Last week, 700 international delegates from various sectors of the tourism industry gathered in Killarney, Ireland for the 2014 Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS). The Summit aimed to promote Ireland as an adventure travel destination, connect hundreds of like-minded travel leaders from around the globe, foster peer-to-peer exchanges on best practices and operational strategies, and promote business development.
Two of our staff members, Natasha Martin and Gabe Seder, represented Solimar at the four-day summit. I spoke with Natasha, a seasoned veteran of the Summit, and Gabe, a newcomer, about their ATWS 2014 experiences in more detail.
The growth of adventure travel made ATWS a must-attend for Solimar. “When we did the first study in 2010, it was worth $89 billion, and now its nearly $250 billion – so more people are choosing adventurous holidays – which is great news for Solimar because we work, nearly exclusively, in adventure destinations,” said Natasha. “Adventure tourism is a great segment for emerging markets because adventure tourists don’t care about developed infrastructure and fancy hotels– they want exceptional experiences.”
The Summit offered much more than just lectures and workshops. “Destinations compete to host world class events like ATWS because they create a unique opportunity to highlight the best of the destination to movers and shakers in all sectors of the tourism industry. Ireland made sure delegates got out of the conference center to go on a ‘Day of Adventure’—doing things like hiking, kayaking, climbing, etc. They also subsidize ‘pre-summit adventures’ for delegates to go on 3-4 day adventure tours around Ireland,” Gabe said. Therefore, said Natasha, “It’s a great networking opportunity as well as a chance to experience some adventure tourism.”
Natasha commented on the different experiences offered in this year’s host country, Ireland, and last year in Namibia, which she helped facilitate: “The Summit in Ireland was much different from that in Namibia — but equally as exciting, fun, and inspirational. The ATTA and Ireland team did a great job of organizing a seamless event and they brought together a great diversity of delegates from around the world.” And even as a newcomer, Gabe had a similar perspective on his first Summit experience this year, “This was my first time at ATWS. The bar for the event had been set really high because I’ve been hearing Natasha and other coworkers talk about the Summit for years, but it exceeded my expectations because everyone you meet is eager talk about their experience in adventure travel, discuss the industry, and learn about Solimar.”
A talk on conservation travel stood out to both Gabe and Natasha as particularly important for Solimar’s work,. “The session on Conservation Travel was particularly interesting – we discussed how tourism can be a type of insurance policy for conservation. In many types of tourism, visitors want to see wildlife, so it has an economic value,” said Natasha. “The ‘Conservation Travel’ session also spoke to Solimar’s approach of creating a business case for conservation by demonstrating the quantifiable value of wildlife preservation for a destination,” commented Gabe. Other highlights: “The session on ‘Going Head-to-Head with your Digital Future’ included a Q-and-A with representatives from Google, Facebook, and TripAdvisor, who advised tour operators and destinations on how to leverage the expanding reach of these platforms to engage and convert audiences around the globe,” said Gabe. “Several sessions discussed ideas on how to raise awareness of this type of tourism- I think it’s something we can bring into our work at Solimar,” commented Natasha.
Overall, the Summit was a great success, for our Solimar representatives as well as the rest of the adventure travel community. Solimar is excited for #ATWS2015 in Chile!