WildChina is pleased to announce that our founder, Mei Zhang, has recently joined Adventure Travel Trade Associaton (ATTA)’s 15-member Advisory Board.
In the company of other innovative leaders in the adventure travel industry, Mei looks forward to bringing her passion for travel, as well as commitment to cultural and environmental sustainability, to the Advisory Board.
The ATTA’s complete press release is as follows:
WildChina’s Mei Zhang Joins Adventure Travel Trade Association Advisory Board
(SEATTLE) – APRIL 13, 2010 – Entrepreneur, China native and founder of internationally acclaimed sustainable adventure tour company WildChina, Mei Zhang, today was named to the 15-member Adventure Travel Trade Association Advisory Board.
Zhang, a native of Yunnan province in southwest China, holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and worked for McKinsey & Company before creating Beijing-based Wild China, which offers distinctive, ecologically sensitive journeys in China. While consulting for The Nature Conservancy, Zhang witnessed the push and pull between economic development and conservation of both nature and culture in Yunnan. She strongly believed that there was a for-profit solution to this: providing sophisticated interpretation of Chinese culture and nature, and therefore creating experiential travel that was unheard of in China.
“The ATTA represents big and small businesses alike, and particularly for adventure tour operators, most which are small operations driven by passion, there are not a lot of other venues of associates that address their needs,” said Zhang. “Many of us face similar business challenges, such as understanding product trends and social media and addressing sustainable operations. So, with my involvement in the ATTA, I hope to contribute international and small business perspective to operators worldwide, and also possibly contribute in a way to organize small Chinese adventure travel operators.”
Zhang’s observations and passion for travel led to the creation of WildChina in 2000, based on the simple mission to assist travelers to experience China differently. Together with the current CEO Albert Ng, Zhang has transformed WildChina into an award-winning business: National Geographic Adventure – “Best Adventure Travel Company on Earth;” National Geographic Traveler – “Tours of a Lifetime;” Travel & Leisure – “A+ Agent for China.” The WildChina story has been covered by CNN, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, TIME and more.
“Mei’s understanding of the complex opportunity for adventure travel as a vector of sustainable development, her multi-national experiences and perspectives, and her proven business acumen in creating a sustainable enterprise bring great value to our community,” said ATTA President Shannon Stowell. “Further, Mei’s ongoing commitment to raising standards in our industry, her continued support of the ATTA, and the insights she can bring concerning China, which is expected to become the fourth largest source of outbound tourism in the world, greatly enhances the increasing depth of our advisory board.”
Under Zhang’s leadership, WildChina also has established many partnerships with villages, nature reserves and non-governmental organizations in China. Frequently speaking on tourism and entrepreneurship in China, she serves on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. Zhang lives in Washington, D.C., with her family.
Other adventure travel industry experts committed to support the ATTA and its efforts to grow and sustain the adventure travel industry include the following Advisory Board Members:
- Richard Bangs - Adventurer, entrepreneur, author, producer and director – “Richard Bangs’ Adventures with Purpose”
- Eric Brodnax - Vice President, Orbitz Worldwide – General Manager, Away.com & Outside Online
- Jeff Dossett - Chief Executive Officer, AdventureLink, Inc
- Urs Eberhard - Executive VP Markets & MICE Switzerland Tourism
- Francis X. Farrell - former publisher, Men’s Journal and National Geographic magazines
- Nicky Fitzgerald - formerly, Sales & Marketing Director, &Beyond
- Kurt Kutay - Founding Director and President of Wildland Adventures, Inc. and non-profit Travelers Conservation Trust
- Perry Lungmus - Director of Sales and Marketing, Travcoa
- Thornton May - Contributing Futurist, World Bank
- Praveen Moman - Co-founder and Managing Director of Uganda-based Volcanoes Safaris
- Helen Nodland - Founder Nodland Travel Enterprises, Chair of VAST, Virtuoso Travel Network
- Everett Potter - Author and Journalist, Contributing Editor, New York Times Syndicate, USA Today, Outside and others
- Gustavo Timo - Founder ABETA (Brazil Ecotourism and Adventure Association)
- Russell Walters - President, Northern Outdoors
Photo credit: Adventure Travel Trade Association
Established in 1990, the Seattle-based Adventure Travel Trade Association (www.adventuretravel.biz) is a global membership organization dedicated to unifying, networking, professionalizing, promoting and responsibly growing the adventure travel market. Association embers include tour operators, destination marketing organizations, tourism boards, specialty travel agents, guides, accommodations, media and service providers. Host of the annual Adventure Travel World Summit executive trade conferences (www.adventuretravelworldsummit.com), the Adventure Travel Trade Association also makes possible www.Adventure.Travel, the traveler’s hub of physical, cultural and nature-based adventure travel and guide to trusted tour operators from around the globe.
