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More than forty participants from five destinations from the Balkans (Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo and Macedonia) gathered together January 21 – 22, 2016 in Skopje, Macedonia, to participate in the inaugural ATTA Operators’ Base Camp Training. The first of its kind prior to an ATTA event, this training was designed specifically to prepare the adventure providers from the Balkan region for the first-in-Europe regional conference for adventure travel – AdventureNEXT 2016 Balkans.
The objectives of the two-day training program were to offer guidance on the business opportunities and overall importance of the upcoming event, to deepen the understanding of the partnership opportunities and to focus specific attention to the quality of the adventures that they will offer to the anticipated 300 delegates. It also aimed to strengthen cohesion in the region as a key factor for the successful progress in the local economic growth objective through adventure tourism.
ATTA’s Operators’ Base Camp Training was sparked by the ATTA’s Advisory Board Member Paul Easto and his colleague and cо-founder of Wilderness Scotland, Myles Farnbank, and fueled by Chris Doyle, ATTA’s Executive Director for Europe and Gergana Nikolova, ATTA Development Lead Europe and Director of AdventureNEXT Balkans.
In the agenda, Easto and Farnbank conveyed some of the key principles centered around quality, professionalism and best practices, deriving their guidance based on years of success and professional experience. Some of the main principles served the business-to-business market, the customer experience and the trips offered. The speakers also introduced the ATTA’s International Adventure Travel Guide Qualifications & Performance Standard and set some of the “gold” criteria for the tour guides and their successful cooperation with the operators to build exceptional experiences for the adventure tourist.
Another important topic for discussion was the necessity of the region to unite and collaborate. This is an important step to establish these standards in the region and work for further development of a joint image of the Balkans as a destination that has a lot to offer to the adventure tourism industry through the remarkable cultural diversity and rich history.
The training offered an opportunity for productive group and individual discussions and the participants were very engaged throughout the entire two days. Operators openly discussed the future opportunities for their countries as being part of one whole – the Balkan region. Through the past years of ATTA’s engagement in the region and this training, the vibe has changed and a very simple word emerged — we. This is a significant step for a region previously plagued with challenge. As a result of this gathering, new partnerships between partners from across the borders were formed.
Macedonia’s Agency for Promotion and Support of Tourism, led by Lela Krstevska (Director of the Agency), joined the Operators’ Base Camp and shared:
“I’m using this opportunity to say that AdventureNEXT Balkans is not just any conference for us. The three days of the event in May will be focused on building knowledge, to network and mingle between all delegates, which makes us sure it will be a sustainable event — sustainable through your businesses, through the further development of the services that you will be offering to the foreign and domestic tourists in Macedonia and the region. And also, to learn, even for myself, how important nature is for overall human development and fulfillment of joy and necessities.”
In addition to the public sector, private sector participants expressed their support. “Thank you very much for organizing the AdventureNext Base Camp,” shared Simeon Dimitrov who presented the POST-adventure on behalf of the company he represents, Odysseia In, Bulgaria. “If we follow these values in everything that we do, we will definitely become better human beings. For me the best part is that you are professionalists with practical experience on the topics that we discussed these two days. I have a lot of notes to share with my colleagues and I’m sure that they will appreciate it”.
Paul Easto and Myles Farnbank volunteered the days of preparation and implementation of the Operators’ Base Camp Training. The ATTA covered the travel and accommodation expenses and the Small Business Expansion Project in Macedonia supported the networking and lunch breaks.
Chris Doyle and Lela Krstevska also gave a press conference to announce the two-day training and share the progress on the ongoing preparations of AdventureNEXT Balkans, which resulted in over a dozen mentions in the local media.
AdventureNEXT Balkans will take place in Ohrid, Macedonia between May 10-12, 2016 and is expected to attract about 300 delegates, including 45 international outbound buyers and 20 journalists.