By Natasha Martin
What does Swakopmund, Namibia’s coastal jewel, have in common with cities like Lucerne in Switzerland, Chiapas in Mexico and Charlevoix in Canada?
If your answer is that these cities are all adventure travel meccas of the world, you’d be spot on.
And because adventure seekers seek them out, they have each been host to the world’s biggest gathering of adventure travel professionals in the world – the Adventure Travel World Summit 2013 (ATWS).
Each year in October, leading tour operators, representatives from tourism boards, media, and industry partners take a week out of their busy schedules to exchange ideas, learn about current tourism trends, discover a new destination, network and reconnect, and share their experiences.
It all started in Chiapas, Mexico, when a delegation of public- and private-sector members, affectionately named Team Destination Namibia and led by the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, attended ATWS 2011.
Here they found a place within the Adventure Tribe, a community of people convinced that adventure travel can change the world by focusing on people, the planet and profits.
Willem de Wet, a representative from the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN), had this to say about ATWS 2011:
“The Summit is what Namibia is all about: adventure! Chiapas was a real eye-opener and we had an awesome opportunity to showcase Namibia at a level like never before. Bringing the Summit home will take us to another level and position us as a leader in Africa.”
When Team Destination Namibia travelled to Switzerland to attend ATWS 2012, its message of Namibia’s 42% under conservation management was heard loud and clear.
It was in Chiapas that the Minister made the bold statement: “Let us bring the summit home.”
And, under her guidance, this is exactly what Team Destination Namibia did.
Its strong bid to host ATWS 2013 highlighted Namibia’s outstanding conservation success record, and the unique relationship between tourism, community development and conservation – and our 42%, to wit the surface percentage of land under conservation management in Namibia.
As one of the few countries in the world with conservation and environmental management mandated in its constitution, Namibia’s approach to conservation is holistic and inclusive, both in terms of maintaining ecological integrity, and in the rights of communities to benefit from the utilisation of natural resources.
This is embodied in Article 95 (l) in the Namibian Constitution as follows:
The State shall actively promote and maintain the welfare of the people by adopting, inter alia, policies aimed at the following: maintenance of ecosystems, essential ecological processes and biological diversity of Namibia and the utilisation of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future.
This is Namibia’s unique selling point – one that pushed the scales in Namibia’s favour, despite tough competition from other countries to host the 2013 Summit.
Team Destination Namibia, consisting of 44 delegates, recently travelled to Switzerland to attend ATWS 2012. Here the Namibians made their message of 42% loud and clear. Armed with laminated maps, they passionately shared their story of the remarkable synchronisation of conservation and tourism in their country.
On the final night of the Summit, after the last keynote address, it was time for the Swiss to pass the baton to Namibia. They gifted an authentic Swiss railway clock to our delegation leader, Mémé Erica Akenje, and that marked the beginning of Namibia Night – Namibia’s turn to provide a taste of ATWS 2013.
The 42% and Counting video filled the concert hall, and when it was over, and the lights were dimmed, the powerful voices of the Doro!Nawas Choir, straight from Damaraland, filled the room and literally brought tears to people’s eyes.
Namibia’s passion was contagious, and delegates from Egypt, Mexico and Switzerland said it moved them. The Director of Tourism, Mr Sem Shikongo, was spot on when he had invited the 700 delegates to Namibia, saying, “I know we can inspire you.”
Tourism is the largest industry in the world, and adventure travel, while only a sub-sector of tourism, is one of the fastest growing, most sustainable and most lucrative for emerging destinations.
Taleb Rifai, the Secretary General of the United Nations World Travel Organisation, said recently: “Adventure tourism is what tourism should be today and definitely what tourism will be tomorrow.”
The Adventure Travel Trade Association defines adventure travel as having at least two of the following components:
The sweet spot of adventure travel is an experience that includes all three.
Sitting on a beach sipping Pina Coladas is not adventure. Tracking rhinos in the Kunene Region with a local ranger definitely is.
Prior to 25 October: Optional Pre-Summit Adventures in Namibia
After 31 October: Optional Post-Summit Adventures in Namibia and the SADC Region
This article was originally published in the Air Namibia in-flight magazine, the December 2012 Flamingo edition.
Photographs Adventure Travel World Summit