Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) Adventure Champions are the vanguards of the adventure travel industry having been members of ATTA and leaders in the community for a minimum of 15 years. They are true believers in the power of adventure travel and have made an impact on the direction of ATTA and on the industry as a whole. To honor their commitment to their ethos and lasting contribution to the adventure travel industry we are spotlighting Adventure Champions through a series of interviews.
Outbound Tour Operator
Headquarters: United States
ATTA Member since 2005
Introducing Wilderness Travel:
Wilderness Travel is a pioneering leader in the Adventure Travel industry, dedicated to offering its guests innovative and active travel experiences throughout the world. We have always taken great pride in being a “work in progress” – constantly searching out new adventures, and finding ways to improve established trips. Throughout our 45-year history, we have always remained true to a principle of concentrating on the quality, design, and uniqueness of the trips themselves, while at the same time understanding the importance of maintaining a commitment to operate these exotic adventures in an environmentally responsible, low impact manner.
Why have you stayed an ATTA member for 15+ years?
We have been a proud ATTA member since its founding and feel that the organization has been very much in sync with our values and understanding of the challenges facing our industry. And it goes without saying that it has simply been a lot of fun getting to know and spend time with the other members of this energetic and passionate community. Shannon and his team have done a magnificent job.
How has your company/destination changed over the last 15 years?
Aside from the increase in the number of our travelers, the overall size of our programs, and the need to invest in the new technologies to run our business, we suspect we are one of the companies that has changed the least and stuck to our long-held core beliefs. We have always understood the responsibility we have when people entrust their travel dreams to us. Only by delivering innovative itinerary design, quality leadership, and attending to every detail, can we earn our travelers’ loyalty and achieve the holy grail of our industry—repeat travelers.
What is the greatest force that drives you to work every day?
The team we have built, both in our home office and abroad. A significant portion of our Berkeley staff members are long-time WT veterans—when you intersperse all their knowledge and experience with our passionate and eager-to-learn newer personnel, it makes for a lively and inspiring team. Then there is the extended family of Trip Leaders and tour operators around the world. Many of them have worked with us for well over 30 years now, and more and more are even in their second generation.
And of course, there is the product itself. Hearing from returning guests on a regular basis that they had an unforgettable, life-changing adventure makes going to work a pleasure.
What gives you hope about the next generation of adventure travel leaders?
One can’t help but feel hope for how earnest and passionate the younger generation is in their desire to conserve the wildlife and environments we visit, to operate trips in a more carbon-free and sustainable manner, to provide authentic and immersive cultural experiences that treat local peoples with respect, and to ensure that these locals share in the tour’s economic benefit. I have no doubt that the adventure travel industry as a whole will continue to make great strides in addressing these important challenges.
What is your advice for young adventure travel companies?
That unfortunately there is no easy secret. I always say that quality will, in time, make itself known, and that reputation for high quality is what will sustain your company in the long run. To get there takes assembling a true team of talented people and an obsession with details. You need to pay that same attention to detail to every aspect of the company—from your advertising and written materials to providing a quality work environment and sense of partnership with your staff around the world. The rewards of this business come from enjoying your work and from developing deep, long-term friendships that span the globe.
What gets you excited about the future of adventure travel?
Adventure travel actively supports the preservation of the world’s remaining wilderness areas and the protection of the wildlife living within them. It also provides life changing experiences for our guests, who benefit from authentic immersive experiences that encourage friendship and understanding between people and cultures of the world. Furthermore, since it is a labor-intensive service industry, it provides much-needed employment and welcome income for people living in the remote corners of the globe. In our view, it remains the right product for today’s world and its benefits over traditional tourism will only continue to be more clear in time.
What else would you like to share?
Adventure Travel can be a potent force for good. However, there is also a dark side of the coin. Both climate change and over-tourism are real and serious problems—and our industry, while better than traditional tourism, is still part of the problem. We must continue to find ways to reduce our carbon footprint and constantly reevaluate our itineraries to ensure the communities, cultures, and ecosystems we are visiting are being preserved and empowered.