The Adventure Travel World Summit is a unique opportunity for tour operators — whether veteran or newly established — to seek out professional development, inspiration and mentorship from a group of fellow adventure travel professionals from around the world.
Each year, the ATTA seeks motivated operators, who show a demonstrated potential for having a positive impact on their local culture or ecological or historical resources, to apply for a scholarship. In 2013 and 2014 this has been made possible with the support from the law offices of Rome McGuigan, P.C. Three winners each year receive a ticket to the Summit, a year’s membership to the ATTA, airfare and, new this year, an opportunity to meet with a global delegation of buyers in our 2014 Marketplace and a professional adventure travel mentor.
We’re accepting scholarship applications now through May 21 for the 2014 ATWS in Ireland. In order to showcase the opportunities these scholarships can provide for emerging tour operators and to encourage new applications, we caught up with last year’s scholarship recipients to see how attending the Summit in Namibia changed their business.
Chris Pesenti is the founder and director of RED Sustainable Travel, specializing in academic expeditions and conservation adventures in Mexico. RED wanted to attend the 2013 ATWS to find good models of conservation and social development through tourism that they could take back to Mexico with them. In their scholarship application they indicated they specifically wanted to learn from Namibia, “a model of public-private partnership that is viewed around the world as a success for achieving both economic development and conservation goals through tourism.”
ATTA: What is your fondest memory from the ATWS you attended as a tour operator scholar?
Pesenti: That’s an easy question. My two-day adventure to Damaraland was an unforgettable experience. Little did I know as I climbed on board the truck that I would be joining the delegates from the Worldwide Indigenous Tourism Alliance. That put cultural exchange into a whole new experience. Chief Ian led songs with his drum as we journeyed and with Neville, from Western Oz, viewing anthropological history became like a competitive sport.
ATTA: What have been the biggest changes to your business since you attended ATWS in Namibia?
Pesenti: There is no question that our participation in ATTA and attending the ATWS has helped us to grow as a tour operator. Over 60% of our indirect sales are from ATTA members and ATWS was crucial to building those personal relationships. But the biggest impact from Namibia has been to open our eyes to the possibilities of sustainable tourism development. We are now identifying opportunities to tweak and replicate some of the models I saw in Namibia that combine habitat and species conservation with socio-economic development — all through tourism.
Ricardo Fahrig runs Zbulo, specializing in active discovery trips in Albania. In their scholarship application, Zbulo described Albania as a destination with a “below-average international reputation.” They were seeking help especially in marketing their destination and activities to customers who probably couldn’t find Albania on a map. While they were enjoying the excitement of being a new company, they wanted “input from experienced professionals” to understand the best ways to gain exposure for their outfit and their country.
ATTA: How was the experience of your first ATWS in Namibia last year?
Fahrig: There were some great moments we shared with the ATTA “tribe”. The dinner in the desert was spectacular. On a personal level, I am very grateful to everyone who reached out, helped to answer my questions and solve problems I encounter with my business.
ATTA: What did you learn from the Summit that has helped you in your business in the past year?
Fahrig: As a new member in a developing destination I received a lot of interest from the community. Since being in Namibia, I’ve been actively engaged in helping organize the AdventureWeek Balkans, which I hope will reinforce the image of Albania and the Western Balkans as attractive destinations, fairly unknown before. Meeting fellow operators from neighboring countries through the ATTA gave us the option to forge local partnerships which are fostering cross-border cooperation, knowledge transfers and other benefits.
Previous ATWS Scholarship Recipients