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.
Country: United States
ATTA Member since 2005
Introducing Russell Walters, CEO
Tell us about Northern Outdoors: Northern Outdoors is a year-round adventure resort catering to snowmobilers in the winter, whitewater rafters in the summer, ATVing in the fall, and hiking all year long. Featuring a wide variety of trailside lodging, idyllic riverside campsites, and our very own Kennebec River Pub and Brewery we provide a comfortable setting for our guests to explore all that inland Maine has to offer.
Located close to the Appalachian Trail we offer a convenient and affordable location for a variety of adventurers ranging from hard-core hikers to first-time families to all come together and share in the beauty of the outdoors.
Why have you stayed an ATTA member for 15+ years?
I live and work in a rural region of Maine and despite being engaged with people and business every day, things can seem isolated.
The ATTA gives me access to a network of fellow practitioners, like-minded believers, it’s a place to learn about new trends, opportunities, and best practices around the globe to feel connected and informed about trends in our industry.
How has your company changed over the last 15 years?
I think it has become more relevant. Rural living used to seem remote and disjointed, now, for better or for worse, we are connected 24 / 7. Where once whitewater rafting and snowmobiling might have been considered fringe activities they are now mainstream appealing to a new demographic searching for “whole” experiences, lodging, food, adventure all in a convenient package.
What is your advice for young adventure travel companies?
This is hard – I often think in contrasts so my advice could be construed as confusing but is generally organized around a few key themes:
- If you’re going to try something be sure you can commit to it for at least three years because things take time to take hold.
- Learn to be nimble and don’t be afraid to try small experiments and measure their results.
- We oftentimes hear, “the customer comes first” and I disagree. I would advise the customer comes second, our staff comes first as they are the embodiment of our business and the public manifestation of everything we do.
- Get really good at measuring your progress and your cash flow–develop a few meaningful KPI’s and report out weekly. Pay attention to the numbers otherwise, you’re flying blind.
What is the greatest force that drives you to work every day?
I have watched rural Maine communities struggle as mills and manufacturing plants have shut down. It is really rewarding to see communities rebuilding around the concept of adventure and rural living all enabled by technology and communications – we have to always be on our toes as we know tourism can bring life to communities and it can have unwanted, unpleasant implications too.
What gets you excited about the future of adventure travel?
I am both excited and scared about the future of adventure travel. The pandemic has shown us just how precious clean air, clean water and the outdoors are to our existence. This has brought a whole new consumer to our sector, and hopefully, we will be able to find ways to serve this new consumer and those that follow them in such a way that they return to their homes with a better appreciation for the outdoors and healthy lifestyles. And with this influx of new consumers hopefully, we will be able to develop methods to share success and appreciation with local communities, landowners, and residents in meaningful ways to prevent conflict between visitors and the regions they visit.
I am also very excited about the future of electric travel and electric recreation. I know this is a very controversial subject, but as the owner of an adventure resort that caters to ATV’s and snowmobiles, I look forward to reducing our impact on the climate through innovative forms of electric-powered vehicles and all the innovative opportunities this might open up for the measurement and management of the lands we recreate on.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Thank you to the ATTA on so many levels. To Shannon and Doyle for having the courage and vision to see the opportunity and create the framework for this amazing global network. To all the myriad staff and associates that have contributed their time and energies to bring the vision to life over the years, to all of the members who so graciously shared, collaborated, and “networked their brains out” to create this very vibrant, hungry, and compassionate community. Without the ATTA the past 15-years might have been significantly less thought-provoking, more isolated, and certainly not as much fun.
Connect with Northern Outdoors on Social Media:
Facebook: @northernoutdoorsmaine Twitter: @MaineAdventures