Shannon Stowell, CEO

Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA)


Health and Safety has always been important in responsible adventure travel. The Covid-19 pandemic adds a layer of risk of a transmissible disease both in daily life and in travel experiences. These guidelines provide a path to an organized and safer reopening for the adventure industry by providing a common set of actions that can be used by a diverse range of travel businesses and suppliers across the industry supply chain. We created the guidelines in collaboration with Cleveland Clinic, a leading provider of specialized medical care, focused on providing clinical excellence and superior patient outcomes. Cleveland Clinic is a multispecialty academic medical centre that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. The health system offers 140 medical specialties and subspecialties that draw thousands of patients from around the world. U.S. News & World Report consistently names

Cleveland Clinic as one of the nation’s best hospitals in its annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey, and in 2020, Cleveland Clinic was ranked one of the best hospitals in the world by Newsweek magazine.




The COVID-19 pandemic has entered a new phase, travel is restarting and travelers and companies want to operate while minimizing COVID-19 contamination risk. ATTA Activity Guidelines for Adventure Travel have been

developed jointly by ATTA, Cleveland Clinic and a cohort of operators.

The Trekking amid COVID-19: Guidelines were designed to be used together with Adventure Travel COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines.

While the current knowledge (June 2020) indicates that the risk of the coronavirus being passed on to others outdoors is reduced when people maintain social distancing, operating under these Guidelines should only be

undertaken after thorough risk and safety assessment and compliance with existing destination government guidance. These guidelines are intended to be a flexible framework for ATC’s (adventure travel companies) to use in

reopening. Companies should tailor their actual policies and practices based on their unique operations, applicable laws, regulations, and health standards in their locales, and consult with their own legal, safety, and financial advisors to develop a reopening guide for their situation.

These guidelines are not intended to be an exhaustive list of possible actions nor is it meant to encourage ATC’s to resume operations before they are ready to do so. These guidelines are designed to be used as a supplement

to ATC’s current risk and crisis management plans, operating procedures and protocols, legal documents (e.g., terms and conditions and liability waiver), and customer trip materials – not as a substitute. It is intended to be a flexible framework for ATC’s (adventure travel companies) to use in reopening. It is meant to be flexible. Companies should tailor their actual policies and practices based on their unique operations, applicable laws, regulations and health standards in their locales, and consult with their own legal, safety and

financial advisors to develop a reopening guide for their situation. This guide is not intended to be an exhaustive list of possible actions nor is it meant to encourage ATC’s to resume operations before they are ready to do so. These guidelines are designed to be used as a supplement to ATC’s current risk and crisis management plans, operating procedures and protocols, legal documents (e.g., terms and conditions and liability waiver), and customer trip materials – not as a substitute.




Note: This is a living document. As international and national restrictions and Public Health guidelines evolve, this document will also evolve to reflect new advice and changes to guidelines when they emerge. Guidelines have been developed in line with the most recent information coming from international and national sources related to health, tourism and outdoors activities. We welcome you feedback any time:


Disclaimer: The information contained within these operational guidelines may change from time to time due to the evolving nature

of the COVID-19 pandemic. It must not by itself be relied upon in determining obligations or other decisions. Users of this document

must independently verify any information on which they wish to rely. It is expected that all business owners and management will have

familiarized themselves with government al, health authority, and regulatory guidance prior to re-opening and implemented all relevant

requirements. Adventure Travel Trade Association do es not assume , and expressly disclaims, any legal or other liability for any inaccuracy,

mistake, misstatement, or any other error of whatsoever nature contained herein. The information accessible in this document has been

compiled from many sources that are not controlled by Adventure Travel Trade Association. While reasonable care has been taken in the

compilation and publication of the contents of this document, Adventure Travel Trade Association makes no representations or warranties,

whether express or implied, as to the accuracy or suitability of the information or materials contained in this document. Adventure Travel

Trade Association shall not be liable, directly, or indirectly, to the user or any other third party for any damage resulting from the use of

the information contained or implied in this document. By proceeding to use this Adventure Travel Trade Association document you are

accepting this disclaimer.


