A quick search on “Millennials and travel” produces hundreds of hits about this younger generation’s travel preferences and behaviors. While their specific demographic details as consumers are certainly triggering changes in the adventure travel industry, there is another aspect of the rising Millennial generation receiving less attention: the fact they are also the new entrepreneurs, leaders, and employees who will influence how the travel industry addresses the challenges of its future.
This year the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) launched a strategic initiative focused on youth leadership. What is behind the idea of promoting young leaders? It all started with the realization that the adventure travel industry needs to proactively engage and attract young people to its community. This is important for three main reasons.
First, the industry needs fresh talent more in tune with cutting-edge technology and new social dynamics, and can enhance the sector’s preparedness to work with new generations of travelers. Second, the ATTA and adventure travel community need to attract young entrepreneurs and innovators who will be excited to bring their entrepreneurial thinking and intelligence to the field, ultimately creating the next generation of adventure travel companies. The fast-changing market realities require ongoing innovation and new ways of thinking that come naturally to this generation. In fact, these young entrepreneurs are behind the launch of some of the biggest disruptors in the travel industry from the last decade, such as Airbnb and Uber.
Finally, to ensure the industry remains relevant and vibrant, the ATTA needs to nurture and grow its next generation of industry pioneers and leaders who will carry and promote the values of adventure travel into the future. “The ATTA has been a force for good in adventure travel for many years now and, as such, it has both the responsibility and desire to continue to push the industry forward,” said Nikola Mladenovic, the ATTA’s event operations coordinator and one of the team’s young leaders. “Attracting courageous, innovative, and bright minds to our industry is one of the ways in which the ATTA can ensure the adventure travel industry continues to develop in the best possible way in the years to come.”
To respond to these realities and enter into the rigorous competition for young talent with many other ambitious sectors, the young leaders initiative is aligned with the ATTA’s key activities, putting an emphasis on young leaders and taking the lead in proactively attracting and promoting young leaders through its programs. The initiative’s overarching goal is to become a platform drawing young talent, creativity, and entrepreneurship to the adventure travel industry. To make this happen, the ATTA formulated three objectives:
- To raise the industry’s awareness on the importance of engaging the next generation of industry leaders and entrepreneurs;
- To demonstrate the value young people can bring to the present and future of the industry;
- To attract young talent to the sector (and nurture the future leaders of the travel industry).
Though efforts in this area started just a few months ago, specific ideas are bringing the initiative to life. By the end of 2018, the ATTA hopes to launch some pilot activities promoting young leadership in the industry.
Celebrating the Entrepreneurial Mindset of Young Leaders at Adventure Travel World Summit 2018 and Other ATTA Events
As noted, young companies with new business models have led some of the industry’s biggest changes in recent years. Most of them have been founded and are managed by Millennials. Millennials are also behind several creative non-profit initiatives tackling challenges like ocean pollution (see for example The Ocean Cleanup and 4Ocean).
The ATTA thinks this is worth celebrating. Therefore, at this year’s Adventure Travel World Summit, we are launching special sessions designed to showcase and celebrate the innovative potential of this young generation. Representatives from Booking Booster, the biggest accelerator for new companies in the travel industry, and the powerful Norwegian innovation cluster NCE Media will share how they attract Millennial entrepreneurs and support ventures. Summit delegates will also have the chance to meet young startup founders and learn about their creative adventure travel ideas. Though we’re starting this conversation at ATWS, we hope to continue celebrating young leaders at future events.
The ATTA team working directly with the young leaders initiative also wants to explore special event components devoted to young audiences at future Summit events with the hope delegates from younger generations will attend and help inject even more creativity into ATTA events.
Promoting Adventure Travel as an Exciting Arena for Professional Growth
The ATTA is not alone in recognizing the potential and important professional role of Millennials. Many other industries are proactively recruiting them already. At the same time, adventure travel isn’t a common field in which young people think to pursue a career. “A career in adventure travel is usually not a top-of-mind choice for recent university graduates of non-tourism related fields looking to make a good living in a competitive environment. Most of them think about adventure travel only when it is time to go on a vacation,” Mladenovic said. “However, there is a space and a need for programmers, engineers, psychologists, architects, business professionals, and many more in adventure travel as well. Thus, the ATTA needs to involve more diverse students ‘behind the scenes’ so they can see for themselves the full potential for growth that the adventure travel industry offers today.”
To address this, the ATTA will launch a new program within the next three months that includes gathering stories from young professionals already working in this industry and sharing them with young audiences. The stories offer an authentic voice of young adventure community members expressing their perspectives of being professionals within this vibrant sector. Ultimately, we hope to reach more young people and encourage them to pursue adventure travel as a potential career.
“Our generation has no idea how many different benefits a job in this industry can bring to a person,” said Tereza Georgieva, a partner manager for the ATTA and one of the team’s young leaders. “The young leaders are out there and ready to jump in a field that would open up a whole new world to them. But they just don’t know the many adventure experiences they are having each weekend with friends or family are actually something they might enjoy as part of a job.”
Connecting with Universities and Students
Another approach ATTA’s team will explore is strengthening its relationship with universities — a fertile ground for young people currently preparing themselves for the future’s leadership challenges. By partnering with universities, the ATTA can connect and build relationships with students at a time when they are exploring different opportunities to continue growing after graduation. “Only a person working in the adventure travel industry understands how much this changed his/her mindset and way of looking at life,” Georgieva said. “Working in this field gives you diversity — diversity of exploring and working with people from different cultures, places, and work backgrounds — and, thus, brings up amazing and inspiring ideas. Working in adventure travel means having zero limitations on the many opportunities to enable people to explore and appreciate each inch of our planet by creating a community of responsible enthusiasts.”
This enthusiasm is echoed by the ATTA’s other young leaders. “I love working with adventure travel because I feel I can help to change the world in two important directions. First, from the people and environmental perspective, promoting responsible tourism that helps to preserve lands and empower traditional communities. Second, we connect tourists with different cultural experiences, opening their minds to diversity and helping them understand the world in a better and equal way,” said Diego Arelano, one of the ATTA’s partner managers.
“What I find the most rewarding as a young person working in adventure travel is helping destinations and businesses around the world develop sustainably,” said Sarb Gill, the ATTA’s social media manager and research analyst. “This field offers an opportunity for a colorful career that is entrenched globally. In a nutshell, working in adventure travel takes you places and you get to make a meaningful impact — two things I hold dear to my heart.”
As the ATTA continues to work on this exciting initiative to engage and nurture the future leaders of adventure travel, we will share our ideas and efforts in this direction. We also want to spread the initiative’s goals throughout the adventure travel community and see more partner organizations, companies, and individuals make an effort to attract young talent. We would love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and experiences with attracting young leaders to adventure travel.
This article is part of an Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) initiative addressing important topics identified as critical to the protection and continued advancement of the adventure travel industry. Each initiative — eliminating plastics, women in leadership, climate action, and young leaders — has a dedicated team focused on building awareness of, advancing educational opportunities in, and creating a lasting impact on each of these areas within the adventure travel industry. We invite you to visit the ATTA’s initiatives page where you can access reports, read the latest news, participate in active projects, and join conversations within the membership community.