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The Professional Guide's Handbook: How to Lead Adventure Travel Trips and Expeditions

The Professional Guide's Handbook: How to Lead Adventure Travel Trips and Expeditions

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The Professional Guide's Handbook: How to Lead Adventure Travel Trips and Expeditions

516 páginas
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17 may 2022


Professional guides have a lot of skills to learn and perfect to become successful. In the first book of its kind, The Professional Guide's Handbook covers everything contemporary guides need to know to become successful in their profession. Professional Guide and educator Colby Brokvist covers skills for success, ethical standards, sustainability issues, leadership, and how to utilize all these skills when on the job. The Professional Guide's Handbook offers insight, wisdom, and real-life anecdotes from the author's own worldwide adventures as an expedition leader. Readers will find a thorough and thoughtful text that looks at everything from leadership skills to the importance of stewardship practices in the outdoor industry. They will develop a better understanding of travelers and their expectations to group management frameworks. It will leave readers empowered, enlightened, and ready to lead their next trip with renewed confidence. Colby Brokvist has more than 20 years of experience in the travel and expedition industry and is a technically competent and accomplished outdoorist.
17 may 2022

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The Professional Guide's Handbook - Colby Brokvist




Introduction to Adventure Travel

Adventure travel is about feeling alive. Feeling alive means stretching your limits and overcoming obstacles. It means staring down risk and hitting it right between the eyes. It is about accomplishment and expanded horizons. Feeling alive means entering into the great mystery of the unknown and emerging out on the other side, making new discoveries about yourself and the world around you along the way. Feeling alive is about finding joy. As far as life goals go, feeling alive is an excellent choice, and that’s why so many people choose to participate in adventure travel trips.

If feeling alive is the main objective (it is, by the way), then adventure travel is a call to action. Since you’re an adventure travel guide, I suspect you know what I mean. What was it about the outdoors that captured your heart? Why did you decide to give cubicles and fluorescent lighting the cold shoulder in exchange for tattered maps and a sunglasses tan? Was it the sense of wonder and awe that comes with arriving at a new place? Was it the exhilaration of evading risk to overcome a physical or emotional challenge? Was it for the chance to feel alive?

Anyone can answer the call to action. It would be easy to think that adventure travel trips are only for the most bold and courageous among us. Our magazines are full of images of people hucking kayaks off waterfalls, having close-up encounters with ferocious animals, and standing on miniature rock ledges thousands of feet above canyon floors. But don’t be disillusioned – the chance to feel alive is available to anyone willing to leave the comfort of their own home and challenge themselves even slightly. Adventure travel may not be for everyone, but it is for anyone who chooses to participate.

Adventure Travel 101

To better understand the material within this book, a brief review of adventure travel is in order. Let’s begin with the term adventure travel itself. For our purposes, adventure travel refers to any and all excursions outside of the normal comfort zone of an individual, whether those comforts be physical or emotional. By this definition, just about any type of outdoor or cultural trip can be considered adventurous, depending on whom you ask. The more important message within our definition, though, is that all adventure travel trips include some degree of personal risk and challenge because travelers choose to pursue goals that lie beyond their normal level of comfort.

Assuming some level of risk and confronting challenge captures the very essence of adventure, and thus adventure travel. Within this book, risk is assumed to be the possibility of something negative happening, be it physical harm, emotional harm, personal loss, or an unfortunate outcome. Similarly, challenge is assumed to be any activity that is outside the emotional comfort level or known competencies of an individual. The success of one’s exploits is never fully guaranteed when risk and challenge are present. After all, if we know beforehand that expected outcomes are guaranteed, then it’s not much of an adventure at all.

The definitions of risk and challenge, much like that of adventure itself, are subject to the perspectives of individuals. Each traveler will show up with their own standard for what is risky or challenging for them personally and, therefore, for how much adventure they are actually willing to put up with. What might be a casual affair for one person could be incredibly intimidating, demanding, or frustrating for another. Adventure travel trips of all kinds provide the opportunity to participate no matter one’s baseline – and to reap the rewards of one’s courage.

