of the filming for my adventure travel series for the next quarter have been postponed and a conference I help run for travel journalists was postponed until next year. Yet, I am quickly shoring up the hemorrhaging of money that just two days ago looked to end my company in just a few months. I have been thinking way outside the box to make this happen, but it is working! I absolutely feel that there is always opportunity in adversity. I wish you, your staff, and all of your members many of whom we have featured on our series the very best of luck in this very trying time.
    I have not seen you in way too long, but you are looking healthy and happy. Love to see how successful ATTA has become! Best regards, Jeffrey Lehmann

  2. Heather Kelly

    Thank you for your note Jeffrey! I’ve passed along your message to Shannon to make sure he sees it. As a side note, I love the book about Roosevelt’s journey down that river (River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey). We appreciate your support and wish you the best with your filming; our community is strong and we will get through this.

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