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ATTA Summit Resonates Leadership in Salta: Unite. Protect. Lead.

Luis Vargas, ATTA President. Summit in Salta 2017
Luis Vargas, ATTA President. Summit in Salta 2017

Luis Vargas, ATTA President, leading the Opening Welcome

I jump at any opportunity to visit the northwestern corner of Argentina, where red rock formations, deep green canyons and remarkable salt flats captivate me.  Cafayate is my  typical destination, a popular wine region located in the province of Salta and known for producing Torrontes wines.   But this trip to Salta wasn’t in spirit of grape harvests or winery tours, it was for a travel industry conference.   I was invited by Argentina Rafting to attend the ATTA Adventure Travel World Summit in the city of Salta and looked forward to sharing our Uncorking Argentina spirit of adventure from the Land of Malbec.

Established in 1990, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) today is widely recognized as a vital leadership voice and partner for the adventure travel industry around the world. Through its growing business services division, the ATTA delivers a portfolio of strategic solutions and a robust ecosystem of events around the globe. Salta had been a dream destination for the past 10 years, and the consistent actions led by Argentine Fernando Escudero helped make that dream come alive.   Fernando spoke passionately about his first ATTA Summit in 2008, held in Brazil, and how each decision from that moment was based on bringing the outdoor adventure tribe and their leadership to Salta.

“For years now Salta, Argentina has been attending Summits and been focused on being present in front of the adventure travel community,” said ATTA CEO, Mr. Shannon Stowell. “As a whole Argentina represents a diverse culture and environment, and recently, its government has become dedicated to bringing adventure to the forefront of its tourism strategy.”

Carolyn with ATTA CEO Mr. Shannon Stowell and Jimena B of Salta Rafting

Carolyn Gallagher at closing party with ATTA CEO Mr. Shannon Stowell and Jimena Barthaburu of Salta Rafting

The Adventure Summit came together under the unifying message to: Unite, Protect, Lead, a campaign inspired by the Gaucho spirit and the Battle of Salta where a diverse army of locals fought for Argentina’s independence againt Spain in 1813.  The strong message geared towards conservation, encompassed leadership to protect both natural spaces and local populations.  It also resonated very well with the UNWTO 2017 campaign to Travel. Enjoy. Respect. Both carry the underlying message to be an agent of change in practicing conservation.  The UNWTO has named 2017 as  the International Year of Sustainable Tourism.  I encourage you to watch the UNWTO message, click here

The 850 attendees, representing 55 countries and different business structures, were all energized by the motivational talks and active workshops tailored to fit three business segments: Business Basecamp, Business Drivers, Game Changers.   Over the course of three days I was able to attend a good handful of workshops, get inspired by industry leaders and gather great ideas for us back in Mendoza.

I was moved by the power of story telling; stories shared through videos that captured cultural heritage in unique places.   We  viewed the three best storytelling videos, all very unique, and were asked to select our favorite through applause.   The winning video was about the beauty and mystery of Tierra del Fuego, Chile. I encourage you to watch The Man at the End of the World.  Show Video.  Many countries featured promotional videos showcasing the natural geography of their region and highlighting places where adventure and beauty resonate.  We were constantly dazzled by the natural beauty, and reminded how fortunate we are to be in the travel industry.  The art of  storytelling, however,  took the landscapes to a new level of comprehension.   I am inspired to capture the cultural stories in the Land of Malbec and bring them to digital life in 2018!

Christina Beckmann, ATTA Director, Research and Adventure EDU presenting the facts

Christina Beckmann, ATTA Director, Research and Adventure EDU presenting motivational factors for Adventure Travel

Defining adventure travel was another interesting workshop.  What exactly is adventure travel, who partakes and why?  During the Consumer Research Perspective workshop on ‘Tomorrow’s Adventure Traveler’  data revealed a shift in how adventure travel is defined.  Ten years ago most people considered adventure travel as Rock Climbing!  I recall the great ads by Black Diamond,  North Face, REI and Patagonia, all featuring rock climbers and gear.  Rock climbing had been well positioned in the consumers’ consciousness and it was extreme!  Today, however, the definition is Trekking.   To consider a long walk in nature to be adventure travel is to recognize the definition of Adventure Travel is no longer exclusive or extreme (risk).  Call it massified or diluted, the grand shift of perspective means that more people today consider themselves adventurers.   The take home is that these adventurers are motivated to experience transformation.  My understanding is more travelers want to build in ‘transformational moments’ into their trips and the adventure element is a perfect segue to achieve those results.

The adventure travel industry has the opportunity to push transformation.  That moment of transformation, the magic touch, the ah-ah, whether crafted through self-realization or carefully guided is the game-changer for a successful trip.  Adventure travelers, understanding their limitations (physically, geographically, conceptually) still put themselves in a space of discomfort and vulnerability, where they need external help to reach an objective.  That relationship of trust between the traveler and the service provider is so valued and real for our industry.    It’s that moment, of exposing vulnerability, focusing on objectives and working as a team, that yield accomplishment of the unknown.

The ATTA team and their members led an empowering conference, that provided us with many leadership tools to continue to promote the spirit of travel and discovery, while implementing long term tactics to conserve the areas that allow adventure and personal transformation.

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