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Campfire Chat: Dr. Douglas Layton

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The ATTA Campfire Chat series brings inspiration and vision from dynamic thought leaders whose areas of expertise inform and guide the adventure travel industry. Along with other efforts to regularly engage the global ATTA community, these virtual interviews hosted by ATTA executives are designed to provide a brief but thoughtful reflection on issues you are facing now that will affect tourism tomorrow.

Dr. Douglas Layton is an American author, businessman, and champion of human rights and religious freedom in the Middle East. He has worked extensively with refugees, founded several international humanitarian organizations, and lived and worked in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for more than 25 years.

Dr. Layton is the founder of Kurdistan’s first travel company – Explore Mesopotamia (formerly Kurdistan Iraq Tours USA). Explore Mesopotamia was the first incoming tour operator in the region and is the pioneer of all modern tourism in Kurdistan. When leisure travel ceased during the war with ISIS, Layton wrote the first-ever tour guide on Kurdistan.

Hosted by Adventure Travel Trade Association CEO, Shannon Stowell, in this Campfire Chat, Douglas Layton shares with us stories, knowledge, and expertise on “the Other Iraq” – a term Layton coined that later became a promotional campaign in Kurdistan. Join the conversation to learn:

  • How he started a travel company in Kurdistan in the late 1980s
  • The layered history that makes Kurdistan an off-the-radar but unique adventure travel destination, from the mark of ancient civilizations to the modern age
  • What Anthony Bourdain had to say about traveling in Kurdistan
  • How Dr. Layton navigated his business through six wars, the threat of ISIS, epidemics, and COVID-19 and emerged stronger than ever

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