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.

welcome sign of adventure travel world summit

Switzerland Welcomes the Adventure Travel World Summit

Adventure Travel is Changing the World

Great ideas come from summits like this and we were honoured to be not only representing during the event but speaking at it as well.

Adventure Travel World summit talk on Travel Blogging

Dave takes the stage at Adventure Travel world Summit

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:

  1. Some sort of Physical activity
  2. Some sort of connection with Nature
  3. 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.

Adventure Travel world Summit

ATWS President Shannon Stowell speaks with Taleb Rifai Secretary General of UNWTO

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.

The Code

Adventure Travel World Summit President signs the Code

ATWS President Shannon Stowell Signs the Code with UNWTO

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.

adventure travel world summit speaker, where's andrew

Darrell Wade of Peak Adventures speaks at ATWSThe 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.

adventure travel world summit speaker alexandra cousteau

Alexandra Cousteau talks about Blue Legacy

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.

We are in Switzerland covering the Adventure Travel World Summit for Book your own Switzerland adventure through ‘s vacation packages and stay tuned for a round up of the summit in the coming days.

Make sure to follow along on our social media channels for regular updates. #ExpediaatATWS – Instagram –Facebook

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Leave a comment


  1. Traveler

    sky diving, scuba diving, horse riding and surfing are my Favorite adventure activities. I guess Australia is the best place for all these activities.

  2. Gavin Harvey

    I definitely agree that all travel should contain those three elements. I can’t stand it when all people care about is taking a photo to prove that they were there and don’t actually bother connecting with what’s around them.

    1. debndave Post author

      Well said Gavin. For some people, they like checking off a list, but for us, we like to take our time.We’ve been travelling for months at a time for 12 years and there are people who have been on the road for only a few years that have been to 30 or 40 more countries than us. Staying put for weeks is a more fulfilling experience indeed and it makes a person really get to know the people, the culture and how to take advantage of all the best adventures!

  3. Jennifer Dombrowski

    What an amazing summit to be part of! I really like that definition of adventure travel. The best trips we’ve been on have all been adventure focused and we learn the most when we immerse ourselves in the culture.

    1. debndave Post author

      Well said Jennifer. It is all around a better experience to get off the resort and immerse ourselves. It motivates people to make change when they know about something rather than just reading about it. It makes people want to help with conservation when they have made friends with the local people, when they have experienced an activity outside in the environment and when they have done something more than drinking umbrella drinks on the beach.

  4. Charu

    Really amazing experience Dave and Deb. Adventure travel is a hot sector right now, and it’s great to hear how many people were represented at this event from various sections of the blogosphere. Passion with purpose: major thumbs up!

    1. debndave Post author

      Hi Kurt, I am so glad that you have been before to the ATWS, it’s an amazing conference. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Switzerland, I’ll check it out.

  5. Julie K.

    It’s a shame to see how many people proclaim themselves travellers and even adventurers, and all they do is lying on the beach, swimming in the hotel’s swimming pool instead of taking a swim in the nearby sea(!), they take lousy “proof” pictures, damage monuments and relics while taking small parts of them as souvenirs and they throw litter everywhere except the trash cans. I saw it way too many times.
    It’s a good thing that there are still people who value the journey, the uniqueness of specific moments and experiences and especially think of other people, who will come after them to admire and experience these things too. I think that the preservation of this heritage is the most important point, because if we won’t preserve the nature, culture and the overall spirit of these things, there won’t be anything left to travel to and to connect with.

  6. accra flights

    There are many places for adventure travel it you want to enjoy your trip. Especially some places in Africa are ideal for adventure through natural safari parks with wild animals.

  7. Traveling Ted

    I know when I plan a vacation those are the three criteria I use when visiting another country, but I just never thought of it in those terms. It sounds like a lot of good ideas came from summit. I might have to attend one of these in the future.

  8. Simon Newbound


    Great event, wonderful ethos and some really interesting points demonstrating a great spirit amongst all the attendees. With reference to the last comments Adventurer is relative to life experiences and familiarity so in truth you don’t have to travel far or spend big bucks to have an adventure. Why is it over 80 percent of Americans don’t have passports it’s becuase they live on one of the most diverse and adventurous continents in the world so travel to Africa, South America is not sort or needed only dreamed about. Congratulations to everybody invlolved and long may this continue.

    Simon Newbound
    iPad adventurer
    BMW unstoppable
    Spirits of Adventure
    BMW Endurance Guinness Champion of the world 2012

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  13. Cole @

    So jealous you guys got to attend the ATWS. Wanted to go to the one last year and missed out again this year due to timings! Namibia might be on the cards.

    Was also lucky enough to meet Shannon at WTM last year and hopefully meeting up with Chris this year if he has time.

    Great article!

    1. debndave Post author

      Namibia definitely looks like an amazing event. We loved it there when cycling through Africa and look forward to going back. Cheers.

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