More information about the ATTA can be found at

More information about Cleveland Clinic can be found at


Trekking and Climbing can be a low-risk activity for transmission of COVID-19 due to several factors. Trekking usually takes place in well-ventilated areas, involves little to no gear, is typically done in small groups, is easy to practice while maintaining social distance, is not technical, and does not require close supervision. However, because trekking involves a familiar activity and clients are highly independent, it is necessary that clients themselves be aware of and be committed to observing COVID-19 safety protocols and regulations.


I.Group Management:


  • Small groups, FIT or household groups should be favoured to promote distancing. Strive to keep trip participant numbers as low as reasonably possible.
  • Physical distancing does not need to apply to household units.
  • Physical distancing should be practiced as much as possible if it is a group of strangers. How each individual moves about and mingles in a trek will greatly

influence your group’s distancing practices – operators should promote the shared responsibility for distancing.

  • Consider using face coverings when in situations of higher risk of virus spreading, such as: when using transportation, during close-proximity instruction,

when helping each other in harder terrain, when trekking on crowded trails where distancing is difficult to maintain.

  • checking temperature.


  1. Pre- Arrival, Instruction and Briefing


  • Have screening actions in place. Before joining the activity ask guests to self-assess their physical condition and self-screen their risk profile. Inform guests

that if they have symptoms, however mild, or are in a household where someone has symptoms, they are advised to stay at home.

  • Set clear standards and boundaries for COVID-19 health and safety measures and guest participation. Make relevant information about the activity

available, such as, the risks involved and the measures you are taking to manage COVID-19 risks. Ensure guests understand the risks and what is expected of them to participate.

  • Provide ample access to hand washing facilities and sanitizer. Ask that guests sanitize hands when entering any building or office facilities, before starting

an activity and as often as needed throughout the activity.

  • Adapt your briefing to avoid the need to get close to guests when possible. For example, while fitting packs and shoes.
  • Strive for physical and social distance at the beginning and at the end of tours, always favoring open and well ventilated spaces.
  • When closer contact is required consider the use of face coverings.
  • their responsibility in compliance to the COVID-19 precautions.


III. Transport:


  • The use of vehicles to transport clients includes a higher degree of COVID-19 transmission risk. Measures to mitigate risk should be used whenever possible;

open vehicle windows, provide space in between passengers and have passengers wear face coverings. Consider the use of face shields or the use of

private vehicles for transportation as additional measures.


  1. On the Trail:


  • Favour choosing less popular trails and times to minimize your exposure to other people or groups.
  • Favour choosing areas where it will be easier to maintain social distancing due to topography, difficulty level, or trail conditions.
  • When crossing paths with other groups, try to maintain ample space. If distancing is not possible (for example in a canyon or thick forest trail), consider using face coverings.
  • Prepare for interaction with people external to your group. Often people socialize and chat on trailheads or stops – remember they might not know, or be following, the same health and safety standards that you require of your group.
  • Adapt your procedures to be able to maintain social distancing while helping guests with basic trekking tasks such as organizing packs, stretching, or

demonstrating the use of trekking poles.

  • When closer contact is required consider the use of face coverings.
  • Lower the possibility of first aid or evacuations by toning down the trek difficulties or challenges. Ensure difficulty level does not exceed skills and ability of


  • When administering first aid, some distancing methods need to be adapted or cannot be used. Use Personal Protective Equipment – PPE such as face

coverings and gloves.

  • Consider the need for defining additional COVID-19 evacuations protocols.


  1. Equipment:


Enhancing sanitation is a key part of mitigating COVID-19 risk. When at all possible, participants should avoid sharing equipment and should

care for and carry their own personal equipment.

