Lucerne Switzerland was home to the 2012 Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) drawing over 800 delegates from around the world. It is the summit of all summits for adventure travel, drawing speakers such as Taleb Rifai of the United Nations World Tourism Organization and Alexandra Cousteau, Granddaughter of Jaques Cousteau. Representatives from 55 countries came together to share ideas and change the world. Top adventure travel publications such as National Geographic, Outside Magazine, USA Today and Men’s Journal were just some of the media represented at this prestigious event.
Adventure Travel is Changing the World
The main theme of the ATWS was Prosper with Purpose. Adventure Travel is leading the way for more responsible tourism, and companies and destinations alike agree that the world is ready to step away from simply sleeping on beaches and drinking Margaritas to creating a more fulfilling travel experience. The profile of a traveler is changing. When people visit a destination, they want experiences. People are more educated, informed and they are choosier when it comes to planning their next vacation.
When ATWS President Shannon Stowell describes adventure travel he states that there are three factors that can define it. To be considered adventure travel a trip should involve:
- Some sort of Physical activity
- Some sort of connection with Nature
- And an immersion in Culture
We love this definition. Our motto is “Adventure is for Everyone” and we know that adventure travel is different for everyone. What we may find adventurous isn’t what someone else would define as adventure. While some people may feel the need to ski to the North Pole, others may find adventure navigating through their first Indian Bazaar in New Delhi.
When talking with Mr. Rafai, he replied “Shouldn’t all travel involve these three elements?” We agree.
1 billion people are crossing borders and instead of fighting it, countries should look at this as an opportunity rather than a crisis. We should all do our part to travel more responsibly, preserve our heritage and protect our environment, and is adventure travel that is helping to shape the future of tourism. Adventure travel is inspiring people to move away from mass tourism and start talking the same language. If we don’t make change now, the pristine destinations that attract travellers today won’t be there in the future. Without nature and culture, countries won’t have a tourism industry. Through standardization and professionalism we can make travel sustainable for the future.
It was an inspiring moment when the ATWS signed The Code with the UNWTO. This code is a code of ethics for tourism to keep all children safe from trafficking, sexual exploitation.
I cannot tell you how many times we wanted to jump out of our chair to start to make change today. The speakers and delegates who we met in Switzerland were some of the most inspiring people we have met in our lives. It was inspiring to see the difference that they are all making in the world. From the engaging and funny Darrell Wade of PEAK Adventures creating the Intrepid Foundation through his company Intrepid Travel to Where’s Andrew of National Geographic inspring the world through his incredible gift of storytelling.
The highlight of the conference was listening to Alexandra Cousteau discuss Expedition Blue Planet with Christopher Doyle of the ATTA, where she used social media to engage her audience to start taking responsibility for their water. Change can be made at the community level. When people think about their own impact and how they as a community can preserve water, great things can happen. From our view point in the front row, it felt intimate, raw and honest and we were inspired to join the movement.
The companies that we met with during the summit have the same values and vision for the future and we look forward to working with them throughout 2013 and beyond. The Adventure Travel and Trade Association attracts a rare breed of people who make it their mission to use travel as a way to change the world and we are thrilled to be a small part of it.
Next year’s summit takes place in Namibia and we cannot wait to see what comes from that gathering. The phrase of the ATWS was “Tribe” as we are all united in our mission to inspire others to add an element of adventure to their travels.