© ATTA / Rupert Shanks - AdventureELEVATE Europe 2024

Embracing Sustainability and Community: Three Key Trends From AdventureELEVATE Europe

4 June 2024

Over three days in May, more than 200 delegates from 39 countries gathered in the picturesque, alpine town of Kitzbühel, Austria, to attend the very first AdventureELEVATE Europe. This event brought together leaders and innovators from the adventure travel community to explore the region, encourage collaboration, and share insights. Here are three key trends from the event.

Building Strong Communities

Community strength is vital to sustainable adventure travel and is pivotal in driving the industry forward. The event underscored the role of community in promoting sustainable adventure travel in Europe. Patricio Hetfleisch, the Head of Marketing and Communications at Tirol Tourist Board, shared that, “92% of all businesses in Tirol are owned by families.” This statistic emphasizes the strong community fabric in the region.

In Europe, robust community foundations ensure the adventure travel sector can grow while simultaneously preserving the natural and cultural assets that make destinations unique. During a panel discussion, Katrin Erben, Sustainability Expert from Austria Tourism, reiterated the importance of community and how sustainability and travel can thrive when key players and partners come together. “When it comes to sustainability, it’s all about collaboration and collective action,” Erben said. In his closing keynote, Jean-Claude Razel, founder of ALAYA, introduced the concept of SLOWCAL, which stands for Slow, Low Impact, and Local Tourism, which can be used to advocate for a tourism model that prioritizes local community engagement while having minimal environmental impact.

© ATTA / Rupert Shanks - AdventureELEVATE Europe 2024

Sustainable by Default 

At the sustainability accelerator, led by Milena Nikolova, co-founder of BehaviorSMART™, a packed room of attendees from Portugal, Sweden, Italy and beyond, gathered to discuss the multifaceted nature of sustainability, from environmental conservation to transparency and innovation. Conservation evolved into the importance of collaboration on influencing human behavior and promoting more sustainable travel experiences. Hetfleisch shared that Tirol provides economic sustainability to the region by preventing tourism leakage because “83% of every euro spent stays in the region in Tirol.” Globally, adventure travel consistently generates more economic benefit for local communities than mass tourism – on average, 75% of every dollar spent according to the 2024 ATTA Industry Snapshot Report.

Striving for perfection can sometimes conflict with the principles of sustainability. During accelerators and keynote sessions, delegates were reminded it is not about aiming for perfection when it comes to sustainability, rather it is a journey and we take one step at a time. Gabi Stowell, Vice President of Regional Development at ATTA, advised delegates, “It can often be intimidating if you don’t know where to start, but start somewhere.”

In his keynote, “Sustainable Growth in Tourism: A New Era of Responsibility,” Philippe Richard shared his sustainability journey with full transparency as Co-Owner & Co-Founder of Easia Travel & KooB.TecH, highlighting the collective importance of being honest and open about our efforts toward sustainability and collaborating on solutions.

© ATTA / Rupert Shanks - AdventureELEVATE Europe 2024

Redefine Success

AdventureELEVATE Europe encouraged participants to re-imagine what success looks like. Maria Elisabeth Birbamer, Wholesale Sales Executive at Frauenschuh, inspired attendees to "prioritize long-term values over short-term economic success." Philippe Richard echoed this sentiment in his keynote, emphasizing the need to, "think about what it really means to be successful and how to grow.”

Traditional metrics of success, often focused on short-term economic gains, are no longer sufficient in an era where sustainability, ethical practices, and community impact are increasingly valued and necessary for long-term viability. “The tourism of tomorrow will be sustainable or not at all,” said Richard.

In his closing keynote, Jean Claude-Razel, challenged the audience to think about the concept of efficiency versus robustness. Razel believes that within the adventure travel industry we should strive to be more robust rather than channel efficiency. “If we become too efficient, we become too vulnerable,” he reminded the audience.

© ATTA / Rupert Shanks - AdventureELEVATE Europe 2024

The inaugural AdventureELEVATE Europe took place on the heels of the first AdventureELEVATE Latin America and last year’s global debut of AdventureELEVATE Near East. The decision to expand the event was a direct result of a growing demand for compact, regional events in key adventure travel destinations around the world. 

For many participants, including Saveria Tilden of AdventurUs Women, the first AdventureELEVATE in the region came at a crucial time. "Elevate Europe came at a pivotal point in my business where I am looking to grow and expand my offerings," Tilden said, underscoring the successful regionalization of the event in inspiring and guiding future growth for adventure travel businesses.