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Prickly Challenges Ahead, While Optimism Prevails: Trend Report from ITB

4 Minute Read

Prickly. Possibility. Both words reflect the underpinnings of recurrent themes which emerged from the dozens of meetings with public and private sector entities the ATTA team held during 2016 ITB Berlin, and drawn from hundreds of connections and chance encounters made during AdventureConnect and other ITB exhibitor events held between 9-13 March.


Networking heats up at AdventureConnect at ITB Berlin

ATTA’s stand, located in the Adventure & Responsible Tourism hall, was bustling with activity from start to finish with the most exhibitors the ITB-Messe Berlin has yet experienced. Between the ATTA and our partners at the World Youth Student and Educational (WYSE) Travel Confederation, it seems that adventure travel and millennials are capturing the minds and imaginations of show goers.


Chris Doyle on stage featuring some of ATTA’s AdventureConnect partners

On Thursday afternoon, the ATTA hosted its annual ITB event, AdventureConnect: Disruptive Networking Adventure (DNA) at co-sponsor Globetrotter’s stand, building upon the forthcoming 19-22 September 2016 Adventure Travel World Summit theme, “Go Big. Be Bold.” With more than 170 attendees, the well-attended gathering was delivered in response to prior years’ increased demand for quality networking time for the growing adventure tourism community during ITB.

During the event, guests sipped delicious Chilean wine provided by the event sponsor, Chile, while discovering new connections to expand their businesses, share best practices, exchange ideas, and explore innovative paths to responsible tourism development. At the end, prizes were given out by ATTA gear members and partners: ExOfficio, Platypus, PackTowl, SealLine, Eagle Creek and Globetrotter.

“Co-op marketing between public and private sectors was a key topic of interest and more destinations are more willing to adopt it,”

Several intriguing, anecdotal trends emerged during the DNA and during ATTA’s heavy schedule of meetings throughout ITB. “Co-op marketing between public and private sectors was a key topic of interest and more destinations are more willing to adopt it,” says ATTA’s Manal Kelig. “Interest in the ‘Adventure Traveller’ and his/her needs and interests…was a very popular topic in different networking events I attended.”

Here’s just a sampling of other recurrent themes, loosely categorized as “prickly” and “possibility”:

Prickly (not all negative, however topics requiring all-industry engagement):

  • Without prompting, security and safety were top-of-mind more than usual for both public and private sector representatives, especially following the last 12 months of terror, natural disasters, refugee crisis, etc., dominating headlines;
  • Disruptions throughout the entire supply chain were discussed ad nauseum: along with the arrival of a new group of tech companies introducing new, real-time inventory platforms – a trend in and of itself – ATTA Members regularly requested recommendations for guidance on new technological developments and strategic help with booking platform integration;
  • Education and training in high demand throughout the adventure tourism sector, yet resources to fund this necessary, universal need continues to be difficult to find;
  • Accommodations without distinguishing characteristics and which fail to offer serious value seem to recognize the “end is near”: increasingly, these accommodations are seeking to diversify by offering supplementary activities to traveler experiences trips in their region – they increasingly understand that travelers are not booking to have a hotel experience, but to experience activity, culture and nature, and are increasingly open to partnerships with expert activity providers and tour operators; and
  • IPK International shared glimpse of its latest report, ‘ Forecasting Global & European Tourism’. Some of the results were very negative concerning the MENA region and actually contradicted other reports on the region conducted by U.S.-based marketing firms. Few destinations in the MENA region have yet expressed discontent on these results.
  • Gender Equality was a big topic on several sessions during ITB (70% jobs in the tourism industry are held by women, only 17% of women hold leading or decision making roles) – Taleb Rifai during the CSR Session ‘Celebrating Her’ – Global Awards For Empowered Women In Tourism

ITB Attendee and AdventureConnect participant wins a Eagle Creek packing cube

Possibility (promising opportunities leading to the continued evolution of adventure tourism):

  • Food tourism is more prominent than ever in the product design of adventure tourism itineraries (e.g. activity and culinary aspect) – opportunities endless;
  • Emergence of “Routes Tourism” continues to trend upward, with more destinations exploring ways in which they can feature various themed, signature routes (e.g., Wild Atlantic Way, Silk Road Tea Route, Via Dinarica, Via Francigena, etc.)
  • More and more industry representatives acknowledging travelers’ demand for active and experiential travel versus group travel with service providers are eager to seize this trend;
  • Destinations and private companies, which have tended to lean toward traditional means of promotion, are seeking “alternative” methods and channels; these same entities indicate increasing interest in specialized digital campaigns, events, micro-networking events, etc.; and,
  • Penchant for better understanding of travelers’ profiles and source market tendencies have never been stronger: new companies have joined UNWTO as affiliate members, such as TripAdvisor…and UNWTO is using their content to gain access to a new type of market intelligence, all while inbound suppliers are seeking guidance and resources on how to better understand cultural differences between travelers from different source markets.
  • Two ATTA members won awards, one was Paty Ruiz Corzo with Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda who won the National Geographic World Legacy Award for Conserving the Natural World.  And Angelina Martinez representing Sierra Norte Expediciones, Pueblos Mancomunados who won the #‎ToDoAward2016‬ for socially responsible tourism.


Another industry trend with staying power during the 2016 ITB is how destinations and private companies respond to and recover from crisis situations. With this in mind, Doyle also spoke on the 11th of March as part of the Nepal Recovery Panel on ATTA’s continuing efforts to help rebuild Nepal after the devastating earthquake last year.

For industry representatives interested in playing a more active role in future ITB-Berlin events, please contact [email protected] for access to special exhibition packages.

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