A few examples will demonstrate just how wide-ranging individual perceptions can be with regard to what constitutes adventure. There are adventure travelers who only join trips in their home country, or whose physical limits are stretched by a three-mile hike in the forest. For others, adventure might be trekking from tea house to tea house in Nepal. Plenty of adventure travelers will assume even more risk and challenge, like crossing glaciated terrain to access a remote mountaintop or dropping into a steep ski descent or swirling river rapid. Still others find it adventurous to stay in luxury African safari camps and watch charismatic megafauna all day. Each of these examples are indeed adventurous, depending on whom you ask.

In addition to the presence of risk and challenge, there are other hallmarks of adventure travel, as revealed by studies supported by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (Viren, Murray, and Vogt 2017a). Those hallmarks include connecting to the natural world, cultural exchanges, physical pursuits, wellness, learning opportunities, making personal connections with fellow participants and locals, and transformative experiences. Let’s not forget, too, that these trips are someone’s holiday, with the added expectation of relaxing, unwinding, and experiencing joy.

Adventure travel trips manifest in many forms. They could be water based or land based. They could whitewater as hard adventure (such as backpacking, mountaineering, scuba diving, and white-water rafting) or soft adventure (such as wildlife safaris, cultural trips, and expedition cruising). They occur from pole to pole and from mountaintop to ocean bottom at all times of the year. Whatever form an adventure travel trip assumes, the itineraries are designed to expose adventure travelers to a variety of the aforementioned hallmarks. Each itinerary will be different depending on what the trip designer and the guide choose to include. Even within the same destination and time frame, various trip itineraries exist, each of which will appeal to different types of travelers.

Who are the people seeking adventure travel experiences? Adventure travelers see themselves – fairly – as curious explorers who embrace the unknown. They are inspired by the idea of chasing the unfamiliar. They define themselves on industry marketing surveys using words like active, curious, kind, intelligent, risk-tolerant, altruistic, organized, and imaginative (Viren, Murray, and Vogt 2017a). Hopefully they are all of these things, for your sake!

Adventure travelers don’t all seek the same things from their trip experience, which is why there are so many different itineraries out there. In fact, even when on the exact same trip, the various participants could expect different outcomes. An example of one group on a trip to Torres del Paine, Chile, helps illustrate just how wide-ranging traveler aspirations can be. Some participants desire to bond with family members and create unity. Some may yearn for educational opportunities or to expand their worldview by interacting with locals and other travelers. Other travelers might intend to test their fortitude and push their physical limits in hopes of feeling a sense of accomplishment. Still others might desire the opportunity for reflection and spiritually convening with nature. On this one imaginary trip, all of these travelers could be united under the direction of a single expedition guide.

Many adventure travelers are simply curious. Their goals and aspirations may not be very clear at all. They just show up with an open mind, excited to see what happens, intending to uncover what a particular activity or destination has to offer them. Therein lies the extraordinary magic of adventure travel: the innate opportunity for personal discovery.

The quest for discovery is an exciting pursuit. It demands facing the unknown and overcoming obstacles, real or perceived. As a professional guide, you’ll want to harness the daring spirit of your guests. Help them feel energized, empowered, and alive.

Important Definitions

Adventure Travel Defined

Adventure travel describes trips that provide experiences (both mental and physical) to places which are novel or unique to the traveler, emphasize the natural environment, and provide challenge through experiences of culture, activities that promote physical health, and excitement/fun.

– Adventure Travel Trade Association

(Viren, Murray, and Vogt 2017a)

Transformational Travel Defined

Transformational travel is intentionally traveling to stretch, learn and grow into new ways of being and engaging with the world.

– Transformational Travel Council


Transformational Travel

Many adventurers throughout history have become our heroes. Their expeditions and exploits are legendary, while their tales have provided encouragement and insight that have had profound influence on humanity. Consider what we’ve learned in the recent past from some of our hero adventurers: Edmund Hillary’s journey to the summit of Everest taught us about teamwork. Jane Goodall’s expeditions with chimpanzees taught us about conservation and our relationship with the natural world. Ernest Shackleton’s attempts at the South Pole taught us about leadership and perseverance.

