It has been such a busy couple of weeks that I've barely had time to get caught up from all of my recent travels. Having only just returned from the Southern Ocean in March, I was home for only a couple of weeks before heading out to Idaho to attend the Adventure Travel Trade Association's (ATTA) AdventureElevate event in Coeur d'Alene. I got back from there, only to hit the road once again this past week on a kayaking trip in Oregon. This week, I'm staying in one place at long last, and taking the opportunity to share some stories, starting with my experience with the ATTA.

For those that aren't familiar with the organization, the ATTA is a fantastic group of people, destinations, and organizations who are deeply immersed in the adventure travel industry. It is made up of more than 1000 members spread out across 100 countries, and is supremely focused on promoting adventure tourism in a safe, sustainable manner. I've been lucky enough to be peripherally involved with the ATTA for several years now, and even spoke at one of the organization's events in Mexico a few years back. But, this was the first time I had the chance to attend one of its AdventureElevate events, so I went in with a lot of excitement. I came out with even more.

Scheduled to run for two days starting on April 12, the adventurous activities actually began 24 hours earlier, with a "Day of Adventure." This gave attendees a chance to experience the region that hosted the event by allowing us to get outside and go hiking, biking, or paddling in different areas. In this case, Coeur d'Alene served as the perfect backdrop, offering up breathtaking scenery, wonderful amenities, and access to some outstanding outdoor opportunities.


I chose to go whitewater rafting on the Spokane River in nearby Washington, and was not disappointed. The trip was led by ROW Adventures – which announced a name change to Adventure Unbound while at the event. To say the river was running fast would be an understatement, as spring rains and thaws had swelled the waterway to epic proportions. In fact, we were told that it typically runs at about 10,000-15,000 cubic ft./second this time of year, but on the day we set out it was hitting closer to 29,000 cubic ft./second. This led to a fast and furious ride filled with all kinds of surprises, not the least of which was your's truly getting knocked from the boat and riding one of the first big rapids while clinging to the back of the raft. In the end though, it was all good, and other than feeling a bit chilled by the cold water, it was a lot of fun. To give you an idea of just how fast things were moving though, we completed a trip that normally takes around 3.5 hours in less than half of that time.

After our run on the river it was back to Coeur d'Alene, where the conference truly got underway the following day. The theme of the event was "Future Together" and that idea permeated the keynote addresses, which discussed the health of the adventure travel industry, the ATTA's role in it, and how attendees could all work together more closely to achieve shared goals. There were also discussions on working more closely with indigenous people in emerging areas around the world, as well as was to promote sustainable tourism in an increasingly challenging political climate.

In the afternoon the conference divided up into break-out sessions with more seminars focused on specific needs. For instance, there were discussions about using technology to improve the travel business and tips on marketing in the 21st century. I attended a session that helped members of the industry to understand how to work with bloggers and "influencers" more closely, which was interesting for someone who is on the opposite end of that discussion. I found it interesting to hear what tour operators and destination reps were looking to get from the media that they work with.

We wrapped up the first day with a 'networking adventure" that was held at happy hour, complete with a few adult beverages and tasty snacks. This gave everyone the opportunity to be in the same room with another and get to know each other better. Many business cards were exchanged and tales swapped as attendees pitched stories, discussed destinations, and generally talked travel in all of its many forms.

The second day of the event was a bit less formal, with more meetings set up between the various attendees to discuss topics on a one-on-one basis. That started in the morning with the "Destination Showcase" but continued later with the "MediaExchange," an event that I likened to speed-dating. During the MediaExchange, those of us in the media who were in attendance had numerous pre-set meetings with various representatives from tourism organizations. Every ten minutes we would meet with someone else until we got through all of our scheduled sessions. It was a lot of fun, and allowed me to connect with some exciting companies and destinations who are working on some amazing things. I'm excited to share some of those opportunities in the future, particularly if I get to visit some of the places that were pitched my way.

After the MediaExchange, the entire group met back in the main conference hall for a few wrap-up presentations. Before we knew it, the entire event was over however, with the two days flying by incredibly quickly. I think that as we parted ways there was a lot of enthusiasm and excitement in the air, with an air of cautious optimism at the state of the adventure travel industry.

I was lucky enough to not only make some new friends at AdventureElevate, but also connect with some really good people that I've worked with in the past but hadn't met in person. For that, I was utterly grateful and came away feeling that the show was a big success. I've already been following up with some of the people I met with there, and am looking forward to seeing where some of these relationships can go in the future.

At the end of AdventureElevate 2017, the ATTA announced that the 2018 version of the event will be held in Banff in Alberta, Canada. That won't happen until March 12-15 of next year, but I'm already looking forward to the conference and hope that I get asked back once again. It was a truly wonderful experience from top to bottom, and I'm proud to be a member of the adventure travel community that is filled with such rich and inspiring personalities. I can only hope to offer some small part of what makes that community so special.

To find out more about the ATTA – and its various events – visit adventuretravel.biz.
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