What exactly is the hype around adventure tourism – a term that has flooded Namibia relentlessly in the past months (unlike the rain) after the announcement that we will be the first African country to host the Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) in October.
Adventure tourism seems to be about journeys … journeys that positively impact the lives of others and yourself.
And Namibia is evidently poised to use the skyrocketing growth of the adventure tourism market as an opportunity to make a statement to the world that we are where it’s happening.
Adventure tourism is about tourism that focuses on sustainable, positive legacies – and Namibia’s tourism market, which is so organically interwoven with conservation initiatives and cultural pride is perfectly fitted to the adventure travel tribe’s desires.
Chris Doyle, Vice President of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) told the tourism sector this week that adventure tourism is about teaching the world that there is a fun alternative to tourism resorts.
“Adventure tourism is the deeper, more transformative side of travel. Adventure is an aspirational terms, we all want to go beyond our comfort zones, whether physically or culturally”.
And of course, Namibians should get ready to understand the term because in a few short months – a quick autumn, a winter and a spring, the country will be flooded with enthusiastic travellers.
These travelers have come to understand that a holiday does not necessarily mean drinking marguharita’s at a beach bar in a foreign country – and that when you return home, you know as little about it’s people, wildlife, nature as when you first arrived.
Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) told the Namibian tourism sector yesterday (via video) that “travel must be an experience, one that must add something to your own self afterwards. Adventure tourism is what tourism should be today and will be tomorrow”.
Travel, tourism, taking time off from the hum drum of your eight to five job, can mean a genuine life altering experience.
Doyle yesterday astutely remarked that Namibia should use the ATWS 2013 as a “megaphone to get the message” across. He said the fact that 42% (and growing) is under some type of conservation management in Namibia and that the constitution mandates sustainable management of resources is a story worth telling.
He said that Namibia is a forerunner and prime example of real unity, team work, partnership and collaboration. “They are not words here. These are not platitudes. Its a fact”.
But despite being the authors and protagonists in “one of the most compelling stories in tourism today” Namibians have to pull up there sleeves and work hard to prepare to tell a flawless, cohesive story to the ATWS visitors in October.
“We all need to show them the best of what Namibia has to offer. You have to bring your A-game. this is your pivot point, where people will be focusing on Namibia. You need a unified message – we are committed to conservation to people, places and wildlife”.
TELL YOUR OWN STORY
Important: Tell your own story woven into the unified story.
During a panel discussion at yesterday’s ATWS 2013 prep event, a number of journalists shared advice on how to prepare for the ATWS 2013.
One panelist said that it is important to focus on telling a story that deeply resonates with the USA and Europe – where parks have become museums. “There is a disconnect between people and wildlife”.
Here, in Namibia, living alongside wildlife and harsh environments is still a daily challenge.
The story here is that Namibia is at the forefront of trying to find ways that benefit both the communities and the wildlife in the areas to amicably get along, as it were. A unique story. A story that doesn’t exist in the USA or Europe.
“Be proud and shout loudly about it”.
Freelance photographer, journalist and adventure traveller Cameron Martindall said it’s important for the tourism players to pitch relevant stories to the media – be prepared and know the topics.
Jeff Parish from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) admitted that he “never felt luckier” as when he first came to Namibia. In an overcrowded world the story of people and wildlife living together; of communities taking ownership of their surroundings and wildlife and cultures – the story of Namibia is truly exemplary.
“There is no better model than what you have created. You have taken the risk and shown how it works”.
He added a cautionary word: “It’s only going to continue to work if you bring people to see this model. Remember each of you have a different story about your place”.
Ultimately, the ATWS is an opportunity to bring together new partners, to promote the Namibian story – a place where animals and people still roam freely and have the audacity to insist that nature should be protected and development should align with that goal.