Fresh out of a spectacular summer guiding the Yellowstone-Tetons trip for Austin-Lehman Adventures, I took my dad, Dan Austin, up on a job offer to work at the ALA office in Billings, MT. I spent my first week of work adjusting to the hustle bustle of an office environment and my second week moving our old office in the middle of town to a new farmhouse on the outskirts of the city. My third week (and what I consider my first “real” week of work) was spent “drinking from the fire hose” at the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) World Summit held in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.
The ATTA is a global membership organization and home to more than 700 responsible, profitable businesses including tour operators, destination marketing organizations, tourism boards, specialty travel agents, guides, accommodations, media and service providers. Just a few of its goals include: promoting and growing the adventure travel market; providing a unifying voice for the industry that promotes and facilitates knowledge sharing, networking and a common vision; and encouraging sustainable and environmentally and culturally sensitive adventure travel practices. I was fortunate enough to attend the ATTA Summit Conference in Chiapas with my dad this past October to witness firsthand what makes adventure travel such an exciting business to be a part of. Hosted by Shannon Stowell, Chris Doyle, and the whole ATTA team, I was amazed at the organization of such a large event, the amount of networking I witnessed and became a part of, and the growing pride I retained from interacting with such an amazing community. Looking back, I realize that I still have a lot to absorb from this conference in moving forward.
One of the major highlights of the ATTA Summit Conference for me was putting names to faces with ALA’s existing partners in other countries. I met with Doris representing our Galapagos Islands adventure; Pepe, Alfredo, Nadia, and Lissy – all ground operators of our spectacular Peru adventures; and Peter who runs our Salmon River Rafting adventure in Idaho. I also met with brand new operators such as Stevie from Scotland and Jorge representing the Otovolo Highlands of Ecuador. I reconnected with my old friends Dave Wiggins (ALA’s PR guy) and Richard Weiss (one of the best travel consultants out there!), who I share travel memories with from past ALA adventures. We even created a new ALA wellness retreat vacation at the Argovia Finca Resort in Mexico with our new friend Bruno Giesemann! Meeting, networking, and reconnecting with travel professionals from around the world who are stoked on adventure travel is one of the perks that makes my job so rewarding and fun!
For my “first week” of work, another major highlight of the Summit for me was the amount of inspiration for the adventure travel business I came away with. A lot of this came from meeting other adventure-oriented folks with similar goals. The amount of energy and passion in one place for one single thing: adventure travel, would have anyone falling in love with the business. Seeing like-minded individuals band together to promote and grow the adventure travel market was both invigorating and motivating! Perhaps the most inspirational point of the conference for not only me but others who witnessed her magic was one of the keynote speakers, Martha Isabel “Pati” Ruiz Corzo, director of the Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda. Pati and her husband built a bottom-up civil conservation movement in the Sierra Gorda Mountains of central Mexico focused on organizing concerned citizens for a regional rescue program based on environmental education, economic development, forestry management, and community development. Her passionate words, enthusiastic actions, and heartfelt songs had the audience riding a whirlwind of emotions, ultimately leaving the audience stricken by the power of her activism. A person like Pati who does so much in her little corner of the globe, leaves me wondering and motivated to learn about what more I can do to benefit this world.
Overall, during my “first week” of work at the ATTA Summit conference in Chiapas, Mexico, I soaked up as much exciting new information as I could about the adventure travel business and will be absorbing much more for months to come. I met new friends, reconnected with old ones, and formed new business ties with several outfitters. I learned about what the ATTA is all about and its commitment to excellent service among its members. Last of all I was inspired by the amount of passion, enthusiasm, and gusto dedicated to such an amazing sector of business! I can’t wait until next year’s ATTA Summit in Lucerne, Switzerland!
Your friendly Field Operations Liaison,