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Spearheading ATTA and enhancing a dream with a surfboard in one hand and a briefcase in the other, President of Adventure Travel Trade Association, Mr. Stowell, speaks about the future of International tourism in terms of Adventure and exciting voyages and the prospects of business and trade related to this spontaneously growing industry.
Shannon Stowell : Adventure travel is based in three concepts – 1) physical activities, 2) a connection to nature and 3) an immersion in culture. If you have these three on a trip, you are adventuring. It might be somewhat mellow- it might be extreme- or anywhere in between. (If you have room for more you could add this) We see adventure travel as quite broad but still as a subset of travel overall.
Shannon Stowell : It really is exciting- the growth is in double digits right now and shows no sign of slowing! Well I think a lot of the credit goes to the incredible members of the association- we have nearly 900 organizations as members- tour operators, tourism boards, consultants, agents and many more so we have a collection of the brightest minds and most aggressive purveyors of adventure travel in the world. The knowledge sharing, the co-promotion, the networking and business opportunities that abound in our network are definitely helping grow the industry. We act as a home for professionals who want to develop, promote and grow the adventure travel industry.
Shannon Stowell : It’s hard to pick a favorite because I, like most travelers, want different things at different times. Adventure trips are a complicated and wonderful mix of activity, leisure, gastronomy and adventures. I like trips that have some unknown components and flexibility to them. I personally don’t want to know all the details in advance- the wonderful surprises that a trip brings are often the best. I like places that don’t have Wal-Marts and McDonalds. Where nature is doing well and the local people are finding a way to make a living and there are amazing natural resources- so I’ve had these ‘best’ experiences in very different places- Brazil, Mexico, Greenland, China, Iraq, Jordan, Argentina, Switzerland, Norway and even my own state of Washington. I can say that my favorite sport has to be hiking- mainly because it’s so easy to do and requires so little gear. At a moment’s notice and even with the wrong clothing and footwear, you can always hike.
Shannon Stowell : It’s simply the world’s largest gathering of adventure tourism professionals. So the knowledge exchanged is unsurpassed, the education is amazing and the opportunity to adventure together in the destination builds lifelong relationships. Our latest event was in Switzerland and the next one is in Namibia- I love that we can swing between very different destinations and provide a world class experience.
Shannon Stowell : I must call out my co-author, Don Mankin, as a key to the success of this writing project. We were a very complementary team- we each had skill sets the other person needed. Pulling together various experiences we and others had gone through was such a fun process. But there was a lot of tedious work too- writing, editing, checking, checking again. Then the process of launching a book has its own life- you must become a promoter, a marketer, a pusher to make sure your book sees the light of day. We got Richard Branson to write the forward- that was a fun accomplishment all by itself. I would love to write again but the ATTA keeps me extremely busy. However I have been doing occasional posts for National Geographic Adventure. More to come in the future I hope.
Shannon Stowell : I learned a very important lesson in rural China early on in my role with the ATTA. I stayed with a family that had found a little girl in a box in their field- she’d been abandoned. This elderly farmer and his wife took this girl in as their own and it was not easy. The average income at the time in that region was around US$150/yr. I wanted so badly to honor their sacrifice and help so I asked our very wise guide if I could donate, and she said that would be fine. The nightly rate of the farmer’s room + breakfast was around $3. So I asked if I could leave $100 – the guide was horrified and asked me to please refrain. With an annual income of $150, this would be so extravagant as to ‘break the system’. The farmer might be tempted to stop farming and only do tourism. The farmer’s neighbors will wonder why he has so much money and become jealous. The tourists become a target. The kids learn if they skip school and beg, they will bring home more money. The system becomes broken and then is kept broken by well meaning, misinformed tourists. I’ll never forget that lesson- that we must tread lightly wherever we go and do what we can to help without upsetting how things work locally.
Shannon Stowell : The ATTA will continue to grow- we look forward to becoming a more sophisticated and integrated network of adventure professionals and companies from around the world. Soon we will launch more educational programs to help train and educate on issues ranging from sustainability to risk management to marketing. Our goal is to ultimately help adventure travel companies grow and increase their responsibility and sustainability. There is no question that adventure is growing as a sector, so our main challenge will be to keep up with the latest needs and opportunities offered and also to help guide wherever we can towards a more responsible future for tourism.