As the 2017 Adventure Travel World Summit comes to a close, there are a few lingering questions left to answer: What do we do now? Where do we go from here? On the third and final day of this year’s event, delegates grappled with these questions – a reflection of the third pillar in the Summit’s theme “Unite. Protect. Lead.” – and left with inspiration, information, and ideas as they venture onward.
What exactly does it mean to be a leader in today’s connected, fast-paced, and constantly changing business environment? In her opening keynote presentation, “Courageous Leadership: Adventure’s Key to Success,” Sally McCoy touched on five leadership principles delegates can carry beyond the Summit: leave it better than you found it, consciously build a company culture, take risks, set goals but expect them to change, and know the capital ecosystem. “You must have a vision of where you want to go and you must commit to constant learning and constant execution,” McCoy said. “Facts and coercion don’t change people’s minds, but influence does.”
Flexibility is also an essential quality for successful leadership, including a willingness to learn about changes in the market. Research and recent trends have indicated traveler expectations and characteristics are evolving. During “Consumer Research Perspectives: Tomorrow’s Adventure Traveler,” presenters offered data and insights on a number of specific audience segments while delegates took detailed notes, eager to understand how best to design and present offerings that speak to their interests. “I encourage you to look at your product and marketing, and think about how you are addressing these personalities,” said Christina Beckmann, research director at ATTA.
Recent research conducted by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) comparing travelers from 2006 to 2016 showed today’s travelers are more interested in transformative experiences while risk and a sense of danger are of less importance. This information, combined with specific insights about Millennials and Baby Boomers from the session’s two other speakers, Charles Knowlton of Topdeck Travel and Don Mankin of Adventure Transformations, was a topic of interest that generated a lot of conversation among delegates long after the session ended.
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Now that Asia is an emerging market, there is an opportunity to tap into this new demographic as well. “Twenty years ago, there was no such thing as a Chinese traveler or tourist,” said Wilde Ng of 40urs Travel and a speaker in the session, “Harnessing the China Outbound Adventure Market.” But this highly educated, relatively young, and digitally connected demographic spends billions of dollars on travel each year, and speakers suggested how adventure travel professionals can reach and cater to them. For example, the Chinese need to be assured they are getting a good value for their money and using the app WeChat is absolutely essential.
In the coming years, adventure travel will spread to new corners of the globe, embrace people with new needs and desires, and encounter new challenges and opportunities. Whether developing business strategies or addressing the complicated issue of conservation – a recurring theme throughout the Summit – it’s been clearly established that the adventure travel industry is ready to embark on this journey together. Armed with specific suggestions and aspirational ideas collected in plenary and educational sessions held over the last few days, delegates have been empowered to pave a path of success into the future.
With this in mind, the ATTA invited delegates to complete their own transformative, immersive experiences. During a memorable closing ceremony, Bella Gaia reminded everyone that we are part of not only an awesome industry but also a larger community on this planet. It was a truly spectacular end to the 2017 Adventure Travel World Summit.