How to involve local guides in sustainability at the destination

Sustainability is finding its way into management structures and business operations of many tour operators worldwide. These businesses are all working hard to implement sustainable and responsible practices in their organisation. This ranges from internal management, such as making the office more sustainable, to sustainable accommodations and activities in the destination itself.

Many tour operators feel it’s difficult or even impossible to communicate their sustainability policy to local guides and drivers as they don’t always use the same staff. In this blog I’ll give you guidance on how you can make your local guides aware of your sustainability commitment and policies and ensure sustainability throughout your tours and activities.

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Sustainable activities

Offering sustainable activities is a difficult task, especially for tour operators that work with freelancers. These local guides and drivers are key for making sure the tourism activities are executed in a sustainable way. Not only do they guide and manage the tours, they also influence travellers’ behaviour and choices!

“Local guides and drivers are the principal interface between tourists, the activity, the local community and the environment, and therefore have a huge responsibility.”

Training

The most important aspect of committing local guides to your sustainability practices is obviously training. They are at the front of raising awareness among travellers and local communities, so they must demonstrate sustainable travel behaviour that encourages towards protecting the destinations’ resources.

In most cases, they don’t have extensive knowledge on sustainability and will act out of familiar habits. For the training it is important to keep it simple and very practical. Teach them aspects that they can relate to and directly put into practice. The most important topics for a basic training include plastic reduction, driving behaviour, local codes of conduct, animal welfare, souvenirs and customer communication.

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Guidelines

A one-page document with basic, practical guidelines on sustainable tourism behaviour is a great reminder while being on the job. These guidelines can either be a supplement and reminder of the physical training or they can be used for freelance guides and drivers you have never worked with before.

By providing them with your simple sustainability practices, they will know what is expected of them. Include the guidelines into work contracts and agreement but also place it in their vehicle. This will ensure they are reminded of it at all times and will put effort in complying with the rules and put them into practice!

Involvement

It has been proven that people work harder and are more committed if they feel they are contributing to a good cause. They will also be more willing to comply to sustainability rules and practices if they are part of the development process. Plan a brainstorm session or workshop, ask for their opinion and give them a say! They have more local knowledge and might come up with interesting practices that are useful for everyone.

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Evaluation

Now that you have informed, trained and reminded them, your local guides and drivers will hopefully behave sustainably and influence their clients in a positive way! In order to know for sure, you can evaluate them based on their practices and see if there is more training needed.

There are several ways to evaluate their practices. You can either do so through customer satisfaction surveys, have guides review one another, or even use mystery clients that report back to you. No matter what option suits you best, they all aim at improving sustainability commitment and practices by your local guides!

Start training them!

With these four basic elements you can start working on a higher sustainability commitment level from local guides and drivers. Do you need help in developing a training, workshop, easy guidelines or would you just like a quick brainstorm session?

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