What’s most remarkable about adventure travel is that it permits anyone to embark on a hero’s journey – to leave the comforts of home behind, to endure risk and challenge, and to return having gained knowledge and insight (Transformational Travel Council 2020a). By trip’s end, travelers may have learned about themselves more deeply. They may have increased compassion for others, for global issues related to humanitarianism, for social justice, for environmentalism, or even for themselves. They might feel a greater connection with nature or realize a heightened sense of spirituality. In short, adventure travelers often return home having experienced some kind of personal transformation.

Not every adventure travel trip will be transformational for every traveler. Outwardly, adventure travel trips usually attempt to realize specific goals, such as reaching a certain destination or encountering something exotic. For some, that is enough – at least enough to entice them to sign on. But explicit goals and objectives are, in fact, simply a guise. An underlying appeal of adventure travel, whether travelers are fully conscious of it or not, is the innate opportunity for personal transformation. Making discoveries and participating in novel experiences carry the opportunity for new understandings of the world and one’s place in it. Every adventure travel trip does have the potential to be transformational, if travelers keep an open mind. The vast majority of today’s adventure travelers recognize this, and it is a significant motivator for participating in adventure travel trips (Viren, Murray, and Vogt 2017a).

It can be argued that the alternative to an adventure travel trip is a vacation. To the beach. To the golf resort. To the casinos. To Disneyland. Sure, there’s a certain allure to those types of experiences; sometimes a person just needs to relax, unwind and regroup, or to spend time with friends and family. But that’s where vacations begin and end. When is the last time you heard an inspirational tale about someone’s experience at a golf resort? What would we have gained if Jane Goodall and Ed Hillary simply went sunbathing on the Thames? Absent of risk and challenge, simple vacations do not provide the same opportunities for transformation that adventure travel does.

Adventure travelers are not mere tourists. They are explorers and seekers. If tourists go on vacation, then adventure travelers go on expeditions – journeys of discovery. Take a former guest of mine (we’ll call him Steve), for example.

Steve contacted my company with an idea for a private mountain trip that was right up my alley. We’d backpack through the high country of Yosemite National Park for six days, mostly navigating off-trail and including a summit bid to a 12,000-foot peak via a third-class mountaineer’s route. The peak itself was remote, very obscure, and had complex route finding, which Steve cited as the primary reason he was so interested.

The catch – there’s always a catch – was that Steve hadn’t ever backpacked before, never mind climbed a summit or rock climbed. He was a white-collar professional in his late fifties who spent the majority of his life within a city on the East Coast of the United States. The good news, though, was that my colleagues and I were able to design a route with contingency plans, which would allow plenty of flexibility if Steve wasn’t physically up to snuff.

Steve and I set out on the trip together, and he did great. He was, however, very out of his element. After our first night’s sleep, we had to return in a rush to the trailhead before his wife called search and rescue (he had promised her he would check in each night with his rented satellite phone but had forgotten to charge the batteries). Once back in the woods, I learned that he was using ground squirrel holes as toilets because it was easier than digging fresh holes for himself. On summit day he crawled and crab walked over most of the rocky terrain, despite me encouraging him with tips and techniques for proper forms of travel and security. Somewhere along the descent he shredded his pants and lost his wallet, which apparently had been in his back pocket.

Steve overcame each and every challenge. Yet I was never able to pinpoint why he had chosen to attempt this trip seemingly out of the blue. That is, until the last night of the trip.

On our final evening together, we were camped by a nice stream in a low-elevation forest. I was tending to the fire after dinner and Steve casually mentioned that his father had never let him add logs to the campfire during their family summer car-camping trips. That comment led me to ask more questions. To my surprise, Steve fully let loose. The gist of what I learned was that his father never believed in Steve when it came to physical prowess or common sense. Steve felt like he was only seen as a nerdy, academically oriented kid and was pushed in that direction his entire youth. He had always wondered what he was really capable of – what he could achieve if he was given the chance. As Steve told the story, he rose from his seat and became animated. His monologue culminated by boldly proclaiming that he had come to Yosemite, traipsed across untrailed terrain, and achieved the summit of a 12,000-foot mountaineering peak!

