Seventeen years ago, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) was founded to give adventure travel companies a voice.
“The United States doesn’t have a federal bureau of tourism, like other countries, although many states have tourism departments,” said Russell Walters, regional director for North America and an original advisory board member. “ATTA was a way for smaller, fragmented adventure companies to share best practices and learn from each other.”
Adventure tourism is a large market with many niche players. Adventure travel may involve exploring a remote location, venturing into the wilderness or learning about a new culture. It may include air, water or land activities from paragliding to scuba diving to mountaineering. Members — destinations, lodges, tour operators, outdoor educations and travel advisors — needed a community of their own to share ideas and innovations.
“ATTA filled a void,” Walters said. “The association held networking events in the early days, bringing folks together. Global Rescue was an early adopter and believer.”
Seventeen years later, Global Rescue is still a believer. The New Hampshire-based pioneer of field rescue was recently honored by ATTA as an Adventure Champion. “Private sector organizations must be ready and agile as adventure tourism grow. Working with organizations like ATTA help the industry’s leaders stay continuously attuned to always-evolving situations in the adventure tourism world so we can, in turn, keep our services properly tuned when it comes to meeting the community’s needs,” said Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue.
“ATTA Adventure Champions are the vanguards of the adventure travel industry. In a world where the temptation in the tourism industry is to focus on volume, these leaders chose the often more challenging terrain of responsibility and sustainability over easy profit,” said Shannon Stowell, founder and CEO. “They are true believers in the power of adventure travel and have made an impact on the direction of ATTA and on the industry as a whole.”
Adventurers First to Travel
After more than a year of do-it-yourself, close-to-home outdoor activities, adventure travel will be the first return-to-travel segment.
“It’s the nature of the adventure traveler to be first in the country, first in the area,” Walters said. In addition to his position with the association, Walters owns a rafting and snowmobiling company in Maine. “It was a slow season last year but travel opened up in June – and we saw a flight to nature. People came out in droves to spend time outdoors. Now tour operators and guides are adapting to new visitor patterns and a growth in demand.”
There’s still some uncertainly around travel but Walters predicts it’s going to be busy this year and the coming years. The adventure travel market was already a growth industry before the pandemic, and is expected to grow to 3.1 billion by the end of 2026.
ATTA’s focus expanded from North America to worldwide long ago, hosting events in Europe and hiring personnel in multiple continents and time zones. Today the association fosters new conversations with members across the globe, all dealing with “their local, compartmentalized issues,” Walters said. “Destination marketing has changed to destination management. With an influx of new visitors, locals need to be prepared. We’re providing education around the new ways of doing business.”
ATTA’s reach has also gone beyond member travel companies, expanding directly to the end consumer, the traveler.
“As a trade organization we haven’t necessarily been focused on consumers, but we see the opportunity to be able to prepare travelers, to be able to talk directly to consumers about sustainability, climate change and appreciation of the destination communities. We want everyone to get back into remote locations — sensibly, sustainably, responsibly and with local advice,” Walters said.
Part of ATTA’s conversation is about preparedness. Adventure travel sometimes requires special skills, extra safety measures and expert supervision. The pandemic has also added a new level of required travel expertise.
“There are different protocols, mandates and challenges on a daily basis,” Walters said. “Global Rescue’s services are really important to adventure travel companies. We are passionate about running our businesses but we often need expert advice and guidance to keep up with the latest local and global restrictions.”
In the early days of ATTA, “it was important for Global Rescue to meet members and have that one-on-one dialogue. The same is true today,” Walters said. “With the changing restrictions and personnel, there’s a constant awareness of the importance of travel advisory, emergency rescue services and travel insurance. Travel isn’t getting any less complicated.”
Global Rescue is in good company; many Global Rescue Safe Travel Partners are also ATTA members including WHOA Travel, Todos Santos Eco Adventures, Active Africa, Portugal Nature Trails, Wildland Trekking, Atlas Obscura, H+I Adventures and Zara Tours, to name a few. By working together and with ATTA, the adventure travel industry is better and safer.
“Global Rescue does something complex — there’s such a breadth of services from advisory to evacuations — and are experts at it,” Walter said. “These 24/7 capabilities across the globe are something members want for themselves and customers traveling with them.”
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