Sustainability Leadership: ATTA’s Putting Values into Action for Our Global Community

27 April 2021

Sustainability has always been core to the values of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) and its members. Since our founding, we have advocated for sustainable destination development through research, events, and educational offerings, while supporting local champions around the world to advance sustainable development in tourism. Looking ahead, we see the global pause in travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic opening up new opportunities for our community to share what it has learned over the last twenty years, and to commit to a return of travel with sustainable values leading the way.

Here’s how we plan to ensure sustainable adventure tourism is a priority going forward; we invite you to join us:

Meaningful collaborations with committed destinations

Earlier this year, the ATTA and Switzerland Tourism announced their collaboration to advance the development and promotion of sustainable tourism, as part of Switzerland’s Swisstainable Strategy. As ATTA’s exclusive Sustainability Partner, Switzerland and the ATTA will be working together on knowledge gathering and sharing, education, market activation, and awareness campaigns across ATTA trade and consumer channels. These projects will provide more tools and insights for the industry overall and will amplify tourism opportunities and sustainability success stories from Switzerland. Switzerland Tourism will also support industry event-related carbon emissions. Going forward, look for deeper engagements such as this to embed sustainable practices more deeply into destination planning and consumer mindsets.

Continuing commitment to tangible climate action

We know restoring our climate depends on dramatic transformations in travel. For example, in addition to reducing emissions, we must continue to support conventional carbon offsetting that encourages additional emissions reductions and forest conservation. The IPCC has made clear that new forms of carbon removal, including the development and scale up of technology for carbon removal, must be encouraged. The IPCC prescribed carbon removal on the order of 100 to 1000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide over the 21st century; the National Academies of Science and Medicine advises “removing ~10 Gt/yr CO2 globally by midcentury and ~20 Gt/yr CO2 globally by the century’s end.”

With respect to climate, the ATTA will continue to lead and innovate for travel, providing pathbreaking research and tools to enable our diverse business community to take action fast. Tomorrow’s Air Convene kicked us off in 2021, a first-of-its-kind event bringing travelers and businesses together on the topic of climate. Delivered in partnership with Atlas Obscura, Natural Habitat Adventures, and Impact Travel Alliance, the event drew nearly 1000 registrations from travelers and businesses. Going forward expect more events like this uniting consumers and the trade. We’re also conducting original climate focused research, exploring both consumer and trade perspectives in partnership with leading institutions and practitioners.

Count on us to continue innovating on the creative collective action vehicles for climate: Neutral Together, a carbon offsetting bulk purchase program, and Tomorrow’s Air, inspiring and educating individual travelers and companies about carbon removal through direct participation in cleaning carbon dioxide from the atmosphere via direct air capture with geologic storage.

Through our ever-growing audience of sustainable-minded travelers we’re also amplifying the ways in which we promote climate focused travel businesses. Businesses signing ATTA’s Climate Action Pledge, participating in Neutral Together or Tomorrow’s Air, are recognized here; watch this space for expanded recognition.

Emphasizing sustainability through standards and destination development research

The ATTA promotes sustainability not only through research and events, but also by integrating sustainability principles into industry-leading standards efforts.

  • With the release of the industry’s 2nd edition of the Adventure Travel Guide Standard, ATTA led volunteers from around the globe in adding three core responsibilities of an adventure travel guide: Sustainability, Safety, and Quality and Meaning. Bringing these previously important elements forward and integrating them into the Standard is a bold statement of what is required to responsibly deliver adventure travel experiences. (Register to attend our webinar regarding the Adventure Travel Guide Standard).
  • Since 2008, ATTA has spearheaded the Adventure Tourism Development Index (ATDI) alongside The George Washington University. The ATDI scores countries from around the world on a variety of factors including Sustainability. In the past thirteen years of its publication, ATDI findings have inspired and equipped destination planners around the world to review, improve, and strive to meet the highest standards. Switzerland has scored high not only as a country but continues to deliver high marks for its country’s sustainability efforts.
Through its education opportunities available online, in addition to virtual and in-person trainings, ATTA continues to help ensure that destinations and their tour operators incorporate sustainability standards and principles into their business practices and government policies.

What is ATTA’s goal?

As we’ve written before, at the ATTA “we believe our goal as an industry should be to deliver sustainable tourism, defined as net positive. This means basing tourism on profitable business models that provide economic rationale for protecting and enhancing the natural environment, wildlife, and our shared global cultural heritage. It also means being human-focused and in balance — oriented around the well-being of host communities, entrepreneurs and, of course, travelers themselves, in harmony with the environment. Our mission is to empower a global travel community to deliver experiences that protect natural and cultural capital while creating shared economic value.”

As partners in reinventing tourism coming through, and out of, the pandemic we invite you to share with us and our ATTA Ambassadors your ideas and concerns. Together, we will continue to create new pathways to support the expansion of sustainable adventure travel.

Join us as a community, professional, or business member. Have an idea to share or interested in hosting a climate-focused event in your market? Reach out to [email protected].

A verdant valley beckons in Sweden. © ATTA / Josiah Holwick 2019