At 1 am Beijing time this past Saturday, I received this email below from my colleague, Sunshine. I am used to his quick email responses to my last detailed request for a flight or a trip proposal at those ungodly hours. This is one of the hardest working individuals in WildChina’s Beijing office, and I often have to prod him to go to bed.
I have never seen him this emotional.
His email reads,
Last evening, we went to visit Yubeng Primary School in the upper Yubeng village, and sat down for a chat with the only teacher there, a Han Chinese girl from Hebei, who settled in Yubeng four years ago, now looks and acts like a local Tibetan, even her temperament.
It gradually got dark, and so enjoyable just staring at the flaming stove, drinking the ginger tea. Imagine the life of a girl who volunteers to teach in a remote Tibetan village, something I know I will never do in my life, then me, busy with work and life every day, like a clockwork rabbit, never stop, I have to say I got somehow touched, life can be so amazing and unique, here and this moment, really want to do something to help, no big promise, but something practical.
So I readily promised when she mentioned she would like to have some books about stones and plants, then she can tell the kids what the plant or stone is when they see it. I will buy the related books when get back to Beijing, welcome to join in. And if WildChina wants, can also have a WildChina library there, she refused TNC’s request of putting up the TNC exhibition there, but I guess she will be happy to offer one room for the library.
Reading his email, I could practically see the flames and smell the wood burning. Yubeng is a magical paradise, hidden in the valley of Mt. Kawagebo in Northwest Yunnan (太子雪山). That’s where I took Ed Norton and Ann McBride of the Nature Conservancy to visit in 1999. On a beautiful October day, on those trails, we discussed the possible name for this business I planned to start. Wild World? No. Wild Asia? No. WildChina? Yes. I wanted to build a WildChina that is dedicated to showcasing the wilder parts of China in a sustainable way.
It’s now been 10 years; I am glad WildChina’s staff still finds magic in that valley. It’s time WildChina does something new to give back to the local villagers. A few books and a library is the least we can do.
Stay tuned on the Wild Library progress, and in the meantime, look at our complete hiking trip to Yubeng Valley.
These days, I seem to be doing a lot of traveling and a lot of talking. The traveling, unfortunately, does not take me to the mom- and-pop pickle store in Dali, or a breathtaking valley in Shangri-la, but rather New York or Boston. The talking is less about traveling to China, and more about why I have choosen travel as a profession. People tend to be very curious after they learn that I have a Harvard MBA and used to work for McKinsey as a management consultant.
Just last week, I took our young DC office intern, Sammie, along to Boston, because I was the guest speaker in a Harvard Business School classroom where the MBA students were to examine the WildChina case. Sammie was eager to see what a famed MBA class looked like. I don’t know what she got out of the classroom, but I got something out of the journey.
I pre-warned Sammie that I travel light, a carry-on suitcase and a purse. No checked luggage. She came prepared. Well done, I thought, until we got to the security line. I breezed through the detector and was putting on my boots at the other end. Two people cut in front of Sammie while she was busy removing her metal bracelets, belts, laptop, digital camera… she was obviously getting frazzled. I smiled at her, and told her she should watch “Up In the Air.” George Clooney’s Ryan definitely got the airport system worked out, and that comes with repetition.
