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Whether grappling with conservation issues, creating an inclusive company culture, or developing new business opportunities, one thing is glaringly obvious: No one can do it alone. Carrying over the camaraderie from their Argentinian adventures, during the first day of the Adventure Travel World Summit, delegates had several opportunities to think about and discuss partnerships and connection within the adventure travel trade industry, highlighting the first tenet of this year’s Summit theme — Unite. Protect. Lead.
Opening keynote presenter and polar explorer Robert Swan kicked off the day’s events with a riveting, humorous, and engaging story about his Antarctic adventures laced with a serious message. He has literally gone to the ends of the earth to raise awareness about climate change, but despite his esteemed explorations, Swan reminded delegates he is only a single person.
“Beneath our feet in Antarctica, there were 16,000 feet of solid ice. Ninety percent of all the world’s ice is in Antarctica. Seventy percent of all the world’s fresh water is in Antarctica. Ladies and gentlemen, mark my words, if we continue to melt this, we swim,” he said. In 2041, the treaty that protects Antarctica can be altered or eliminated altogether, marking a pivotal opportunity for everyone to stand together and fight climate change through education and a united commitment to sustainability and conservation. With this in mind, Swan closed his presentation with a message of challenge, hope, and opportunity for everyone attending the Summit: “We need to change. If you can do something — or dream you can — begin it now, for boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
Feeding on the enthusiasm of making a positive, community-focused change, Moe Carrick’s workshop, “Building a Culture of Inclusion in Adventure Travel,” challenged delegates to think critically about obstacles in developing an actively inclusive corporate climate. “We need to be honest about our own biases,” Carrick said, but being open, interested, and willing to address those complex issues has the opportunity to lead to a stronger, more united industry at large.
Connection with the planet was a prevailing theme throughout the day, and not one lost on industry professionals who care deeply about sustainability. In his closing plenary session, Daniel Fox suggested delegates stop, breathe, relax, and listen — a powerful message in an often chaotic world. “Wilderness is my studio,” he said. “It’s where I go to create, to photograph, to write. It is my inspiration. But most importantly it is where I go to connect.” Additionally, during a special film screening of “Chasing Coral,” delegates received a wake-up call about the degradation of coral reefs around the world.
One of the most popular opportunities uniting Summit delegates has always been the Marketplace, a productive and efficient networking feature connecting sellers and buyers. This year’s Marketplace was no exception, with 140 suppliers, 93 buyers, and many drop-in delegates participating in the event. The room was a hotspot of activity with delegates poring over itineraries and maps, discussing new and interesting business possibilities.
In addition to several distinguished presenters and popular features such as the Marketplace, this year’s event has an added immersive element, which encourages delegates to make a transformational journey over the course of the Summit. A traditional indigenous welcome marked the “departure” phase, and delegates were reminded to move “from indifference to activism, from disdain to love.” Throughout the rest of the event, delegates should make the time to participate in the “initiation” phase, which happens at the intersection of artistry and technology with the Treehugger and In the Eyes of the Animal experiences. And during the Summit’s closing session, delegates will be treated to a special closing presentation to mark the “return” portion of their journey.
The first day of Adventure Travel World Summit is always inspiring and invigorating, and this year was certainly one of the books. As delegates discussed strategy over lunch and in the halls, took notes during presentations, and even wiped a few tears away after being emotionally moved, everyone was reminded we are in this together. Welcoming delegates with a few brief words, ATTA CEO Shannon Stowell summed up what many in the industry already know: “This is such an exciting event — and it’s exciting because we’re coming together, doing amazing things.”