In Cancun, Mexico, today, ATTA President Stowell helped to raise the profile of adventure tourism at the [email protected] Event during the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Stowell presented an opening keynote at the GreenSolutions forum as a result of the direct invitation of Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism Gloria Guevara.
Secretary Guevara, who presented before Stowell, recently adopted favorable views about the potential for adventure tourism to empower local economies, protect wildlife, protect endangered human cultures and to have a soft footprint on the environment. Her increasingly enlightened views were influenced in part by the ATTA and Xola
Consulting’s persistent presence in assisting influencers
within Mexico’s tourism industry to consider the sector as a key to ensuring the long-term economic, social and environmental viability of tourism in the country.
In recent weeks, Secretary Guevara captured the interest of Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón, who today recognized the ATTA’s 2011 Adventure Travel World Summit slated for October 17-20 in San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico. Stowell was a late addition to the speaker roster. That said, his rapid ascension to the top speaker panel reflects a shifting paradigm for how Mexico views adventure tourism. In just a few short weeks, adventure tourism has evolved – in the minds of Mexico’s leaders – into a pivotal role in the fight against climate change.
President Calderón’s Speech:
Read the entire speech transcript in Spanish. ATTA is seeking a fully translated English version to soon share.
ATTA Raises Profile for Adventure Tourism at [email protected] Event During United Nations Climate Change Conference
The following is the transcript of Shannon Stowell’s speech…
“Thank you to President Felipe Calderón.
Governor Félix González
Secretary Gloria Guevara
Dear panelists and guests who have joined us
I was last in Cancun 24 years ago and have noticed that things have changed a bit! Clearly Cancun has become a major, high volume destination with all the attendant successes and challenges therein.
I was asked to be here today to briefly talk about a strategic sector
affecting destinations and businesses worldwide and that is adventure travel. It fits in this context because the whole focus of adventure travel is to empower local economies, protect wildlife, protect endangered human cultures and to have a soft footprint on the environment. Today we’ll just focus on environment and climate change.
We were also invited to speak because in 2011 Mexico will be hosting the ATTA’s eighth Adventure Travel World Summit in the state of Chiapas where 600 key influencers from around the globe will gather to move a responsible tourism agenda forward and build responsible businesses. Hosts such as Norway, Brazil and Quebec, Canada, among others have seen fit to host this important event in the past and now Mexico is putting its words to action by hosting the Adventure Travel World Summit in 2011.
Why does this growing segment matter to the discussions happening here and around the world concerning climate change and related issues such as habitat degradation, wildlife loss and continued poverty cycles? Let me illustrate this with 4 points:
- Adventure travel is on the front lines of climate change issues- This is borne out of need- it is daily and starkly apparent to adventure travel companies that if they lose their local environments, wildlife and cultures, that their businesses have no future even in the short term, much less the long term. Interestingly, because the majority of adventure travel businesses are SMEs and entrepreneurial, innovative ideas and products often emerge from this segment- this is where many trends start; There is no real status quo to protect, so businesses in this space quickly jump to incorporating initiatives such as composting, recycling, alternative energy sources, reclaiming land, etc. It is affecting how mass tourism has to look at its own development and an increasing number of non-adventure tourism companies are starting to add adventure product to their portfolios. Not only are the adventure travel companies on the front lines, they take customers there to see it first hand- where the polar bear is losing its habitat because of climate change. In Mexico, this might look like travelers learning about the effects of climate change on the Monarch butterflies.
- Adventure travel protects the important ‘lungs of the earth’. Different from waste reduction or carbon offsetting efforts, this is market-driven preservation. A key element of adventure travel is that it takes place in nature and often in rural locations. The adventure travel industry is among the most vocal and self-interested in protecting the world’s forests and jungles.If travelers stop coming to a region and delivering important income, people will extract every last bit of value from the land- either directly or by selling to non-local parties who care primarily about profit vs. the negative environmental impact. Michoacan butterflies, Indian tigers and Rwandan gorillas….. Tourists will ironically likely be some of the biggest champions to save these species.
- Adventure travel transforms consumers into active advocates – A night in the jungle, a week on the trail, a day in the mountains, an afternoon at an archaeological site- interacting closely with nature and culture has an impact on a traveler that is impossible to replicate any other way. Just yesterday I had my own transformative experience less than 30 minutes away from here at Rio Secreto- the beauty of the site tells the story of the importance of protection of water sources. And it will take transformation and disruption to change consumer behaviors that are so deeply ingrained and have an impact on carbon footprints. Adventure travel bridges the gap between the problem and the consumer. The more that people see, feel and interact the more they will understand what is happening to the world around them….they must take this back to their lives and businesses.
- Adventure travel requires less development (always carbon heavy) than traditional industry. Paved roads, large airports, expensive infrastructure are not always required by the adventure customer….. Adventure tourists often use what already exists. This is good for the economy and the environment. Less trees cut, less parking lots, more preservation.
Much of what we hear in the news today is negative in regards to the environment and climate change. And rightly so. But are there bright spots? Are there positive initiatives in the works? Yes. I’ll describe just a couple examples:
- The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (or GSTC), a UN-backed initiative that is working to standardize and promote sustainable tourism practices around the world is now going into action. This will provide tourism businesses a framework from which positive change to the environment will be possible;
- The Adventure Tourism Development Index (or ATDI) which ranks countries based on key touristic value pillars including sustainable and responsible development and measurement- putting importance on these issues instead of only classic measurements of tourist arrivals and revenues;
Lastly- examples of governmental and grass-roots initiatives are bubbling up all over the globe. An example local to Mexico would be the Ruta Aventura, which connects responsible adventure businesses throughout the whole chain of a tourist’s experience throughout Veracruz, Oaxaca and Chiapas.
We do face daunting challenges. Bill Gates was recently quoted as saying that “We need a miracle.” And the tourism industry must address the issues head on. Recently the astrophysicist Hubert Reeves from Canada gave some of the most sage advice that I think we can all take to heart as we move ahead in our mission- “I am not optimistic, nor am I pessimistic- I am determined”.”