Adventure Travel World Summit 2013 – Namibia is Africa’s first ATWS host

A sandwich harbour feast
January 14, 2013
Namibia: 42% and counting
January 16, 2013
A sandwich harbour feast
January 14, 2013
Namibia: 42% and counting
January 16, 2013

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.

Shannon Stowell gets ready for the next adventure.

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). 

In 2013, the 10th anniversary the ATWS will be held in one of the world’s top adventure destinations – Namibia. (See the video that helped convince the judges)

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.

adventure travel world summit atws

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.”

desert dash

What is adventure travel?

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:

  • physical activity, cultural interaction and/or natural surroundings.

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. 


42%… and some more facts and figures

  • No less than 42% of the land area in Namibia is under some form of conservation management. These are the facts that make 42% much more than just a percentage. 
  • Moreover, Namibia was the first country in the world to write environmental protection into its constitution.
  • Since Namibia achieved independence in 1990, the percentage of land area under some form of conservation management has expanded from 13% to 42% (State Protected Areas, Communal and Freehold Conservancies combined).
  • There are 76 communal conservancies in Namibia, covering over 18% of Namibia’s surface area.
  • One in four rural Namibians is participating in the conservancy movement.
  • Conservancies also work to empower women. Four out of every 10 members serving on conservancy committees are women.

Want to be part of ATWS 2013? Register today.

Dates for ATWS 2013

Summit: 26–31 October 2013

Key events:

Prior to 25 October: Optional Pre-Summit Adventures in Namibia

  •             26 October: Welcome to Windhoek Braai
  •             27–28 October: Two days of adventure in the field
  •             29–31 October: Summit in Swakopmund

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


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