Guide interpretation critical to guest experience, say leaders in adventure and ecotourism

Guide interpretation critical to guest experience, say leaders in adventure and ecotourism

Guides with a gift for interpretation and communication have the ability to elevate an average travel experience into the realm of the sublime, unexpected and unforgettable.

 

Rain Forest Adventures Costa RicaTop travel and eco-tourism companies like Wildland Adventures, Rainforest Adventures and the award winning Lapa Rios Ecolodge therefore place great importance on the quality, skill, character and knowledge of their guides.

 

"There is increasing evidence that education and understanding is a key aspect to a visitor’s overall satisfaction with a destination or visitor experience," says Kelly Bricker, a professor in Sustainable Tourism Management at the University of Utah and chair of The International Ecotourism Society.

 

She calls interpretation "critical" to the guest experience and its ability connecting people to a subject, place, culture or issue.

 

For example, you can stand in the steaming humidity of a Central American rainforest, beneath trees festooned with bromeliads and listening to the primal roar of howler monkeys, and think, wow – what an abundance of life. Or, you can listen to the tales of someone who knows the rainforest not just from textbooks and teachers, but from life itself; someone who is able to blend practical experience with scientific and cultural knowledge in a warm and engaging style.

 

Rainforest Adventures has zip line tours, nature walks, aerial trams trips and other nature-based activities at operations in Costa Rica, Panama, Jamaica and St Lucia, with hundreds of employees serving thousands of guests every year. The company pays careful attention the role of the guide, those talented conduits who take guests from diverse backgrounds on memorable journeys and adventures.

 

"All our guides are first trained by a senior guide in rainforest interpretation. It's much more than just shooting off names of plants and animals," says Eugenia Solano, general manager of Rainforest Adventures’ Costa Rica Pacific and Atlantic operations. "It's about passion and inspiration. The naturalist guide is able to explain details and involve guests in the vitality of the forest. This way people can live an experience in the rainforest and not just go on a tour."

 

Kurt Kutay, founder of Seattle-based Wildland Adventures, says, "it's all about the guides." With 130 unique itineraries in 28 countries, Wildland Adventures has guided travellers through fragile natural and cultural environments for more than 25 years, creating innovative ways to support local people and help protect their culture, environment and communities.

 

Wildland hires people native to the destination countries, individuals with proficiency in multiple languages, leadership and communications skills, and the ability to impart knowledge in a creative fashion.

 

"If Wildland travellers are the 'initiates' who want to connect with the people and places we visit, then our guides are their 'wizards', or at least their best friends who take them down new pathways by encouraging, sharing and supporting the traveller to be open-minded and open-hearted," says Kutay.

 

In other words, they are much more than tour directors mindlessly dispensing factoids; they are gifted communicators, connecting guests with one another, new destinations and the people encountered in their travels.

 

Lapa Rios is an eco-lodge overlooking Golfo Dulce and set on a 1,000 acre private rainforest reserve in Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula. For nearly 20 years owners John and Karen Lewis have set lofty standards for eco-tourism in this Central American country. Lapa Rios also cherishes its relationship with local guides who have an intimate knowledge of natural and cultural history. These days guests have online access to infinite amounts of scientific information so that's why Lapa Rios seeks guides that are not only knowledgeable but also natural born storytellers.

 

"Guide interpretation makes the guest experience whole, real and authentic," says Karen Lewis. "All of us rely on our senses, but guides help interpret those experiences with details and stories."

 

In its early days Lapa Rios chose to hire trained biologists as guides but Lewis says they soon found that the local hunter-turned-guide made for the most interesting and engaging raconteurs.

 

"Not many places have guides and interpreters that used to hunt monkeys," Lewis says, matter-of-factly. While guests benefit from this unique guiding perspective, locals benefit from being employed in jobs that are grounded in the sustainability and preservation of the Osa Peninsula's spectacular biodiversity rather than simple resource extraction.

 

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Media Contact:

Deirdre Campbell, Tartan Group

Phone: +1 250-592-3838

Email: deirdre[at]tartangroup.ca

 

See Member Profiles:

>> Wildland Adventures

>> Rain Forest Adventures

>> Lapa Rios Ecolodge

 

Photo: Rain Forest Adventures

 

 

 

 

 

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