In many ways, the safest way to vacation right now is outdoors. Here’s how the Adventure Travel Trade Association is helping travelers stay healthy



The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) has just released guidelines on how to operate safely and mitigate spread of COVID-19 for 10 outdoor activities: camping, outdoor culinary experiences, cultural tours, overnight stays in small lodges, boating, skiing and snowboarding, safaris, rafting, trekking, and cycling .  


These comply with recommendations made by the WHO and CDC and are meant to “provide guidance, information, and recommendations for adventure travel to re-open.” All the information is available free on their website.


The recommendations are a product of a group effort with leading voices in the industry.  Companies like REI Adventure Travel, Switzerland Tourism and Backroads contributed. Everything was thoroughly reviewed by physicians at Cleveland Clinic. Shannon Stowell, ATTA’s CEO, told us, “it was a really rigorous process of creating the guidelines, having Cleveland Clinic review them, putting it out for industry comment, synthesizing the hundred or so comments that came back, and showing it again to the Cleveland Clinic. It went back and forth 15 times.” 


Pastimes covered are already naturally insulated from the main risk factors surrounding the virus. Out in the fresh air there is plenty of space to socially distance and a relatively low risk of infection. The locales for these activities are usually quite remote, and have been less affected by the pandemic. Stowell points out that the main risk comes when parties are travelling to their destination on a plane or bus. Still, extra steps will have to be taken for certain activities. For example ATTA recommends that biking groups “should be organized to promote physical distancing. Consider riding staggered, not immediately following or next to another rider.”



traveling safely
An ATTA group in Tierra del Fuego, on the Chilean side… They feel safe! Shannon Stowell/ATTA



With a newly cautious clientele, travel companies organizing adventure activities have to rethink everything from booking accommodations to feeding travelers. That’s where these guidelines come in.They offer companies an organized and thoroughly thought-out plan to reopen and re-engage, and at the same time reassure anxious adventurers they are in good hands. 


Recommendations include assessing the destination on how it is dealing with the virus, how robust their testing and tracing program is, and how the trip will affect the community. “A guiding principle will be to protect and guard small, remote or vulnerable populations that may not have been affected by the virus,” the document reads. Operators will have to rethink how they deal with cancellations. “Companies will need to amend their terms and conditions and refund and cancellation policies to allow for cancellations due to self assessment, onset of symptoms, or last-minute advice against travel by healthcare providers.” 


 “These guidelines aren’t necessarily to tell people, ‘Go ahead and open up now!’ Everybody needs to follow their local and federal government mandates. This is more for as it starts to open up, here’s how to mitigate the risk,” says Stowell.


ATTA  is very aware of the dangers our planet is facing, which many people may be forgetting during the pandemic.  


“Don’t let sustainability take a back seat,” says Stowell. They’ve just launched an initiative called Tomorrow’s Air in which travelers are given the opportunity to buy “carbon recapture units” to help offset the harm caused by greenhouse gas emissions.