It was a powerful moment. Lacking words, I went over to the woodpile, pulled out a nice log, and handed it to Steve. He tossed the log onto the fire … and broke out in tears.

What sets adventure travelers apart from tourists is their bold spirit and willingness to assume some risk or discomfort for the opportunity to grow as a person. Steve understood that. He used adventure travel to effect a personal transformation. He stepped outside of his comfort zone and overcame a huge personal challenge and emotional risk. Ultimately, the transformation Steve experienced on his adventurous trip could have a wide-reaching positive impact on his everyday life. To this day, my trip with Steve remains one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my professional career.

People choose to participate in adventure travel trips because they appreciate, at least on some level, that it is a vehicle for transformative experiences. When a traveler seeks novel situations and pushes their physical or emotional limits, they are choosing to step out of their comfort zone and into a realm of expanded possibilities. Adventure travel has the power to teach us something about ourselves, to alter our perspectives and worldview, and to inspire action or stewardship. Inside every adventure traveler is a little bit of Hillary, Goodall, and Shackleton. They, too, can become a hero, and return home to tell their tale.

The Value of a Guide

Heroes often have fantastic stories. There’s the Epic of Gilgamesh, Odysseus’s Odyssey, and the adventures of … Margaret, former schoolteacher from the suburbs of Chicago. You may not know of my former guest, Margaret, but she (and all the other Margarets of the world) belong on this list because she, too, faced risk and overcame personal challenges on her adventure travel trip, ultimately returning home with tremendous tales to tell her friends and family. But Margaret, Odysseus, and Gilgamesh also have something else in common. They didn’t complete their journeys alone.

I am often asked what it means to be an expedition guide. Why would anyone want to pay someone else to travel with them? The answer is a jumble of reasons. Guides coordinate logistics, manage local operators, oversee risk management, and problem solve. They know the best places to visit and when to be there. They know the most interesting routes and the hidden gems and colorful locals along the way. They educate and instruct. They are cooks, entertainers, comedians, repair people, medics, storytellers, and even psychologists. But while all of that is true, it misses the essence of the true value of a guide.

My own preferred explanation of what it means to be a professional guide is more succinct: a guide is the facilitator of the travel experience. But this characterization is also nebulous at first glance – to appreciate it fully requires additional context. A guide facilitates a trip experience by embodying four distinct personalities: that of an enabler, architect, counselor, and interpreter.

The Guide as an Enabler

If you asked the average person on the streets of Zermatt, Switzerland, or Kathmandu, Nepal, what a guide does, the reply would likely focus on the idea of providing a service for someone who can’t – or shouldn’t – participate in an activity on their own. Classically, mountaineering expeditions and river-rafting trips come to mind, but travelers on any type of adventure can benefit from a guide’s services, whether it be a truly dangerous endeavor, or one that simply exceeds an individual’s personal level of competency or confidence. As an enabler, a guide offers a pathway to adventure for people who otherwise would not participate in an activity on their own.

Traveling with a guide is indeed essential for many people who would otherwise not be able to face certain challenges by themselves. Those challenges could be related to lack of ability or experience, the need for a partner, the need for access (think of special permits), or the need for specialized equipment (think of rafting equipment in a foreign country). Furthermore, guides are educators and instructors. They possess a range of technical skills and proficiencies related to the activities they guide and serve as mentors from outside a traveler’s peer circle. Eager adventurers of all abilities are able to learn, blossom, and exceed apparent limits under the direction of a trained professional.

The Guide as an Architect

Another well-recognized function of a guide is as the trip architect – the planner, operational manager, and decision maker. Trip planning is fun for some people. But it can also be confusing and stressful. Not everyone has the time to thoroughly research and plan a trip. Once on the ground, especially in unfamiliar areas, logistical challenges are exacerbated by having to constantly figure out what is happening, where to go, or how something will occur. Being in a new situation – which may be socially or culturally different from home – is disorienting enough, never mind having to navigate one’s path through it. Hiring someone else to plan and manage the trip is of great value, especially for people who work hard for just a few precious holiday weeks a year.

