From the field: Guide Training Conference, Lake Yojoa Honduras
Q & A with Paloma Bone, Holbrook Travel’s Program Manager
The value of an excellent guide cannot be overstated. Well-trained, educated, and compassionate guides are the heart and soul of our programs, which is why Holbrook invests significant time and resources in individual guide instruction and growth with yearly trainings and beyond.
In previous articles we’ve discussed qualities we look for when selecting guides and an overview of the overall process, here you’ll get an inside look from a first-time attendee’s perspective at the training itself and her take-away from the experience.
Paloma Bone, Holbrook Travel’s Program Manager attended the Guide Training Conference in Lake Yojoa Honduras from May 3 - 8, here’s what she has to say:
Was this your first Guide Training Conference? What was your role?
Yes, it was. My role was to educate our guides on Road Scholar’s itinerary standards. Road Scholar likes to include specific information regarding activities, hotels and transfers in their itineraries, and one of my duties as Program Manager is to gather these details and add them to the itineraries. The purpose of this project is to set the right expectations for our participants before they travel. During the conference I presented Road Scholar’s itinerary guidelines to our leaders so they can help with this initiative. Guides understand the logistics of the program in the field and are very knowledgeable about the activities and hotels, so they are a great resource.
How many guides (and from which countries) were going through training?
There were 11 attendees from Central America. The countries represented were Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Our operator and guide in Tanzania, Lucas also attended.
Can you take me through a typical day on the training site? From what I understand the training is thorough?
Each day starts at 9 and concludes at 6 with daily breaks in between for lunch and coffee. Word got out that I’m a Yoga teacher so some afternoons I was asked to lead an afternoon stretch, too. Throughout the day, Carlos introduces different topics designed to improve our guides’ performances, deal with challenging participants or provides industry updates to keep everyone on the same page. Most days there are group assignments and the guides are asked to present individually. For example, each guide delivered a Welcome Orientation to the group as if we were participants just starting a program. The group provided feedback to each guide on their Welcome Orientation presentation to help them understand what parts were working and which parts could use improvement.
This was your first guide training, was there anything that surprised you?
I was really impressed by our guides! These people spend most of their time in the field on their feet handling multiple challenges at once so sitting in a conference room for hours on end doesn’t seem like their natural environment, if you will. It could have been easy for them to zone out but everyone kept a good attitude and stayed engaged the entire time. I got the sense our guides really love their work and they were grateful for this training from Holbrook to help them improve on their skills and knowledge.
Holbrook prides itself on putting a great deal of effort into selecting and training guides. Based on your experience/observations, do you feel the training achieves that? How so?
Oh, definitely. Holbrook’s commitment to their guides is very apparent. First, despite their busy schedules, management makes the time to lead the trainings - Pelin is VP of Product Development and Carlos is Assoc. Director of Product Development. Secondly, this training was just for Central American guides, excluding Panama and Costa Rica; holding trainings by region, and not just having one training for all the guides makes the conferences smaller and more personal. It allows Holbrook to focus on challenges unique to each region, too for a great impact. Lastly, the trainings are held annually which creates a familiar relationship between guides and Holbrook. All of this makes for a personal approach to guide training and encourages loyalty, integrity and drive in our guides.
We’ve mentioned that the training is arduous, is there adventure or excursion worked into the training?
Yes. One of our guides led us on a hike through the lodge’s rainforest trails and to a small waterfall. Along the way, we spotted birds and saw a coatimundi, as well as species of bromeliad and orchids. At the end of the training, we celebrated! We boarded a boat for a sunset cruise on Lake Yojoa, the largest lake in Honduras and had a nice dinner followed by dancing.
Holbrook staff at the conference
What was your overall take away from the training?
I was inspired to travel more in Central America by our guides whose enthusiasm for their beautiful countries is infectious! Also, I saw Holbrook’s commitment to supporting local communities through tourism firsthand and I feel grateful to work for such a socially responsible company.
photos by Paloma Bone