ATTA Interview: Further growth of adventure tourism


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In the beginning of May representatives of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) visited Croatia for a week in order to better get to know the potentials of Croatia as a destination for adventure holidays. For uhpa.hr we spoke to Gergana Nikolova from ATTA Development Lead - Europe about the adventure tourism growth and ATTA mission and plans. We bring the second part of the interwie while last week we published the first part

UHPA: Tell us something about ATTA, its history, mission and goals. What are the benefits to associating with ATTA?

Gergana: The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), established in 1990, is serving more than 1,100 members in 90 countries worldwide. Members predominantly include tour operators, tourism boards, specialty agents and accommodations with a vested interest in the sustainable development of adventure tourism. The ATTA delivers solutions and connections that propel members towards their business goals and the industry toward a responsible and profitable future.

ATTA’s mission is to inspire, connect and empower a global travel community to deliver experiences that protect natural and cultural capital and create shared economic value.

The benefits of associating with the ATTA are many and if we need to summarize them, I would say that one becomes part of a global like-mind community; it is like a family - you can reach out to another member for an advice, expertise exchange or to do business together. The ATTA is a strategic partner of tourism boards and at the same time, serves as the industry’s voice. The ATTA does a series of studies so we serve as source for research and education in adventure travel.

Many members have shared with us that they’ve tried to reach out to some international companies before they became ATTA members but these international organizations were hesitant to cooperate with them. And after they’ve joined the ATTA and have the logo as an ATTA member and use the tools that ATTA provides for reaching out between members, the international companies become more accessible as they realize that the company that has reached out to them is a responsible, quality organization that belongs to the same community. 

As tourism is one of the largest employers on the planet, it has a major impact on people’s economic well-being and the planet’s health. 

Furthermore, adventure tourism is inextricably dependant on human- and nature-capital; protection and promotion of these resources is a key.

The ATTA serves as a community that supports and engenders these efforts. While we believe that no organization is perfect in its actions regarding responsibility and sustainability, we affirm that it should be the intent of every organization to move towards such goals. Thus, the ATTA declares its affirmation and support tourism ethics, children protection, responsibility and community principles. We’ve created ATTA’s Values Statement which we ask each of our members to sign and adhere to. 

UHPA: We are witnessing the significant growth of adventure tourism globally. What were the main challenges and fears in recent years? How does ATTA support and promote development of sustainable adventure travel market?

Gergana: Indeed, adventure tourism is considered to be the fastest growing sector and most resilient form of leisure tourism worldwide; in 2009 the ATTA implemented a study where the adventure travel industry was estimated to be $89 billion and three years later, the same study estimated it to $263 billion adventure tourism market. This is 65% growth. We hope to be able to do another study next year; we anticipate seeing further growth.

The Adventure Travel Trade Association recently published the first Global Report on Adventure Tourism in partnership with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). This document aims to help educate the global leisure tourism industry on the core values of responsible tourism. 

Adventure travel must be consciously planned and undertaken to maintain or enhance biological and cultural diversity and to be economically viable and socially equitable. The Global Report on Adventure Tourism allows all stakeholders in the industry to work from a common base of understanding in one of the most progressive forms of tourism, which both organizations believe will develop into the industry standard. 

Driving local economies and protecting people, culture and the environment, all remain serious challenges for leisure tourism in general. One of the key aspects of adventure tourism, as already mentioned earlier when we discussed our values, is working with the local community and we mentioned also that adventure tourism it is a key economic driver.  Why? Because adventure tourism is believed to leave approximately 65 cents on every U.S. dollar in adventure destinations, thereby contributing significantly and directly to adventure destinations’ GDP. Just as a comparison, different sources state that mass tourism leaves between 5 and 17 percent of the spent in a destination. 

UHPA: Could you briefly comment the latest ATDI 2015 report, joint initiative of the George Washington University and ATTA?  What are the major trends and changes in the markets of developed countries?

