When leaders of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), WWF International and Google addressed more than 600 tourism industry professionals during the 2012 Adventure Travel World Summit in Lucerne, Switzerland from October 8-11, a common refrain emerged: “adventure travel” had arrived as a new face of responsible tourism.
“Adventure tourism is what tourism should be today and definitely what tourism will be tomorrow,” said Mr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) referring to inevitable shifts in the leisure tourism market toward more experience-based, responsible and lower-impact – environmentally and culturally – travel.
Later in the week, the WWF corroborated the trend toward more responsible tourism, upping the ante by introducing a new travel division with new leadership, while Google’s chief of travel, Rob Torres, indicated serious consumer trending toward more experience-based, responsible tourism. In additional keynote and concurrent sessions, tourism, conservation and technology leaders such as Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of Jacques-YvesCousteau and co-founder of Blue Legacy and Darrell Wade, CEO of PEAK Adventure Travel indicated a shift in attention on the global stage to the power of adventure travel as an economic driver, as a force of sustainable development and one that delivers to travelers transformative experiences in nature, culture and active travel.
Shannon Stowell, president of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, the organization responsible for the Adventure Travel World Summit, opened the Summit by challenging delegates to network, learn and discuss ways to propel the adventure travel industry forward to meet growing consumer demands sustainably and responsibly.
The audience of industry influencers from more than 60 different countries, ready to meet that challenge at the Summit, contained 50 percent travel industry buyers and sellers who actively develop adventure travel product and an international pool of media. Another 30 percent of delegates represented tourism boards, tourism ministries and destination marketing organizations that have direct and specific influence on the direction their countries, and constituents, take the adventure travel industry in their home destinations. The remaining delegates included a blend of outfitters, academia, non-governmental organizations and industry partners offering a range of services from reservation systems to insurance.
Switzerland, the host for the event, was a fitting venue for a Summit where adventure travel was announced to be the future of tourism. “Switzerland is the original adventure and outdoor travel destination with a 150-year history in ‘adventure’ travel, as well as a promising future as a sustainable, accessible destination offering a wide range of adventures for many different skills and interest areas,” said Jürg Schmid, CEO of Switzerland Tourism.
More than 120 delegates had the opportunity to witness this firsthand in one of eleven 3-4 day Pre-Summit Adventures around Switzerland. These adventures showcased Switzerland as one of the world’s most progressive nations in the sustainable tourism arena.