United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals: Aligning Efforts for Global Impact

18 September 2018

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a plan for all countries to concentrate their efforts in 17 areas to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. One of the key features of the SDGs is that they are interconnected and provide leadership not only for systemic reform for things like energy systems or education systems, but also for lifestyles by offering goals to eradicate gender and sexual discrimination. The goals reach deeply into our lives; achieving them requires system adaptations and lifestyle and behavioral adaptations.

The UN's Sustainable Development Goals offer global guidelines that encourage countries to work toward common goals for a better world.

Specific work conducted by the Adventure Travel Trade Association / Adventure 360™ (ATTA) over the years speaks to these goals, such as focusing on Indigenous tourism development, partnering with the World Wildlife Fund and U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance on efforts to end wildlife trafficking, participating in programs to protect children from sexual exploitation, promoting women’s and youth leadership, reducing the use of plastic in tourism, and supporting positive action throughout the adventure industry to reduce climate change.

As the world celebrates the International Day of Peace on 21 September, we share just a few of the inspiring stories from the ATTA community illustrating how adventure travel can be a positive force by supporting the SDGs, helping to alleviate poverty, and protecting the planet and prosperity for all.

Supporting Sustainable Development Goals (1) No Poverty and (13) Climate Action

The ATTA community is made up of more than 1,400 members from around the world, more than 60 percent of which are entrepreneurial tour businesses. Within this group, 75 percent say their net profit outlook for 2017 is positive, and they plan to add more employees to their operations (25 percent), sales (20 percent), and guiding staff (19 percent).

In the Balkans region, where the ATTA has been active with networking and educational events since 2014, 59 new trips have been added to the region since 2016, bringing revenue and jobs to the area. Similarly, in Jordan, where the ATTA has been active since 2008, more than 40 new trips have been introduced and, from 2017-2018, both tourism arrivals and receipts grew 15 percent, benefitting local livelihoods.

Further, recent surveys of tour operators participating in AdventureNEXT Near East indicate approximately $3.6M USD in purchasing power parity will flow directly to local providers from adventure travelers introduced to Jordan through this single event, where the average participant stated 11 new valuable connections were made.

Connections made during AdventureNEXT Near East have had a direct and positive financial impact on the region. © ATTA / Hassen Salum

In addition to events that bring trade partners together and drive revenue into local economies, the ATTA also provides skills training to small business owners and individual adventure travel guides. This training supports businesses with practical information to strengthen their daily operations, contributing to SDG (1) No Poverty. This training also supports SDG (13) Climate Action through awareness building with guides and operators, and encouragement to educate travelers.

Since 2014, ATTA has trained 1,200 small business owners in more than 20 countries and adventure guides in four countries. It also convened the industry working group that created a set of practical international guide standards aligned with ISO safety standards for adventure travel. These standards emphasize client safety as well as environmental care and education for guests.

AdventureEDU guide training participants in Sarajevo in October 2016. © ATTA

With respect to SDG (13) Climate Action, the ATTA is also offsetting the carbon emissions of its events and leading by example with a Measure, Mitigate, Educate, and Reduce strategy. Additionally, the ATTA is partnering with industry leaders to understand its total impact as an organization and options for effectively reducing it. Requests for Proposal provided to potential event vendors require plastic bottle elimination and use of local suppliers to reduce carbon emissions associated with food and beverage supplies.

In 2018, the ATTA will offset an estimated 1,300 tCO2e of emissions for its upcoming Adventure Travel World Summit in Tuscany, Italy. This offset includes air travel, transportation, the event location, and accommodations. Through its events and promotions, the company also celebrates and supports the many companies in its network leading the way with carbon offsetting and reduction in their operations.

Supporting Sustainable Development Goals (5) Gender Equality and (8) Decent Work And Economic Growth

The ATTA’s Women in Leadership initiative focuses on women breaking ground in the industry, and the organization is aiming for women to make up 50 percent of its event speakers. Specific attention is placed on promoting and sharing stories about women business owners, holding workshops about empowerment, and creating and maintaining a dialogue about diversity and inclusion. In addition, the Youth Leadership initiative is creating opportunities for young people around the world to enter the travel industry.

Women from around the world joined the Women’s Leadership Studio at Adventure Travel World Summit 2017 in Salta, Argentina. © ATTA / Willa Kammerer

The ATTA / Adventure 360's market connection events and training are significant business enablers for many individual companies around the world delivering tangible and often transformative benefits to people in local communities. An excellent example of the type of company supported is Jordan’s Baraka Destinations. Founded by Muna Haddad, Baraka Destinations is a regular delegate at ATTA events for the purposes of media and market connections. Baraka’s success beautifully highlights the ways in which adventure businesses directly contribute to SDGs (5) and (8), which focus on gender equality and decent work and economic growth.

Baraka offers experiences in Un Quais in northern Jordan, contributing to the livelihoods of 70 people in the community. Over two years, Baraka has established a bed-and-breakfast along with hiking and biking itineraries, mobile campsites, basket-weaving classes, cooking classes, and a home-based culinary experience and beekeeping experience for guests. With the exception of the bed-and-breakfast owned by Baraka, each of these small, activity-based businesses is owned by the local people of Um Quais. Some of these activities and experiences are managed and run by women, who have added sustainable and appropriate sources of income into their families and communities.

Supporting Sustainable Development Goal (12) Responsible Consumption And Production

The ATTA’s Eliminating Plastics and Climate Action initiatives directly contribute to the achievement of SDG (12) Responsible Consumption And Production. ATTA has started collecting data on plastics usage in adventure travel, built plastics reduction into its education programs, and generated awareness of the single-use plastics problem in tourism through its trade and consumer channels.

The organization also celebrates and supports member companies like Natural Habitat Adventures, which is dedicated to eliminating single-use plastic water bottles and straws on all its trips. Since 2014, Natural Habitat Adventures has provided travelers with refillable stainless steel water bottles, replacing disposable plastic bottles across all operations. It is also making major strides in reducing the use of plastic straws: In August 2018, 67 percent of the company’s trips were free of plastic straws, and it is on target to eradicate plastic straws from at least 90 percent of its trips by the end of 2018, with a goal of eliminating them entirely in 2019. Natural Habitat Adventures also recently led a zero-waste adventure in which 14 travelers aligned with the company’s goal is to divert (refuse, recycle, compost, upcycle, or re-use) 99 percent or more of all waste produced during the trip.

Looking Ahead

These are just a few examples of how the ATTA / Adventure 360 supports the UN SDGs. As individuals and businesses of all types begin the transformation process required to achieve peace on earth, the ATTA will continue to pursue these goals. Happily, the SDGs are aligned with what our industry leaders have championed in various ways for decades. Now the values we hold dear — the values that have inspired many of the businesses in our network to even exist — are in vogue: care for the environment; care for local cultures, community benefit, and quality of life; care for animals on land and in the water. For many industries, the SDGs may represent an aspiration, but in adventure travel, we easily recognize our values and business practices in them.

Going forward, this industry, and the ATTA as the convenor of this industry’s leaders, has the incredible opportunity and responsibility to extend all that has been learned in the commercial adventure travel sector to more destinations and companies.