Welcome Christina Heyniger to PathWrangler!

Please join me in welcoming Christina Heyniger to the PathWrangler team!

Christina’s influential work in the adventure industry led us to her a year ago.  Since our first over-coffee meeting on Valencia Street the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, we discovered a common view on some of the key challenges in our industry, and how we can work together to solve them.

Since 2004 Christina’s consulting work has been focused on the adventure industry’s potential to transform local economies and foster the type of cultural exchange that supports world peace.  Her clients include governments, adventure entrepreneurs, and international development agencies from India to Brazil to Saudi Arabia and many places in between, who are now trying to use adventure travel as a path to sustainable economic development.

In 2008 she pioneered the Adventure Tourism Development Index (ATDI), a ranking of countries around the world based on principles of sustainable adventure tourism.  Now in its fourth year, the ATDI is guiding destinations in creating sustainable adventure tourism markets, and also helping to reshape the global perception and understanding of adventure as a means of social and environmental development and stewardship.  In emerging markets, government policymakers are using the ATDI to argue for sustainable tourism over less favorable types of tourism development.

Here are some of Christina’s career highlights in her own words:

In 2004 I started a consulting firm (Xola Consulting) focused on adventure tourism as a means of economic development.  My first client was a small river rafting business based in Pollock, Idaho.  In exchange for training as a river guide, I provided the company owner process analysis and management recommendations for his small company.  I’m forever indebted to this company for the chance they gave me to apply my corporate management consulting skills in a new environment.  Over the course of three months one summer and in subsequent trips I learned to row the rapids of the main Salmon River (not very well, I’m afraid) and all about how this family-run business operated: from managing local partners and guides to keeping the guest lodge full.  Since that first “client” I’ve been learning about the importance of tackling development issues with a systems approach and exploring different avenues for how to accomplish this.  In 2011 I merged my consulting practice with Vital Wave Consulting, and shifted the consumer-facing elements of the business to an internet company selling adventure travel online, called Xola.com.

Prior to 2004 I lived in Washington, D.C. and worked for a large, global consulting firm based in Tysons Corner, Virginia.  I was in the technology infrastructure solutions group; our clients were government agencies, communication companies and technology-oriented foundations.  Starting Xola Consulting was one of my life’s defining moments, a radical upheaval that eventually caught a little attention from Outside magazine and also Roadtrip Nation, an organization that helps students explore pathways they never knew existed through programs and resources focused on self-discovery.

I write and speak regularly on small and medium business development and tourism issues related to the environment and human development.  In 2008 I was a contributing author of two chapters, one on Bhutan, and another on Kerala, India, in a book published by National Geographic titled Riding the Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean- A Guide to 50 Extraordinary Adventures.

Before these things all happened I was studying at various schools, where I earned an MBA in Entrepreneurship (Kogod School of Business at American University); an MA in Communication, Culture and Technology (Georgetown University); and a BS in Communication (Cornell University).

Another important thing about me that influences much of my thinking and things I like to do, is that I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska.

Ultimately, though, Christina is an entrepreneur.  While many high-level strategists often look at problems from 40,000 ft, they can be more academic than offering real solutions.  Christina, on the other hand, repeatedly takes the leap without a map in hand, gets her hands dirty and finds innovative ways to solve problems and create value.

Christina is joining us on an advisory basis and there are some big projects that we are working on that you will see shortly.  Until then, please give a warm welcome to Christina!

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