As a trip leader, the first interactions with your group are golden. Participants want to know if they will be safe and if you as a leader are professional, approachable, and will help them to succeed in this adventure. Operations differ at different travel companies, but here are 3 golden moments that can set the tone of your entire adventure travel program.
Golden Moment #1: The Pre-Trip Communication Email
Not all companies provide this information to leaders before a trip, but If you have access to names and emails -and time- sending a pre-trip communication to your participants can be golden. You will help your travelers be better prepared, and they will greatly appreciate your effort.
- Send a pre-trip email about 7-10 days before the trip begins.
- Introduce your history with the area they are visiting, what they will be experiencing, a general idea about the weather they will encounter, and about helpful gear to have (as this is in addition to what the company provided).
- Remind them the travel company remains their best point of contact before their trip.
- Confirm to see them on X date at Y time and provide a personal email and phone number.
If you don’t have access to this information, don’t worry, just make sure Golden Moment #2 is knocked out of the park.
Golden Moment #2: Checking-In
This differs from company to company, but at the trip’s beginning, there is often a quick check-in followed shortly after that by a more formal welcome. This part covers the check-in. Keep the check-in short and sweet and down to a few basics:
- Welcome them; let them know they are in the right spot.
- Let them know where the nearest restrooms are and what the hotel’s Wi-Fi password is.
- Ask if they have all their luggage and if their check-in at the hotel was okay.
- Ask them to set their watches to the local time (many people use watches); their phones will auto-update.
- Inform them -although unlikely- where to gather if an emergency occurs (i.e fire alarm).
- Give them any welcome materials from the travel or expedition company.
- Let them know where/when to meet next, even if it’s in the same room.
Golden Moment #3: The First Night Welcome / Dinner / Presentation
I amend these depending on the situation such as the speed of when dinner is ready, how tired participants are, etc. My notes are for a group no larger than 24 travelers.
In the Room: (If this is possible, I have arrived much earlier to set up and review paperwork)
- On each dining table, I try to provide a printed sheet with a URL or a process for the group to share photos of their shared experience.
- I have set up a portable projector and my foldable fabric screen.
- On a side table are hands-on items like topo maps, park maps, brochures, local natural history books, molds of animal tracks they might see, etc.
These are some core items to include in a welcome:
- Always begin on time and show empathy.
- Understand that many have traveled far, possibly from a different time zone, and are likely tired. Respect their time by being on time and having a purposeful welcome. Always keep them informed if there is a delay. I try to keep the first evening’s welcome (with dinner) to an hour and fifteen minutes, no more than an hour and a half.
- Announce that the trip’s experience has officially begun.
- Give a warm welcome and a quick overview of what they can expect that evening and the time you will be finished.
- Provide a quick reminder about the uniqueness of the trip and why you are qualified to be their guide.
- Introduce any other staff (like a naturalist or area expert)
- Provide a space for the travelers to introduce themselves (I try to keep this to about 20 minutes, definitely less than half an hour.)
- Let people eat (depending on the situation, sometimes I start the evening directly with dinner, it really depends on the needs of the program at that time, be flexible).
- I usually start my presentation just as people are halfway through dinner or finishing up.
- As a lead-in, I let them know about ways for sharing photos with the group during their trip. I also give them a heads up that I’ll be leading a short and optional [natural history or interpretive] walk at the end of that evening for those who might want to stretch their legs.
- Try to keep the presentation to 20 minutes with 5 minutes for questions
- The presentation is colorful with photos (from previous trips on the itinerary) helping to tell the story of the program.
- I share my personal reason for being there.
- The rest of the presentation includes logistical info: the shuttle, the terrain, safety protocols, meals, communications, etc.
- The 2nd to the last slide covers the weather for the next day.
- The final slide includes 5 data points -what I want them to remember- and this slide is all about the next day:
- For a wake-up I suggest using their phone AND setting a time with the main desk; don’t use the in-room clock.
- Breakfast is at X time and Y location.
- Gear to bring (daypack, sunhat, sunglasses, etc.)
- We depart at X time at Y location (or if there is a speaker, or walk, etc.)
- I say that I’ll see everyone in the morning; for those interested in the short natural history walk to join me in 10 minutes.
These first three interactions with your group are golden. Let them see that they are in professional hands, that you love what you do, that you respect their time, and assure them they will be having a life-enhancing experience on your adventure travel trip.