ATTA's Casey Hanisko: We need to protect our planet

Hanisko discusses ways adventure companies can be sustainable, how we can all work together, and where the adventure travel industry is headed.
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People don’t buy gear to have new stuff. They buy it because they need it. The Adventure Travel Trade Association, with member gear companies, tour operators, and destinations, typically focuses on the experiences people have with the stuff you sell them. But Casey Hanisko, who has worked in adventure tourism for 20 years, and the rest of her team are also working on much bigger-picture issues. Last year, ATTA launched the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund (ATCF) with ExOfficio, Eagle Creek, REI, and Uncruise Adventures. It’s currently reviewing grant applications for conservation projects around the world. The organization is also working to increase the number of women leaders in adventure travel companies.

1. How can brands use experiences to sell gear?

Brands have an opportunity through travel experiences to capture the emotion that travelers feel when they’re out adventuring. It doesn’t mean that brands need to sell travel; it means they can capitalize on an opportunity to place their products or sell their brand via travel images, stories, or video.

A recent Airbnb report on millennials found that they feel that having a travel experience, or an adventure travel experience, is more important to them than buying a car, buying a house, or paying off their student loans. Adventure travel and being travelers is part of who they are as people. It’s not something that they do, it’s part of their identity.

Brands can really try to tie into that. Who are the people using their brand? How do they identify? What are they doing? Can you tap into that feeling that people want to have? Help people pursue personal challenges. They want to push limits, gain confidence, and grow. If it’s a piece of gear that can help someone feel safe or gain expertise, tap into that through adventure travel experiences.

2. What’s an example of a brand that does this really well?

We recently worked with ExOfficio on video storytelling in Jordan, at a trade event. We focused on how ExOfficio gear allows the traveler to worry less about clothing and spend more time engaging with a new place and people and being transformed by an incredible new experience. They’re more concerned about capturing that brand message than showing the clothes in every shot. Outdoor Research also recently made a fantastic video, “Where the Wild Things Play.” It showed women running, slacklining, skiing, BASE jumping, and climbing. It showed women adventure travelers who are strong, like, “I’ve got this.” It was a great video. It touched me. You could feel their personalities in the film. They told their story within the context of something beautiful. 

3. What’s the ATCF’s goal?

The ATCF provides an opportunity for member companies to get help funding small projects that make big impacts locally. Travelers want to know that brands care, and that they’re connected to something other than a tangible object. The ATCF supports projects around the globe, and offers a different way for a company to have a connection to something that is important. It lets them visibly make a difference. The Conservation Alliance is now a member of the ATCF, and vice versa. Josie Norris of the Conservation Alliance is on the ATCF board. Both organizations can nominate and vote for projects and in board elections.

4. What will you do with the data from your recent study on women in adventure travel?

At the Adventure Women Leadership Studio workshop, a one-day seminar at the Adventure Travel World Summit in Salta, Argentina, in October, the information from the survey will help inform and reinforce areas of discussion and learning. We also plan to hold additional women leadership-focused educational events, and we’ll repeat this survey in the future. We hope increased visibility, awareness, and education will lead to more women as company leaders, more women on boards, more support around families in the workplace, and fewer women reporting unequal pay, discrimination, and harassment.

A report from Credit Suisse Research Institute recently found that companies with women directors outperformed those without them. It’s good for business for women to be in positions of influence. We want more women as keynote speakers, on boards, and remaining in positions of leadership. We’re also working toward gender parity on our own board of directors.

5. How has the industry grown? Where do you think it’s headed?

I have seen the travel industry as a whole understand and embrace that adventure travel brings the joy, learning, and transformative experiences that the modern traveler is seeking. In the future, destinations can collaborate and share their management plans and tourism strategies around sustainable practices, visitor number limitations, and guiding visitors through conscious traveling. Right now, mountain communities and ski destinations, such as Banff and Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada, are looking to spread winter and summer visitor numbers across more months, and to encourage travelers to spend more time away from iconic areas.

Cross-industry and cross-global partnerships will grow. The power of our combined size will create opportunities to design a future industry that recognizes a need to protect our planet. We have to. 

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