  • Prevent surface contact where needed, for example:
  • Identify high use areas, such as, at base, office, transport
  • Clean high use areas often.
  • Prevent contact in high use areas when possible. Identify high use areas and clean those often.
  • Each person should have their individual equipment (e.g. pack, water bottle, trekking poles, sleeping bag, mattress) for the duration of the tour.
  • Cleaning of gear that comes into contact with skin (e.g. backpacks, clothing, sleeping bags) is a standard good practice and can be employed to

reduce surface contact.

  • Encourage guests to size and choose equipment with minimum handling; then encourage them to carry and care for their selected personal


  • Trekkers could be advised to bring their own equipment whenever possible.
  • Consider sanitizing any gear that could be a vector for COVID-19 transmission.
  • Use recommended methods for cleaning and sanitizing that have been determined to kill the COVID-19 virus, such as, appropriate rest time in between

uses, or using soap and water or bleach solutions. Follow manufacturer’s instructions and the recommendations of official health and safety agencies.

  • If support staff cares for client gear or shared gear such as group shelters, tents or mattresses during the trip, consider requirements to prevent cross

contamination and promote gear sanitation in the field.

  • Consider implementing safe-handling procedures for personnel who use cleaning products to clean equipment to prevent harm from chemicals or cross contamination.





The Adventure Travel Trade Association is a vital leadership voice and partner for the adventure travel industry around the world. Our mission is to empower the global travel community to protect natural and cultural capital while creating economic value that benefits both trade members and destinations. The ATTA community today is a vibrant, thriving, interactive network, over 25,000 members strong and representing 100

countries worldwide. From tour operators to tourism boards, specialty agents to accommodations, all ATTA members share a genuine love for global exploration and a vested interest in the sustainable development of tourism.


Cleveland Clinic is a leading provider of specialized medical care, focused on providing clinical excellence and superior patient outcomes. The

integrated healthcare system includes hospitals, outpatient clinics and wellness centers across the globe with facilities in the United States,

Canada and the United Arab Emirates. In 2021, its newest hospital, Cleveland Clinic London, will open.


Founded in 1921, Cleveland Clinic has grown and evolved both clinically and geographically, becoming home to:

  • The world’s largest heart valve program and vascular surgery program.
  • The world’s largest and most specialized urology practice.
  • One of the top cancer centres in the US, centreed on multidisciplinary patient care.
  • The UAE’s first and most comprehensive multi-organ transplant program.
  • A leader in quality clinical care in Florida, offering easy access from Latin America and the Caribbean. For patients traveling outside of their home country to a Cleveland Clinic location, Cleveland Clinic’s Global Patient Services department provides personalized and compassionate care. This team of international caregivers serves as a point of contact to help guide patients through every aspect of travel and care. Other select services available to global patients include:
  • My Consult Online Medical Second Opinion program, which gives patients secure, online access to Cleveland Clinic specialists for second opinions and consultations.
  • Cleveland Clinic’s Critical Care Transport team, an expert team of critical care providers available 24/7 to transport critically ill and injured patients of all ages via ground mobile intensive care unit, helicopter or jet aircraft.


For more information about Cleveland Clinic, visit

Article about Sean Disney, CEO of Adventure
Dynamics International

In between trudging himself up the highest mountains in the world, Sean Disney pauses to reflect on his
journey and what it’s like to be one of only seventy people to ever complete the Explorer’s Grand Slam and
the first South African to do it twice. Hours of agonizing training and a taste for persistence leads Sean to
overcome his failures and enable him to climb Everest twice.

Sean speaks of how “being outdoors has always appealed to [him]” and how he enjoys meeting and dealing with different people who he guides up these mountains and who make “everyday different.” Conquering Myself “As long as you are still alive you get to try again.”

By Naeve Human

For Sean, there was no other viable career option to adventure guiding. The seemingly endless opportunities surrounding it – constantly moving, being able to see the world, the diversity of adventure – all seemed to trump “sitting behind a desk” by miles for Disney.

