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Adventure Travel Specialists

The Job

Adventure travel specialists plan—and may lead—tours of unusual, exotic, remote, or wilderness locations. Almost all adventure travel involves some physical activity that takes place outdoors. Adventure travel is split into two categories: hard adventure and soft adventure. Hard adventure requires a fairly high degree of commitment from participants, as well as advanced skills. A high-adventure traveler might choose to climb Yosemite’s El Capitan, raft the Talkeetna River in Alaska, or mountain bike on the logging trails in the Columbia River Gorge. Soft adventure travel, on the other hand, requires much less physical ability and is usually suitable for families. Examples of this kind of travel might be a guided horseback ride through the Rocky Mountains, a Costa Rican wildlife-viewing tour, or a hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley, California.

Some adventure travel specialists work strictly in an office environment, planning trip itineraries, making reservations for transportation, activities, and lodging, and selling the tours to travelers. Others, typically called outfitters, work in the field, overseeing the travelers and guiding the tour activities.

For every adventure tour that takes place, numerous plans must be made. Travelers who purchase a tour package expect to have every arrangement handled for them from the time they arrive in the city where the trip begins. That means that ground transportation (such as vans, buses, or jeeps), accommodations (lodges, hotels, or camping sites), and dining (whether hiring cooks and arranging for food to be taken on the trip or finding appropriate restaurants) must all be planned and reserved, all depending upon the particular trip. Each day’s activities must also be planned in advance, and arrangements must be made with adventure outfitters to supply equipment and guides.

Some companies serve as adventure travel brokers, selling both tours that they have developed and tours that have already been packaged by another company. Travel specialists working for brokers are responsible for marketing and selling these tours. They give potential customers information about the trips offered, usually over the phone. When a customer decides to purchase a tour package, the travel specialist takes the reservation and completes any necessary paperwork. Depending on their position in the company and their level of responsibility, adventure travel planners may decide where and how to advertise their tours.

Working as an adventure travel outfitter or guide is very different from working as an adventure travel planner or broker. The duties for these individuals vary enormously, depending on the types of tours they lead. Adventure tours can take place on land, on water, or in the air. On a land adventure trip, guides may take their tour groups rock climbing, caving, mountain biking, wilderness hiking, horseback riding, or wildlife viewing. On a water trip, they may go snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, or canoeing. Air adventures include skydiving, parasailing, hang gliding, bungee jumping, and hot air ballooning.

Whatever the nature of the trip, tour guides are responsible for overseeing the group members’ activities. Tour guides are also responsible for demonstrating activities, helping with equipment, and assisting group members who are having difficulty. In many cases, where travelers are interested in the scenery, geography, wildlife, or the history of a location, guides serve as commentators, explaining the unique aspects of the region as the group travels. Guides are also responsible for helping tour group members in the case of emergency or unforeseen developments. Depending on the nature of their tour, they must be prepared to deal with injuries, dangerous situations, and unusual and unplanned happenings.

Adventure tours are meant to be unique experiences. One way guides make their trips special is to provide their clients with unusual access to the environment or “up close and personal” experiences. No matter what the theme of a trip is or its destination, it is the guide’s responsibility to ensure that tour group members have a safe, memorable, and enjoyable time.