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Spotlight on Adventure Champions: REI Co-op Experiences

4 Minute Read

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.

REI Co-op Experiences

Gear and Apparel Company / Tour Operator

Headquarters: United States

ATTA Member since 2005

Introducing Mark Seidl, DVP of REI Co-op Experiences, and Justin Wood, Director of Product Development & National Sales

Tell us about REI Co-op Experiences: 

Mark: We believe that it is in the wild, untamed, and natural places that we find our best selves, so our purpose is to awaken a lifelong love of the outdoors for all. Since 1938, we have been your local outdoor co-op, working to help you experience the transformational power of nature. We bring you top-quality gear and apparel, expert advice, rental equipment, inspiring stories of life outside, and outdoor experiences to enjoy alone or share with your friends and family. At REI Co-op, we believe a life outdoors is a life well-lived!

Why have you stayed an ATTA member for 15+ years?

Justin: ATTA has been an instrumental partner in some of REI’s most significant giving efforts, supporting wildfire-impacted communities in Australia, outfitting game guards in Namibia, and much more. The ATTA’s support and collaboration has helped REI connect to so many who share our vision and passion for a more inclusive, sustainable world through their events and communication channels, and the educational courses online have been resources we’ve directed partners to as well. The ecosystem of support, knowledge, and opportunity that the ATTA has assembled is of great benefit to industry members worldwide.

The ATTA’s focus and leadership on sustainable tourism and diverse representation in the adventure travel industry is deeply appreciated. The ATTA understands how the industry can come together as a force for good, and uses its influence to facilitate that outcome. It is a joy and an inspiration to play any part in it, large or small.

How has your company changed over the last 15 years?

Mark: The REI Co-op has a big goal to build an outdoor community of 50 million members. In service of this goal, the Co-op is introducing more exciting ways to help people get outdoors including a focus on adventure travel trips across the United States, more guided day trips to locally iconic places, outdoor classes to develop your skills, and expanded access to gear rentals. Building on the popularity of REI’s guided trips and rentals at the Arizona Adventure Center and Bellevue, WA Boathouses, in early 2022 the Co-op introduced a winter season snowshoe rentals outpost at Snoqualmie Pass, WA and in June of 2022, opened a new Adventure Center in the Richmond Marina in California’s Bay Area. Each of these experience centers are designed to embrace the unique outdoor opportunities in the local region and offer gear, access, and expertise to help more people to enjoy time outside.

What is the greatest force that drives you to work every day?

Mark: A desire to transform lives through the power of active travel and adventure. In this business, we may not save lives, but we do save souls by helping people discovery the best version of themselves.

What gives you hope about the next generation of adventure travel leaders?

Mark: The next generation will face new challenges that are much greater than the past. Covid will not be the last epidemic, climate will force travel to adapt and potentially migrate, social tensions make it difficult to create an environment where everyone feels they belong and are welcome. This on top of a hyper-interdependent global economy that creates greater opportunity at the cost of more exposure to disruption.

The next generation of leaders is growing up with these dynamics and what is novel for us will be expected in future leaders. While these are difficult times to be working in the adventure travel space, there is no better time to cultivate the qualities of leadership required to lead in this future. I am beyond confident that those being shaped by today’s events will be conditioned to take on even greater challenges that these leaders will face.

What is your advice for young adventure travel companies?

Mark: Today’s consumer wants to do business with brands that agree with their values. Trying to appeal and serve all is the quickest way to serve none. The companies that will be hyper-successful in the future will build their business on a brand that is way more than safe and enjoyable active adventure. Build your business with a clear, compelling, and enduring why and do not stray from who you are, what you stand for and what you stand against – and live up to it in all acts and deeds.

What gets you excited about the future of adventure travel?

Mark: What excites me about the future is what excited me about the past – humans have an innate calling to explore beyond their backyard fence. No matter how many places a person has experienced, this is an appetite that can’t be satisfied once awake. Inspiring people to follow their inner compass and encouraging people to step beyond their comfort level is always exciting. When this happens, people reset their expectations of themselves, they gain a greater appreciation for otherness and become more aware of what really matters and why it is so important to care and be stewards vs. just consumers of the places we visit.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Mark: This is a business that is not a job but a calling. It is an incredible privilege to participate and contribute our small part to an industry that produces goods that are truly good and services that truly serve. All of us have a profound obligation to ensure that every trip is safe, responsible, and life-changing so that the places we love remain and the next generation of leaders will be inspired to when they are called on to carry the industry forward toward a brighter future sky.

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