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The Significance of Standing Together: ATWS 2016

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Let’s begin with a reflection. “I sometimes find myself stuck in the problems and obstacles that are part of any travel business, but each year our participation at the Summit serves as a revitalizing reminder of why we do what we do. We leave energized, inspired and motivated to make a difference through adventure travel, and armed with new contacts and better knowledge to leave an even greater mark.” Fernando Diez, Quasar Expeditions

Fernando joined the ATTA and 800 delegates from over 60 countries at the 13th annual Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) in Anchorage, Alaska this September. One plenary, Leaders with Heart, focused on three courageous individuals who shared their efforts to make a difference in communities around the globe. One of the speakers, Princess Lucaj from Alaska, spoke on the critical topic of climate change as well as protection of lands. On climate she said, “If your child has a temperature you work to bring it down.” She also emphasized the significance of standing together when speaking about the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline project near Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.


Princess Lucaj, Leaders with Heart keynote speaker. Photo © ATTA / Hassen Salum

Another Leaders with Heart speaker, Robert Ghukasyan advised, “Go to the far places and find out how you can help. You will change the world.” He spoke from his experience transforming a small Armenian community from a place where no one claimed as home to one where community members were proud and actively working to sustain a long term future.

Plenaries punctuated each day and concurrent sessions dove into more tactical learning. Speakers focused on issues of trust and grit with advice resonating from keynote speaker Shannon Hoffman Polson, “Leaders know to listen first and know when to turn down the noise.” Earlier that day opening speaker David Horsager hammered home his eight pillars with “Clarity” as his number one. He advised to ask again and again “How are we going to do that?” until a specific and actionable answer is agreed.

Photo © ATTA / Juno Kim

Delegates from over 60 countries met with the 50 international adventure travel media at MediaConnect. Photo © ATTA / Juno Kim

With over 2,000 meetings scheduled during the course of the event, the resulting partnerships and connections happening were significant and impactful. Attending media, Jill Robinson said As a freelance writer, I have to judge the fiscal value of every trip I take, whether on assignment, for relationship building, or finding ideas to pitch to my editors. Conferences that narrow the wide definition of “travel” to something that fits in my wheelhouse have become increasingly more valuable than those that don’t. In my case, meeting outfitters, tour operators and PR representatives that are within the adventure travel business is far more helpful than meeting those who may pitch me a destination’s value based on its wealth of outlet shopping (which I don’t cover). ATTA conferences have hit that high-value mark every time for me.”

Prior to the start of ATWS, delegates participated in adventures across Alaska, including flights on float planes, kayaking to view glaciers and bears, camping and fat tire biking in National Parks, salmon and halibut fishing, whale watching and savoring the wild and delicious cuisine of Alaska. During these adventures bonds were created and adventures experienced, appreciated and remembered.

A new delegate to ATWS, Kim Steiger of Travel Leaders, commented “After 31 years as a CTC, I feel like I have finally made the connection I have been looking for! An organization that combines their passion for travel, the environment and cultures…a perfect fit for me! I have made numerous contacts and sold new products immediately upon my return. This group has inspired me in both personal and professional ways and I look forward to attending future functions!”

Photo © ATTA / Hassen Salum

Moe Carrick inspires delegates with her keynote “Trailhead Fever: How to Be Big, Bold, and Brave Beyond”. Photo © ATTA / Hassen Salum

The Adventure Travel Conservation Fund announced at ATWS 2016 brought industry leaders and the community together to directly fund local organizations outside the US who are engaged in the conservation of unique natural and cultural resources of adventure travel destinations.

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During the Summit close Moe Carrick asked all delegates to reflect on “What Struck You?, What About You Has Shifted? And “Why Does That Matter?” For each delegate that answer was surely different. It may have been the Transformational Travel session that we know impacted many, for others it may have been Moe’s Leadership session on Change and her opening “I see you and you are magnificent.” For me, and I know the ATTA as a whole, the significance of standing together stood out. Together our community is stronger, together we will make change, and together we are magnificent.

Registration for 2017 ATWS in Salta, Argentina is open.

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