As an architect, the role of the guide is to streamline the flow of movement and progression during the course of a trip. When a guide shoulders the trip management burden, travelers are left to simply be present and to focus on the experience at hand. Guides also have a knowledge base that transcends what can be found on maps and in guidebooks. They recognize and create opportunities for deeply immersive and meaningful experiences that travelers may not identify on their own. They actively evolve prearranged itineraries in response to three important triggers: unforeseen issues, unexpected opportunities, and – most important – the specific interests and abilities of individual travelers.

The ingenuity and creativity that comes with a guide’s expertise and local knowledge are significant advantages for travelers. Guides readily adapt and personalize the trip experience. Without a guide, the itineraries created by companies and individuals alike stand in danger of becoming standardized cookie-cutter experiences instead of personalized adventures.

The Guide as a Counselor

Professional guides assist each individual traveler in receiving the most from a trip experience. Often, people show up to a trip not knowing what to expect. They arrive with an open mind and a sense of curiosity but lean on the guide to help them discover what is most captivating about a place or activity.

People do often need help in determining how they will participate in a trip. Especially when visiting new places, travelers may not have an appreciation for what’s possible or available to them. Guides take steps to get to know their guests as individuals and are able to help identify where the interests of the traveler and the offerings of a destination overlap. Travelers are then ushered toward the moments, activities, and encounters that will leave them feeling the most engaged and satisfied.

Many travelers also benefit from support and encouragement when they are faced with new or challenging situations. The commanding and comfortable nature of a guide’s presence in such situations is inspiring to travelers. As both the coach and cheerleading squad, guides help travelers overcome feelings of vulnerability and fear, allowing them to push their perceived physical and emotional limitations. Within the group travel setting, guides foster a supportive team environment that helps guarantee everyone’s success.

Furthermore, travel to foreign places often requires the adoption of new sets of cultural and social skills (such as overcoming language barriers, learning how a local transportation system works, or behaving appropriately and displaying respect in local communities) (Berno and Ward 2005). This can be disorienting for travelers, causing them to feel anxious or embarrassed, perhaps even causing them to avoid social situations. Guides help reduce emotional stress by serving as a bridge between travelers and local communities. They provide insight and advice so that travelers will feel relaxed and can enjoy being present.

The Guide as an Interpreter

It is important for people to not just see the places they are traveling to, but to understand them and relate to them. The power of adventure travel, as you’ll recall, is its ability to transform people in myriad ways. Guides aid in inciting transformation as interpreters of the travel experience.

Guides help travelers make sense of what they are encountering. It can be overwhelming to be in a new place or situation, and many people require help cutting through the noise. Guides call equal attention to both the obvious and the obscure. They spotlight what is significant and special within a destination and ensure important and interesting things are not missed or discounted. Guides also incorporate diverse experiences whereby travelers come to appreciate a destination more holistically.

Furthermore, guides are storytellers. Stories help transport people away from their own realities. They help shape perspectives. Through storytelling, travelers experience emotions that serve to deeply connect them to a place or experience. Thanks to stories, travelers come to understand their own relationship with the place they are traveling in, and the people or wildlife they are meeting along the way.

Trip experiences can be transformative for travelers, and a skilled guide is in many ways like their personal shaman. Guides nurture the sense of curiosity and awareness. They encourage reflection and aid travelers in deriving meaning from trip experiences. Highly skilled guides deftly steer travelers away from laying judgment or opinion, paving the way for greater truths to be revealed – epiphanies that travelers will carry with them long after their trip ends.

Given everything that a professional guide brings to the party, there is clear value in traveling with them. Enabling and architecting are obvious and easily understandable benefits, and many travelers truly need these services. Most often, it is these functions that cause people to hire a guide for the first time. The counselor and interpreter roles come as a surprise to many travelers, but ultimately these powerful functions prove to be the most meaningful and are what keep them coming back again and again.