Overcoming these huge physical obstacles isn’t the only difficult part of the job for Sean as he is exposed to all sorts of diverse personalities… some good and some that make his job “very interesting.”

It all began in 1996 when Sean and his team embarked on their first attempt at the Northern side of the highest mountain in the world. However, hopes of conquering the mountain were soon dismantled by a combination of bad conditions and inexperience.

There was always adebt to settle with the mountain. It seems as though the mountain not only left them
walking away with their tails between their legs, but also tickled a discomfort into them
that could not be ignored until it was scratched. Although they returned in 2006 and conquered the South side of the mountain with great triumph… there was always “a debt to settle with the mountain”, at least with the North face. Inevitably, Sean returned to the bottom of the harrowing peak in 2010 prepped with hours of training and an aggressive mindset that allowed him to finish what he had started just
fourteen years before.

Mount Everest has existed as a daunting icon for all explorers for years. Straddling the border between Tibet and Nepal, the mountain stands the highest in the world at about 29 000ft (

Despite all these exceptional achievements and experience, Sean says that he continues to approach these mountains slowly and with much caution. He goes on to speak about how although he is a qualified mountain guide – he is continuously aware of what can happen in those mountains and expertly prepared so as to limit the risk and injury if something does go wrong…“confidence is key for the mountains, but over-confidence can kill you.”

Continuous with this notion, about 300 people have died on Everest since 1922
( Climbing this mountain takes about 2 months and essentially costs over R1 million. These facts, however, don’t seem to faze Disney’s family as he goes on
around 5 to 7 trips a year and can otherwise be found climbing local mountains to help stay fit. “My family is used to it – I stay safe and always phone home… with technology like satellite phones nowadays it is easy to stay in touch and keep in contact.”

The mountain remains only recently conquered, first being ascended by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on 29 May 1953. Since then, only about 4000 climbers have successfully summited the mountain – Sean Disney being one of those few.

However, not only has Sean summitted the highest mountain in the world twice –
he has also summited the highest mountain on each continent twice, fulfilling the Explorer’s Grand Slam.
Confidence is key for the mountains, but over- confidence can kill you.

Perfectly displaying the precariousness of these mountains – Sean speaks of a time where he almost lost his life close to the summit of a mountain called Mt Aspiring in New Zealand. He explains how he still has
nightmares about the fall he had that led him to slide 20 metres and stop short of a 2000 metre cliff.

“Good training payed off as I managed to use my ice axe to stop about 1 metre from the edge.”

Mountain climbing isn’t always the [white] pastures it’s made out to be either. Throughout his years of adventuring, the hardest obstacle Sean has overcome so far is failure. “Dealing with failure is a big part of mountaineering” he says, “however you will only hear stories of successful mountaineering expeditions.”

Sean expresses that a lot of the time he has not made it to the top of a mountain and for him learning to deal with that is incredibly difficult. Not only does he enjoy the simplicity of mountain climbing, the way they make his life more goal focused – he continues to say that mountains make you humble. Despite these failures, “as long as you are still alive, you get to try again.” Everyone has limitations and being able to deal with yourself, knowing yourself will help you to go on. Climbing these mountains requires loads of experience and physical training – however they also require a decent amount of mental and emotional work. Mountain climbing encourages people to carveout their identity; “knowingyour body and what it can do and also knowing your mind and who you are helps you to deal with your limitations.”

Once you train your mind to understand itself and its capabilities – anyone can achieve anything. “Everyone has limitations and being able to deal with yourself, knowing yourself will help you to go on.”

Once these physical and mental restraints are overcome, Sean is able to sit back and look at the view. After 2 months of excessive strain and hard work, he indulges in the splendour of his surroundings at the highest peak in the world. “I would describe it as very abstract… you could see all around and the curvature of the
Earth.” Sean reflects on his triumph, “the secret is to get back into the mountains and try again – this is how you beat the failure.”