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Yesterday the 15th of September, ATTA hosted its first virtual AdventureELEVATE event, and with over 400 delegates from around the world, lively discussions about the state of the industry occurred from 8:30am PT and into the night. The verdict—we are hopeful, looking forward to borders opening, and working together to carefully develop travel solutions that meet the needs of all travelers today and tomorrow.
David Beurle appropriately opened the event with a keynote on Thriving in a Future World using future thinking as a way to deal with the uncertainty of our times. He emphasized that trends are being amplified and accelerated, however what becomes a new habit or new reality may depend on how long we have to adjust and conform to quarantines, border closures, and limitations on social gatherings.
One of the key trends highlighted was the reinvention of cities; however cities are not going away as some may speculate. We are in fact becoming more of an urban dwelling species. People will seek outdoor experiences to escape and will need skills and training to navigate wilderness explorations. Societal values will change and we have yet to see exactly how those will play out, but they are likely to center around trends related to the environment and the transformation of the food industry related to climate change. Beurle’s concluding advice: the travel industry should work with destinations to find the sweet spot of economic impact for the destination as well as for the local residents.
In the follow-up concurrent session Tourism: Wielding the Double-Edged Sword, Beurle; Mike Wilson, Northern Forest Center of Maine; and Kristen Dahl, Travel Oregon emphasized that local communities need to work with residents to discuss sustainable tourism methods including ideas such as controlling visitation numbers, focusing on building appropriate infrastructure ahead of visitors’ arrivals, and bringing in remote workers who can and will live in destinations like a local. Additional suggestions from Dahl focused on educating youth and locals, teaching travelers about cultural norms, and providing information about safety and best times to travel and experience the destination and activities.
Two additional concurrent sessions dove into the adventure travel consumer and a discussion on equity and inclusion. The session We Go: Creating Diverse and Inclusive Companies and Experiences led and moderated by Moe Carrick, Author and Consultant, and Sharon Conceicao, ATTA Community Lead for Latin America provided a perspective on the DEI needs of the adventure industry. Carrick shared the concept of being an insider and an outsider, highlighting the need for those with privilege to examine their world view and reality. During the discussion, ATTA Advisor and Legal Counselor, Chunnie Wright commented that, “The door to the outdoors is always open. It’s people that close those doors to others.” It was an incredibly thoughtful session discussing how much more work there is to be done. And as said in this quote from Albert Einstein that was shared during the event, “You can’t solve a problem with the same consciousness that created it.”
While in Trendspotting: The COVID-19 Traveler, led by Heather Kelly, ATTA Sr. Research Manager, and Alex Narracott, Founder & CEO of Much Better Adventures, delegates learned that the U.S. adventure travel segment is estimated to recover more quickly than the overall U.S. travel market. Domestic travel will prevail through 2020, with international travel expected to ramp up in the first half of 2021. The U.K. adventure travel market also has a positive future intent outlook, with last-minute bookings likely. Small groups are popular for upcoming travel from both the U.S. and U.K. markets, and travelers are looking for relaxing and safe destinations.
The afternoon finished with a virtual D.N.A. Disruptive Networking Adventure and three virtual Adventures. Several breakout groups allowed all to share their perspective on why adventure travel continues to be important to them to topics such as their favorite experience in Australia. The Terra Group arranged three diverse virtual adventures: a virtual Argentinian wine tasting, a Mayan adventure, and an exploration of Darwin’s voyage and endemic species around the world.
Throughout the day and afternoon delegates shared on the chat including feedback such as:
“This is my first time attending the ELEVATE conference and am looking forward to meeting with many of you and talking about the bright future of the industry.”
“We are so very excited to join you all and participate in what will surely be a wonderful event with so many great partners and organizations! Saludos!”
“Looking forward to this with so much enthusiasm and meeting friends online face to face… It has been a while and it will be a while ahead too…. So thank you ATTA for this opportunity to meet the community Globally… Looking forward to hearing, exchanging stories and beyond.”
“Great presentations and some really thought provoking points. Oh and I can listen while making spaghetti bolognaise. Fab way to attend a conference.”
“Never been more excited to sit at my computer”
AdventureELEVATE continues on 16 September; registration remains open for those who would like to attend. All delegates will receive recordings of the keynote and concurrent sessions.