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Adventure Tourism Has “The Greatest Opportunity” To Make A Difference

3 Minute Read

In its sixth appearance at the New York Times Travel Show, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) presented to over 130 adventure travel professionals during “trade day” on Friday, 24 January 2020. 

This year’s Focus on Adventure session was titled Adventure Tourism: A Source For Good? and featured Kimberly Daley, president & CEO of MT Sobek; Helen Usher, director of Animondial; Andrea Ross, managing director of Wild Frontiers; and Karl Egloff, director of travel at World Wildlife Fund. The ATTA’s Russell Walters moderated the discussion while each panelist discussed sustainability practices, cultural awareness, local community interactions, and the overall impact of adventure travel. 

Panelists discussed the challenges and importance of making adventure tourism an agent of positive change. Kim Edwards / ATTA

“More and more people are learning that adventure is doable and it’s the way you should travel, and that travel can be a source for good and make a positive impact,” said Kimberly Daley. “But, it starts with each one of us.” 

She goes on, “One thing we continuously think about at MTSobek is how we can, as an organization, be that source of change and ensure that when our clients come home from traveling with us, they are transformed enough to embody the things they’ve learned. That could be taking a reusable water bottle with them, or going into and learning about a family’s home — because that’s how we’re going to transform the world and move forward. Travel won’t only be something you use to escape and get away but it can be something we can build upon.”

All panelists agreed that travel is a way to bridge divides as the world becomes more and more complex. Through travel, we can get closer to those across the world and understand that sustainability, conservation and climate action isn’t just about nature and regions but  involves cultures and people. Starting small is just fine, for example choosing three things to focus on.   

Andrea Ross added, “Failure is ok.” She shared a story about her time in Cambodia where she struggled to implement single use plastic water bottles. “I thought buying a reusable water bottle for my guests would eliminate water bottles from being used on my trips. What actually ended up happening was the guides were simply emptying plastic water bottles into the new reusable water bottles. So, it was a step in the right direction but did not completely solve the problem.”

“We must do more than simply going on a trip and treading lightly. We are obligated to leave the place better than we found it. We should bring these learnings home and implement them as part of our lifestyles and hand these practices down to friends, family and colleagues,” Ross said.  

Helen Usher added, “Adventure travel has the greatest opportunity to make a difference. Policy doesn’t necessarily mean anything unless you have a strategy to implement. Fail if you must. It’s all about education and opportunity for people to go and see, learn, implement and share.”

Immediately after the session, the ATTA  joined Tourism Australia to host a lively AdventureConnect networking event for more than 150 adventure travel professionals. Tourism Australia gave an update on the bushfires, showing video interviews of tour operators on the ground in the affected areas. The overall message: Come visit, we’re ready for you. Guests mingled over Australian wine, caught up with friends and made new connections throughout the evening. 

Capping off the ATTA’s presence at the show, ATTA President Casey Hanisko participated in a panel on The Future of Our Planet and the Future of Travel Exploration: Adventure and Sustainable Practices

To stay up to date about where the ATTA team is traveling next, visit  ATTA On The Road. To learn about upcoming AdventureConnects in your region, sign up to receive ATTA communications and select “more subscription options” to choose your region.

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