Adventure travel isn’t just about achieving specific objectives or seeing and doing as much as one can in a short period of time: it’s about personal discovery and feeling alive. Overall, guided trips can be far superior to setting off on one’s own because guides understand how to facilitate powerful personal experiences that are both rewarding and engaging. As trip facilitators, guides elevate a trip experience in much the same way that a renowned chef elevates the gastronomic experience, or a prodigious conductor elevates a symphony performance.

Now that you understand why a great expedition guide is vital to meaningful adventure travel experiences, the remainder of this book will explore how you can successfully embody that great expedition guide.

A Trip of a Lifetime

A number of years ago I facilitated a training course for a group of fellow rock-climbing guides. After a day of rescue practice the conversation turned to how we craft meaningful experiences for our guests. As we explored the topic, the notion of a trip of a lifetime arose. A younger guide then questioned how someone could experience a trip of a lifetime on a simple three-pitch climb, typical of the company’s programming. After all, skilled climbers can knock out that route in an hour after work. How could something so simple also be so meaningful? It was a fair question. But an honest reply requires deeper context and consideration: what might be an everyday affair for us as guides has the potential to be a profound experience for someone who travels with us.

Chances are that you have experienced profound moments in the outdoors yourself. Think back to when you first entered into the activity you find yourself guiding today. Were your initial experiences memorable and exciting? Did you become inspired and motivated to learn more, to go further, to develop your skill set? Did you enjoy a sense of camaraderie and discovery with your peers? Maybe those collective moments were so meaningful that they even shaped the trajectory of your career.

Similarly, any guest on a well-guided adventure travel trip of any sort can have experiences that ignite their own emotions, reshape their perspectives, or even alter the trajectory of their lives. This is the very essence of adventure travel. As a professional guide, it’s important to actively make each moment as meaningful as it can be for your guests. Help them feel energized and alive. You never know what sort of impact an experience might have on someone. No matter how routine it may seem to you, it may just be their trip of a lifetime.


Guest Expectations

I’d like to share a personal story of failure with you.

In the early days of my career, I worked for a mountain guiding company in California. During my very first season, a senior-level guide had an accident and seriously damaged his knee. That injury ultimately led to me standing in as his replacement on a new trip we were running. Now, this wasn’t any ordinary mountain trip; it was a luxury travel trip that we were newly contracted to operate by one of the most prestigious adventure travel companies on the planet. It was complete with fancy new equipment, mules to carry everyone’s gear and supplies, and an itinerary spanning more than two weeks in the wilderness, traversing the legendary John Muir Trail. Needless to say, as an inexperienced guide I was not anyone’s first choice as a replacement, although I was excited for the opportunity.

Out in the field, there were two of us guides attending to twelve travelers. The trip’s emotional and physical demands were incredible. But we did it. After seventeen days, seventeen hours a day of cooking and cleaning, filtering water, breaking and setting up camp, attending to the pack animals, and leading the actual hikes, we managed to lead all of our guests to the summit of Mt. Whitney and the finish of the 120-mile route. Hugs, smiles, and thank-you’s abounded. Personally, I felt a sense of great accomplishment in my newfound profession.

Within a few weeks, the trip evaluations came in. You can imagine my surprise when we guides received mostly moderate marks. Even worse, the overall trip scores were mostly moderate too. I was devastated. How could I have worked so hard, gotten everyone to the end of the trail, and have only moderately met their expectations? The answer is that we severely undershot the guests’ expectations. They wanted much more than just being fed and completing the trail. Clearly, we had to figure out how to do better, how to create a more fulfilling trip experience.

We did end up finding great long-term success with that trip, but I’ll end the story here for now. What’s noteworthy is that this tale highlights an important question for you as a trip leader: If you don’t fully appreciate what guests expect from you, then how can you expect to exceed, or even meet, their expectations?