The Blue line subway station at the airport didn’t seem anything new to Sammie. She was used to subway rides in Beijing, where she studied at one of the top universities. However, the “Downtown Crossing” stop was an eye opener: “ WOW, 美国的地铁怎么那么破呀?´ (Wow, How can American subways look so grungy!) Yes, the walls were dirty and covered with dust that had accumulated over the years; the lighting was dim; and there was a musician playing guitar in a corner. Her shock was justified — who would have expected to see subways of this condition in America, after riding the brand new lines in Beijing? The subway stations in Beijing all sport bright lighting, with colorful ads for the newest model of cell phone and Nike shoes.
“Mei jie (“Sister Mei” in Chinese – that’s what she calls me), you walk so fast! Do you do this all the time? Is this what an entrepreneur does?”
I told her that the English word of “entrepreneur” glorified my job. Entrepreneur is often translated into Chinese as 创业者，or 企业家, but the version I like best is 个体户 — a single-unit entity, pronounced GE-TI-HU. GE-TI-HU often reminds me of the dumpling vendor in the old alley way not far from my apartment in Beijing. It was a husband and wife stall. They got up at 4am to start making the fresh dumplings for the day by hand. The first clients would arrive around 6:30 am, and the last ones left around 8 or 9 at night. They mixed their own dough, cleaned all the tables, and washed all the dishes themselves. They made a grand total of RMB 3000 per month — about $350 in those days. They had a baby and thought they had the best lives, compared to their relatives back at home in the villages near Shanghai. I went back to look for them again last year, but they were gone. Where their stall once was is now the construction site of a new apartment building. I just hope they have a similar stall in other parts of Beijing, or back home.
On the trip, I told Sammie that my job is “搞业务的”, or “Sales or Business Development” in English. A long time ago, I never really understand what 搞业务的 meant in Chinese. To me, it often conjured up the image of a young male in a cheap suit, holding a fake leather case, handing out business cards with a huge smile on his face. But, after years of airport travel, subway rides, and rental car trips, I have finally came to terms with this title for myself. Yes, 我是搞业务的。 I am a salesperson, because I am proud of what I am selling – a different experience in China. www.wildchina.com
WildChina is pleased to announce that founder Mei Zhang will speak at the New York Times Travel Show, which takes place from February 26-28, 2010 in New York City.
Her seminar, entitled “Discover China,” will discuss experiential, off-the-beaten-path travel in China for which WildChina is known.
The New York Times says of her seminar,
Join entrepreneur Mei Zhang—founder of luxury tour operator WildChina and a Travel + Leisure “A-List Travel Agent”—for a look at the new face of China travel. Zhang takes you beyond the Great Wall to the lesser known, yet equally stunning parts of China for truly experiential travel, highlighted by meaningful, personal interactions. Get tips on where to go and how to experience China differently, from ethnic minority village homestays to luxury hiking and camping in pristine natural landscapes.
Mei will present her seminar on Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 11:30 am (Seminar Room 2 of the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City). More information on Mei’s and other sessions can be found online: NYT Travel Show Travel Seminars.
Photo credit: Lost Girl’s World
If you are interested in booking Mei for a speaking engagement, please contact Alex Grieves at email@example.com.
Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business
WildChina founder Mei Zhang will speak at Georgetown University‘s McDonough School of Business on Tuesday, January 19th and Wednesday, January 20th, 2010.
Her talks, regarding doing business in China, will focus on China’s changing start-up environment and the challenges of entrepreneurship in China – both specifically and relative to the United States. Mei will offer insights on her personal experiences in the Chinese market as well.
Mei is pleased to share her expertise with Georgetown’s business school students about such a creative, competitive and exciting market.
The exact schedule is as follows:
Tuesday, January 19th (11:50 – 12:05 pm) – Full-time students
Wednesday, January 20th (6:30 – 8:00 pm) – Evening students
Photo credit: Bloomberg Businessweek
For more information on booking Mei Zhang for a speaking engagement, please contact Yu Zhang at firstname.lastname@example.org.