From Professional Meetings to the Jungle: In-Person Connections Elevate Relationships

16 October 2018

An email gets the message across, online groups chats allow for banter, and video conferencing is almost like being in the same room. But there’s something about a face-to-face conversation that truly elevates a relationship. From formal, in-person meetings to casual conversations, Adventure Travel World Summit delegates encountered the importance of connection throughout the first full day of the annual event.

Delegates are conducting 2,506 meetings during the International Supplier Marketplace. © ATTA / Hassen Salum

One of the most popular features of the Summit is the signature International Supplier Marketplace, where inbound tour operators and accommodations hold business meetings with buyers and media. Sponsored by Switzerland and Ripcord/Redpoint, this year’s two-day event featured representatives from 47 countries participating in 2,506 meetings buzzing with action.

There’s a good reason why the Marketplace continues to attract so many people. “We realized this was the best way to connect with people. Our meetings have been fantastic, and we’ve developed great relationships,” said Natalia Curnic from GoAdventure. Matt Blench from EXO Adventure echoed this sentiment: “This is a great way to meet agents from around the globe that we wouldn’t normally be able to meet, but everyone is here in one room. We can catch up with existing contacts and meet new people all in one place.”

“The energy in the Marketplace was fantastic,” said Nikola Mladenovic, operations coordinator for the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA). “About 33 percent of the participants were taking part for the first time, and they immediately jumped into the opportunity to forge new relationships.”

On Thursday, a similar networking event called MediaConnect will give attendees an opportunity to meet one-on-one with the Summit’s official media delegates. Sponsored by Baja California Sur, MediaConnect gathers the nearly 50 international travel journalists, editors, and influencers in a single session, where they will be actively seeking story ideas. This is the ideal time for delegates to have those in-person conversations that can result in media mentions and meaningful, long-lasting, genuine relationships.

“The opportunity for media pros and delegates to have a one-on-one conversation not only saves the time that emailing back and forth would have taken in the virtual world, but allows for a personal connection that cuts straight to the heart of a potential story or collaboration,” said Tami Fairweather, the ATTA’s event media and adventure media membership manager. “Good connections like this can be solidified in a matter of minutes, and last for years to come.”

As valuable as MediaConnect is to tour operators and destination representatives, media delegates also love the opportunity to meet delegates face-to-face. “When you connect online, it's often very transactional. When you get to know someone personally, they become my contact for more than just news about their own business; they are my source for industry ideas ranging from game-changers in guiding to environmental issues in a destination,” said Jen Murphy, a Summit media delegate. “And, on the flip side, I become someone they can reach out to openly about advice on media strategies or an introduction to other journalists.”

Yossi Ghinsberg's connection with the Uchupiamonas started with a nearly disastrous jungle trek. © ATTA / Hassen Salum

This full day of in-person interactions came full circle during Yossi Ghinsberg’s keynote address, Connection, sponsored by Peru. “We’re all writing a book called ‘My Autobiography.’ And if you realize you’re writing that book, you better write yourself as the protagonist,” he said. “And if you are the protagonist of the story, you follow your heart.”

Ghinsberg followed his heart into the Bolivian Amazon, where he became lost in the jungle for 20 days. After many years — and many other less-harrowing adventures — he developed a deep connection with the people who saved him, the Indigenous community San José de Uchupiamonas. “Deep and uncharted, I found a tribe — the Uchupiamona. The Uchupiamonas, they embraced me. I am one of them,” he said.

As the adventure travel industry continues to grow and remote teams touch all corners of the globe, these in-person connections have the potential to become less frequent. And yet, they remain more important than ever as the community works to bridge cultures, create awareness, learn from one another, and elevate business opportunities around the world.