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“I recognize you. You were in Chile a few years ago, right?” It’s not yet 7:00 a.m. and already my fellow Day of Adventure travelers are comparing notes and sharing memories from Adventure Travel World Summit events from past years. Before too long, we discover that every one of them – five tour operators from four countries – has attended two other Summits, crossing paths with each other not only in Chile but also Ireland and Alaska.
This is a common theme across Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) events: Tour operators, destination representatives, media, and other trade professionals travel from around the world to learn, network, develop partnerships, and become inspired – but also reconnect with colleagues and friends they’ve made over the years, bonding over a shared passion and profession. And for those who are attending for the very first time, there is ample opportunity to meet and connect with others who encounter the same challenges, questions, and opportunities unique to the adventure travel industry.
The six of us pile into two 4×4 vehicles bound for El Rey National Park, a 50,000-hectare natural area that welcomes only 900 visitors a year. Our guide, Federico Norte, owner of Norte Trekking Expeditions, is one of three operators offering trips to this largely undeveloped and pristine national park 200 kilometers (50 kilometers on rough gravel road) west of Salta.
However, he is far from the only operator who has generously offered to share his local expertise and insight on the region’s adventure travel activities during the Day of Adventure. All told, hundreds of delegates participated in 37 Day of Adventure excursions ranging from wine tasting and cycling trips to a motorcycle tour and horseback riding. While we trek through the dense forest, splash across rivers, and eat a picnic lunch on the beach, talk turns to common topics in the industry regardless of geographical destination such as the delicate balance of maximizing profits while continuing to offer meaningful trips, how to decide when and how to expand operations, and customizing trips to address industry trends.
Over the course of the Summit, these conversations will resurface in keynote presentations and educational sessions, during Marketplace meetings and cocktail receptions. The theme at this year’s event – Unite. Protect. Lead. – is meant to inspire those conversations, arm delegates with information and ideas, and empower them to tackle the complex issues currently facing the industry in responsible and innovative ways. In addition to catching up with friends and colleagues, these tangible takeaways and valuable networking opportunities during Pre-Summit Adventures, Day of Adventure excursions, and the Summit itself are among the reasons why many people return every year.
This year, the ATTA is thrilled to unveil yet another aspect at this year’s Summit. In this industry, we talk extensively about transformative experiences. This year delegates are invited to participate in a cutting-edge, immersive experience designed to transform their own perspectives of adventure travel and the world at large. On Tuesday, delegates will be called to adventure as they embark on a journey of self-discovery and transformation during a special welcoming ceremony. Sign up for a time to embrace the creative visualization opportunities, Treehugger and In the Eyes of the Animal, and be open to looking at the world in a new way. Development and success in the adventure travel industry often hinges on interaction and connectivity. With that in mind, the ATTA is taking the Summit to a new level with this immersive experience that will come up in conversations for years to come.
As we cross our final river and climb our last embankment, my Day of Adventure group is chatting and laughing like everyone has known each for years. In a way, they have. It’s one of the things that makes the Adventure Travel World Summit so special – and we have no doubt this year’s event will be another one to remember.