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WATCH: ATTA’s Shannon Stowell Inspires TEDx Audience to “Change the World … Take a Vacation”

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Like many people working in the adventure travel industry, Shannon Stowell has walked a circuitous path to get where he is today. Stowell, who has been with the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) for 14 years and is the organization’s CEO, took full advantage of nature’s playground growing up as a teenager in Colorado, but it was an immersive, three-month experience in Fiji that truly left an impression on him.

Today Stowell is completely immersed in the world of adventure travel, sharing his experiences and inspiring people around the world to travel from a place of positivity. He recently took this message to TEDxBend with his talk “Change the World … Take a Vacation,” which highlighted how adventure travel can positively impact local cultures and the environment.

In 1960, people took 22 million trips. This number has increased significantly to 1.3 billion trips taken in 2017, Stowell said in his talk. The growth has been so explosive, in fact, that the term “overtourism” emerged recently to describe the negative impact travel has had on cultures, the environment, and the economy. “Many of the world’s iconic destinations are being loved to death,” Stowell said, illustrating the point with an image of hundreds of people at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Further, travelers reaching destinations via cruise ships or staying at all-inclusive resorts or in international chain hotels often leave slim financial benefits in their wake. In fact, studies have shown that up to 85 percent of the money they spend leaves the destination entirely.

Though mass tourism often turns a transformative experience into merely an indulgent one, Stowell told the TEDx audience that, not only can people travel in a responsible manner but that they should because it can have a very real and tangible positive impact. “You can travel in a way that does do good for the world,” he said. “You can travel in a way that protects wildlife. You can travel in a way that honors and supports people. You can travel in a way that furthers economic prosperity and peace and can be a mind-blowing experience all at the same time.”

Adventure travel, which works at the intersection of nature, culture, and activity, is a model where approximately 65 percent of the money spent by a traveler stays in the destination by supporting local guides and businesses. In turn, these locals have a reason to protect and preserve the surrounding environmental landscape.

So, how can someone change the world by taking a vacation? Stowell offered three specific questions people can ask when choosing an adventure travel outfitter to create a win-win-win situation for travelers, the local residents, and the environment — a situation that is significantly richer than mass tourism could ever be. “Adventure travel has forever changed my assumptions about other people and about the world,” Stowell said. “We really can change ourselves and the world by going on vacation.”

6 Comments to WATCH: ATTA’s Shannon Stowell Inspires TEDx Audience to “Change the World … Take a Vacation”

  1. Totally agree and loved this Ted Talk. Adventure travel is educational and in my business a living classroom that disconnects kids and adults from their virtual worlds and reconnects them to each other in ways they never imagined.
    Our family vacations include visiting local schools, Villages, and teaching locals about their marine life. Sharing with them the importance of sharks, not fishing aggregate sites, not blowing up their reefs for the aquarium industry. We bring school supplies, clothing, and much-needed medicines. We do beach cleanups and pick up trash on dives. Our focus is the underwater world and our company does not book big box companies. We are focused on family-friendly local properties and our trips support local business. We are teaching children to engage in nature and culture. I love everything you stated. We study coral and count fish. We learn new dances, interact with local kids and local activities. We learn about the marine life and the issues that need to be dealt with to protect them. We teach kids to be responsible buddies and divers. With over 7,000 certified kids, that travel around the world in local lodges to bond with their families and make new friends.

  2. As I have told you before, you´re a rockstar Shannon! Thank you for this wonderful and inspiring TED talk, we are very proud to have you as the CEO of our association.

  3. Shikhar Berma

    Agree! Going on a responsible vacation could actually change the world. A succinct yet powerful articulation like this from Mr. Stowell could definitely change the modus operandi of vacationing!!! It was heart-wrenching to see the mound of plastic recovered from the body of a dead tortoise: the image itself is akin to a bell-ringer as to how reckless we have become in self indulgence…..we are affecting lives in lieu of transforming them!! I reckon its high time we change ourselves and the world before either one becomes impossible!!!

    Thank you, Shannon!

  4. Now days almost trend has been changed more and more people are going for physical exercise relating to Adventure Tourism.
    We do have have a lot of potential available for such of type of activity like Trekking, Skiing, Mountaineering, River Rafting, Kayaking In Jammu and Kashmir ( India).

  5. hallo admin, introduce me with you :), I am a conscious tourist group in one of the small town, Lembang Bandung, west java indonesia :), me and my group have a place to have nature tour, from camping and treeking hiking. how to work with you to introduce my adventure ..

    Greetings warm and respect us
    Conscious Travel Group

  6. Amy Brown

    Hello Sigit Tjikahoeripan,

    Thank you for your comment. The best way to take advantage of the benefits of the ATTA is by becoming a member:

    Let us know if you have any additional questions,
    Amy Brown
    Digital Creative & Communications Manager, ATTA

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