Gergana: The 2015 Adventure Tourism Development Index (ATDI) assesses adventure tourism potential for countries around the world. The ATDI seeks to facilitate adventure tourism policy and planning to drive economic growth that is environmentally and culturally sustainable. It uses 10 pillars, drawing data from a range of sources, to gauge a country’s readiness to compete in the adventure tourism sector. The ATDI can be helpful to governments considering an adventure tourism development strategy or strengthening an existing one. Recognizing tourism’s potential, many countries are prioritizing adventure tourism, using resources and policy to drive its growth. ATDI gives the following examples for efforts of adventure tourism development:

  • Iceland’s environmental protection authorities are collaborating with its tourist board and other members of the tourism industry to conduct research concerning the carrying capacity of the protected areas.
  • Slovenia continues tourism planning around the idea of a very active and adventurous country using the brand identity of “Green, Active, Healthy, Slovenia”. 
  • Chile — with ten UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and with nearly 20% of its land protected — will host the Adventure Travel World Summit in 2015, etc.

According to the ATDI, in both developing and developed countries, the top nine countries remained unchanged between 2011 and 2015 although in different positions. Switzerland scored considerably higher than Czech Republic in Safety, Humanitarian, and Infrastructure pillars and only slightly higher in Adventure Activity Resources. Monaco also improved in the Health pillar between 2011 and 2015 due to availability of new information in 2015.

UHPA: Speaking of emerging markets, are you satisfied with the progress that has been achieved within European market? What efforts ATTA has dedicated to Europe as one of the single most influential markets?

Gergana: The Adventure Travel Trade Association aims to support both emerging and developed markets, according to their needs. When destinations seek our expertise and services, we follow our principles of long-term planning and commitment. 

One of the examples we currently have is the Balkans: we started a few years ago with AdventureEDU programs, last year (2014) we implemented the first in Europe AdventureWeek (AWWB; fam trip) in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia; this helped us evaluate the potential of and interest in this region. The feedback by the 15 international buyers and six journalists was solid and most of them demonstrated readiness to invest in the region (and now 9 months after the completion of AWWB, we already have pilot tours coming into the region. 

As a next step of support and promotion of the region is the organization and implementation of AdventureNext~Balkans | Macedonia 2016 - this is the first regional conference on adventure tourism in Macedonia. We anticipate about 300 participants from twelve destinations from Southeastern Europe and the ATTA will secure up to 45 international buyers and 20 journalists for the conference and the pre-& and post- event adventures (fam trips).

Further, to better prepare the ground suppliers for excellent level of services and quality of the products, the tourism supply chain from the Balkans region is now investing in a series of capacity building trainings provided by the ATTA - AdventureEDU.

Another example of great progress is the North Atlantic region: the ATTA recently had a joint AdventureEDU training on community building with participation from Iceland, Greenland and Farao islands. The attendees — adventure tourism professionals showed a complete philosophic commitment to sustainability, quality and safety and risk management in adventure tourism and an openness to collaboration.

The ATTA keeps increasing its presence in Europe - we have a growing number of members and this was one of the reasons why we added a new team member. In addition to the three ATTA Europe team members, we have three interns to support the activities and requests that come from Europe. After ITB in Berlin where the ATTA had a visible role being a main partner of Mongolia (who was the major country partner of ITB Berlin 2015), the ATTA Executive Director - Europe had a meeting with the European Travel Commission (ETC) to discuss how the ATTA can (and is anticipated to) cooperate with ETC in the next programing period. So this is another pillar in which ATTA is focusing attention in Europe. 

Ireland was the host of the 2014 Adventure Travel World Summit which was an opportunity to increase the membership in Ireland and across Europe. This year, there were a series of AdventureConnect events in Europe already: in Denmark, France, Sweden, Spain, Germany, Croatia in mid May, etc. 

Europe is one of the world’s most important sources of travelers in adventure as well as a host destination for such. That is why we shall be and are active here. The ATTA’s pursuit of building the community throughout Europe remains quality versus quantity and gradual, strategic growth.

UHPA: Please provide our readers with some insight about the future goals and plans of ATTA.

Gergana: The ATTA’s strategic plan involves continued responsible development of adventure travel communities worldwide, and in particular, helping to alleviate poverty through adventure tourism. Objectives include providing networking opportunity, education and events that help facilitate the long-term responsible growth of the industry, education and training that leads to higher quality experiences and return for both the trade and travelers. To accomplish these broader objectives, the ATTA will continue to pursue research and education and training efforts, all while bringing adventure tourism industry professionals together year-round through both global and regional events.

Read  the first part of the ATTA interviewu "Croatia can be High-Quality Adventure Tourism Destination" here

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