Culture of Belonging at ATTA

9 November 2021

Since the beginning of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) there has been a culture of welcome–anyone attending events, becoming members, and engaging with the community are embraced and enthusiastically brought into what many in the community call “the tribe.” (Internally we encourage the use of the word community instead of tribe out of respect for Indigenous peoples.) Community member’s passion for adventure, climate action and sustainability, environmental and wildlife protection, elimination of single-use plastics, focus on benefits to locals and local communities, protection of children, Indigenous and community-based tourism, and focus on women in leadership - all of these have, and do, touch the hearts and minds of those who engage with our team, our members, and those in the adventure travel industry.   

ATTA's internal team values reflect what drives our passion to grow and maintain our global network: They are:

  • COMMUNITY - We believe that through mindful collaboration our community has the power to make a difference.
  • GENUINE - With honesty, integrity, and a spirit of fun, we bring our genuine selves to our work.
  • EXPERTISE - We are innovative experts challenging the status quo by being catalysts for good.
  • RESPECT - We strive to understand and respect all perspectives and lived experiences. 

Given these values, it makes sense that in 2021 we grouped our initiatives into two main areas - Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and Sustainability and Climate Action.

Over the last year as a way to focus our energies and to take a deeper look at ourselves, our team, our community, and our business practices we formed an internal Diversity Council; reexamined our mission, values, and business solutions; hired a DEI consultant for an outside perspective and audit; surveyed team; and developed a three-year DEI plan. Ultimately, our efforts can be summarized to say that we want to create a Culture of Belonging. ATTA believes that adventure should be available to everyone. 

© ATTA/ Hassen Salum / Adventure Week Bogotá 2021

We also recognize that globally our community has different perspectives on what diversity, equity and inclusion means. It should. The history and culture of the 100 plus countries that are active in our community can never be homogeneous. Each place is different and the people within those cultures have different lived experiences. 

These differences were evident through responses to our Tour Operator Scholarship program for the Virtual Adventure Travel World Summit this past September. When asked to share efforts around DEI as part of their application, operators from countries such as Uganda, Mozambique, Colombia, Jordan, India, Peru, Ecuador, United States, and Japan all responded giving examples that indicated not only what was important to them culturally but where they are at in their DEI journey and what would be most impactful for their here and now. Examples include hiring more women guides, creating a team culture of respect with people of different religions or castes working together, Indigenous and local community education, accommodating and welcoming special need guests and LGBTQ+ travelers, and creating partnerships with historically excluded populations. 

Specific diversity examples from tour operator winners and finalists include:

  • "One of the biggest problems in our country is inequality. Especially between major cities and remote towns. We have seen the impact that tourism can make in reducing these major gaps, transforming the lives of many. That is why most of our community partnerships come from secluded areas inhabited by vulnerable and historically excluded populations such as ex-combatants, ex-gang members, Afro-Colombians, and diverse Indigenous groups. With our role in opportunity generation through tourism jobs, we have seen how many people have been able to improve life quality and leave war-based economies and the social decomposition that comes with them far behind. "– IMPULSE Travel
  • "As for our travelers, we've been lucky to host a wide swathe of people from all over the world. We are openly LGBTQ+-friendly, and have been making efforts to get more visitors of color, which we do not see coming to Tanzania as much. To help further that goal, we are doing a filming shoot with a Public Television travel show later this year that is hosted by a gay, Black American. Staffing-wise, we employ local men and women at almost a 50/50 basis. We would love to see more women graduating from tourism colleges and becoming safari guides (as they are very much few and far between), and are working with the community to see how we can help make that happen."–  Pamoja Safaris
  • "We are a female-owned responsible tourism company of highly passionate people (local female guides) from different tribes around the country, balanced in terms of gender and we also work with PWDs (persons with disabilities). We are dedicated to women empowerment and skills training development for these young women to create and promote local authentic adventure travel experiences like Culture-walking Tourism, Food Tourism, and adventure for a social impact. All our staff are respected fairly and are given equal access to opportunities, resources so they can fully contribute to our business success. We value transparency and make sure to include everyone in the team when sharing information that affects the company. In doing this, we give everyone a chance to have their say, to make them feel valued and included."  – Adventures with Locals
© ATTA / Fredrick Bye / Argentina Adventure Travel World Summit 2017

As the ATTA enacts our DEI strategy the perspective of the community will be important. A key upcoming action will be a survey to members to assess DEI needs and where support could be needed; why and how it’s important to members’ businesses; and to validate ideas we have about assistance with marketing, messaging, imagery, and possible internship programs. 

We will also make an effort through an assessment of our external communications so that future team, members, and community see and feel that they belong in our community. Instead of opening a door of welcome, we want to remove the door, the walls, and create a sense of belonging and openness.

As we continue on this journey we thought it was important and may be helpful to others to share our definitions of diversity, equity, and inclusion:

  • Diversity is the representation of a range of different backgrounds, perspectives, and lived experiences of people and facets of their identity including but not limited to gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, language, class, age, religion, physical or mental ability, sexual orientation, or physical appearance. 
  • Equity seeks to ensure fair access to opportunity and participation for everyone.
  • Inclusion is actively building a culture of respect, belonging, and opportunity for everyone, inviting the contribution and participation of underrepresented identities, and allowing diversity to thrive.   

Just recently, as part of an effort in solidarity with tourism associations, we signed the Travel Industry Association DEI Pledge. In summary, it means we commit to action around diversity, equity, and inclusion, to work to make the industry more welcoming and inclusive, and that we are following the guiding principles for this work and steps to embed it into our association structure. We are pleased to be alongside associations such as Tourism Cares, Wanderful, the Family Travel Association, the Africa Travel Association, the Costa Rican Accessible Tourism Network, and the Society of American Travel Writers. We encourage associations globally to consider signing the pledge and to commit to their own DEI work to encourage a global unification around this work.

We look forward to listening to the community and working together to continue creating a culture of belonging. 

Additional articles and webinars on the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion:


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