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“Knowledge Exchange” Emerges as Strength of 2012 Adventure Travel World Summit

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“Thank you for organizing and hosting a superb Summit in Lucerne – I return learned, inspired & with purpose,” said Rob Moffett, Central Europe Sales Manager for Wilderness Safaris after the conclusion of the October 2012 Adventure Travel World Summit in Switzerland.

Popular travel bloggers address questions in plenary session
Photo by: Cameron L. Martindell / Off Yonder Photography

As proven by past Summit delegate surveys and collected anecdotal feedback, both structured and unstructured networking was again the highlight of this year’s event for many delegates. From the day long Global Marketplace meetings between inbound and outbound tour providers to the self-organized bicycle tour working group carried over from the 2011 Summit in Chiapas, Mexico, delegates continue to find support and a spirit of collaboration among adventure tourism professionals in their community.

Day 2 saw successful business-to-business meetings in the Global Marketplace with more than 40 countries represented, a new “Polar Regions” category, and twenty-three Swiss representatives sharing their expertise in via ferrata, rural tourism, mountaineering, E-biking, hut-to-hut trekking, kayaking, culinary tours and more. Buyers participated from a wide range of micro- to large-sized businesses, but like their partners on the ground, uniquely specialize in FIT and groups of travelers interested in these and other international opportunities.

A bustling Global Marketplace provides the perfect setting for B2B meetings among tour operators and destination representatives
Photo by: ATTA/Kristen Gill –

Jure Gaspersic, Founder and CEO of Adventure Slovenia, and a Supplier in the 2012 Global Marketplace, reiterated his sentiments from his first Summit: “We don’t attend any other shows other than the Summit because it’s a perfect combination of networking, making serious business, and vacation at the same time. This is what the Summit is all about. ATTA, get ready to see me every year.”

Following the Marketplace, the Summit continued with the underlying theme of open dialogue, with a mixture of interview-style plenary sessions, expert panelists exchanging insights and a strong emphasis on Q&A with delegates in nearly every session.  This communication style and casual atmosphere is what makes the Summit unique, according to delegates who attend year after year.

“The people who attend the Summit are real. I am open to meeting anyone here, and it feels reciprocal because everyone has a unique story and is open to having a good chat regardless of whether they are a fit for your business model,” says Owen Gaddis of travel agency SmartFlyer NYC.

Journalist Gigi Ragland meets with several ATWS delegates at the Media Exchange.
Photo by: Cameron L. Martindell / Off Yonder Photography

New this year was the Media Exchange, designed for media to meet with delegates in two-on-one interviews. These 12-minute meetings gave delegates the opportunity to practice their pitches, share fresh story ideas, locate experts from the field and organize future press trips. More than 35 editors, journalists, travel writers, bloggers and photographers participated in the early morning sessions aboard the M/S Europa docked outside of the KKL in Lucerne.

As Jonathan Dorn, Editor-in-Chief of Backpacker Magazine reported: “The format of the Media Exchange led to quick, focused introductions to two dozen destinations and operators—an efficient smorgasbord of travel ideas that gave me enough detail to determine relevance for my publications. Later in the conference, I sought out several of the delegates for more in-depth conversations that will likely lead to coverage for them.” Similarly, freelance writer and photographer Ellen Barone claimed, “the media exchange provided a very effective format for the facilitation of organized introductions, potential story ideas and awareness of adventure travel experiences. I personally connected with delegates I might not have engaged with otherwise.”

Delegates prepare to share business challenges and innovative solutions in the Tour Operator Peer-to-Peer Exchange.
Photo by: Alice Gifford / ATTA

Also new to the breakout session schedule was the “Tour Operator Peer-to-Peer Exchange” on Day 4. Located in the Terrace Hall with outdoor deck space and facilitated expertly by Summit Emcee Moe Carrick and partner Jim Morris, these repeated sessions were heavily attended by delegates seeking to tap into a breadth of knowledge on a variety of operational, marketing and business development topics – in a confidential setting.

Steve Markle, Marketing & Partnerships Director with O.A.R.S. says, “The peer-to-peer exchange is exactly the type of sharing among colleagues that keeps me coming back to the Summit every year. Learning about the successes and failures other small business leaders have encountered is worth the price of attendance alone.”

Bicycling-focused delegates organized an after hours gathering to discuss challenges unique to their category
Photo by: Julia Keilty / Gray & Co

The theme of in-depth peer exchange carried on with a cooperative gathering of cycling & mountain biking professionals representing more than 30 organizations at the Hotel Zum Weissen Kreuz to discuss their specific needs as an industry sector. Organic collaboration on relevant topics such as international liability concerns, tour guide retention, buyer/supplier relationships, storytelling and more resulted in the continuation of relationship-building among these peers. The setting was casual with glasses clinking; the discussions were effective, and delegates walked away with new insights and a collective agreement to continue these conversations year round.

Similar to this activity-specific gathering, the first World Indigenous Tourism Forum took place on Oct 12th following the Summit’s closing festivities. With an emphasis on responsible tourism development with respect to indigenous peoples around the world, round-table discussions and open networking sessions, the forum included discussions on the Paradox of Authenticity on Demand, social media as a tool to building an international community inspiring indigenous tourism and case-study examples of working in indigenous communities. Supported by the ATTA and organized by the newly-formed World Indigenous Tourism Alliance, it was regarded as a successful day by more than 55 attendees.

Peter Grubb and Founder of ROW Adventures who has attended eight of the past nine Summits says, “Surely as the moon rises and sets, each Summit has gotten better. As I grow my own company, I find it critical to get out of the trenches and into the sunlight of new ideas. The number of bright, ambitious, caring people who attend is inspirational. ATWS is a breeding ground for better business practices, learning, networking, deal making, friendship, camaraderie and rejuvenation.  It’s a community of high-spirited, like-minded (but not lemming-like), motivated and giving people.  The opportunities to learn and grow are boundless.”

He continues with a take-away lesson that rings true to many delegates: “If I implement just 5% of what I learn at each Summit, my own business will continue to prosper.”








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