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“Adventure Community Building” Gains Favor in Iceland, Greenland, Faroe Islands

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IMG_2220At the end of April 2015, the Adventure Travel Trade Association held a two-day AdventureEDU workshop Ásbrú, Iceland – known throughout the country as an “innovation center.” The attendees — adventure tourism professionals from Iceland and Greenland — showed a complete philosophic commitment to sustainability, quality and safety and risk management in adventure tourism and an openness to collaboration.

The topics tackled during the workshop are complex and require serious consideration and deep discussion: Adventure Community Building and Safety Management System for Adventure Travel Companies. How do you develop relationships that are cohesive and aligned with the same understanding of the definition of adventure? How do you actually deliver or implement a safety management system in your company or in your country?

The workshop group quickly coalesced and leaned into the education, training and solutions process. Hrafnhildur Ýr Víglundsdóttir, Project Manager for Regional Development for the Icelandic Tourist Board, offers a compelling and astute account of the “vibe” that emerged:

IMG_2286“[The] Community Builder workshop was a great success, moving adventure tourism in the North Atlantic many steps closer to an active cooperation. Although some major stakeholders were not attending, this dedicated group still formed a  good cross-section of adventure tourism in the region. The energy was vibrant as participants spoke very openly about their hopes and concerns, creating an atmosphere of solidarity. The main focus was on the viability of adventure tourism companies through quality and sustainability.”

Mrs. Ólöf Ýrr Atladóttir, Director General, Iceland Tourism Board, also points out:

“Adventure tourism has been growing tremendously in the region and is indeed the main definition of what tourism in the region stands for. Adventure tourism’s commitment to sustainability issues, quality of services and community connections are also important strategic factors here in the West Nordic region and provide the basis of our visions towards the future development of the industry.”

Her team’s understanding of the potential, and potential barriers, to development makes their commitment to the education and training process even more meaningful. And, Ólöf is clear about the challenges:

IMG_2259“Iceland’s strengths as a destination have always been its extraordinary nature, its diversity of natural phenomena, the accessibility of its wildernesses and the Icelanders’ hospitality. This is what attracts our visitors, but these are also the areas where our challenges lie, since they are all routed in the promise of offering an authentic experience in an extremely sensitive environment. The rapid growth of tourism these past years puts pressure on the industry and indeed the society as a whole to behave responsibly and plan a strategy that forms a sound basis for the sustainable future development of the industry.”

The awareness and understanding seemed to be shared by all of the Icelandic and Greenlandic AdventureEDU participants. Mounting pressures (capacity management, climate change, etc.) in this region, which see no political boundaries, are likely to lend a sense of urgency to the stakeholders here. This is why, over the course of the past several months leading up to the two-day program, Iceland, Greenland and Faroe Islands have recognized their shared challenges and similar long-term visions, as well as opportunities to explore new cooperative initiatives.

As the workshop – facilitated by Moe Carrick, ATTA AdventureEDU instructor, representatives from both public and private sectors agreed to some concrete actions in the short term and volunteers stepped up to drive each initiative including:

  1. Securing funding to creating an adventure tourism entity (e.g., association) this year to drive the sector;
  2. To host future working group gatherings and ATTA AdventureEDU workshops in the near future, and
  3. Advertise existing adventure education and training programs between nations to fuel cooperation.

Now that’s progress.

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