It turns out that understanding what outcomes your guests expect from a trip is actually quite complex. Some expectations are not obvious, some are difficult to achieve, and others are even paradoxical. As a professional guide, you strive to excel. But where is your energy best directed? How can you cater to the varying needs of a diverse group of people? How can you turn an otherwise normal trip into a trip of a lifetime? But before we delve into ideas for meeting guest expectations, it makes sense to first gain a better understanding of what those expectations are in the first place. So, let’s start there.

Your Guests

Throughout this book, you’ll notice the term guest is used frequently. In various sectors within the adventure travel industry other terms used to describe travelers may be common, such as client, participant, traveler, or passenger. As a professional guide, it makes some sense to adopt the term guest, since what you’re really doing is hosting people in places that are special to you. Guest is a more dignified label that implies a personal relationship and a feeling of welcoming and caring. To encourage a customer–service based mindset, guest is applied within this book when referencing your own guiding practices, while traveler is typically applied during general discussions.

Understanding Guest Expectations

Realizing what travelers want from their trips and exceeding that goal is the business of adventure travel. After all, anyone can buy a plane ticket and go somewhere on their own. Why do your guests prefer to travel with you? What do they want and need, to the extent that they are willing and happy to invest considerable sums of cash with your organization?

What Guests Want

People are eager for adventure. They crave excitement, look forward to challenges, and hope to meet with success. They are drawn to itineraries that tout explicit objectives such as skiing the Haute Route in the European Alps, encountering an Alaskan brown bear in the wild, or photographing Egypt’s pyramids at sunrise. Specific goals help outline the overall experience, but solely focusing on achieving them is akin to just talking about the weather in conversation. It’s low-hanging fruit, representing nothing more than a starting point. Just like meaningful thoughts and ideas manifest during good conversation, your guests will expect their overall trip to be meaningful in ways that transcend typical experiences listed on an itinerary.

So, what exactly do your guests seek from your trip that might not be so obvious? Thankfully, adventure travelers themselves have helped answer that very question. Guided by information gleaned from traveler interviews and surveys (Viren, Murray, and Vogt 2017b), a construction of the fundamental elements of adventure travel trip experiences follows below. Actual words used by travelers are denoted in italics. As a professional guide, it is imperative to possess an awareness of each foundational trip element, and to actively incorporate their components into your own trips whenever possible.

Foundational Trip Element #1: The Overall Experience

Adventure travelers want to feel alive. They seek opportunities for personal growth and challenge. They desire to be emotionally rewarded for pushing past their comfort zone. They appreciate learning opportunities and hope to make discoveries about themselves and the world around them that result in personal transformation. They enjoy being active. On the other hand, time for relaxation and renewal is just as important. After all, this is their holiday. Time to appreciate the beauty of nature and beautiful scenery is important. All travelers need time to unwind and process what they are feeling or thinking. More broadly, they expect the trip itinerary to be flexible regarding their personal interests, desires, and abilities.

Foundational Trip Element #2: Special Access

Adventure travelers long for experiences that are colorful and off the beaten track. The idea of authenticity comes up a lot, alluding to a desire for unblemished natural and cultural experiences. Special access, private access, and behind-the-scenes access are highly valued, in the sense that your guests are VIPs who are able to experience more than a typical tourist visiting on their own. There is also a strong expectation that the guide will leverage local knowledge to personalize the trip and create unexpected experiences and experiences to remember. Everyone wants to return home feeling inspired and with unique stories to recount.

Foundational Trip Element #3: Personal Connections

Adventure travelers enjoy meeting new people and learning about others. Bonding with fellow travelers, staff, and locals is desirable. A significant reason why many travelers rely on a guide is for connections to locals and area experts; people offer an intimate or singular perspective of the destination and add depth and fresh insights to the experience. Not only is contact with locals important, but there is an added expectation of having personal interactions with these locals, going a step beyond an otherwise generic group presentation.

Foundational Trip Element #4: Food and Accommodations

Food should be interesting and reflect local flavor. Conversely, many travelers do admit to feeling anxious when it comes to eating in foreign places, and they want to trust their guide to ensure they are properly

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