A total of 9 local guides were trained in Phobjikha from 4th to 9th and 21st to 24 May 2013 under the community-based sustainable tourism project. The training was conducted by Mr. Masanori Shintani, a well-known international ecotourism interpretive trainer from Japan.
During the training the local guides were taught about the simple understanding of what ecotourism or community-based sustainable tourism is, and how being a good interpretive guide can add value to the tourist experience of a particular area.
During the training period the participants were given class room training comprising lectures, presentations on case studies from elsewhere, having participatory activities like resource finding and developing tour package and then they were given field based training of being a guide.
The training was based on the training manual book “Interpretive Methods for Community-Based Ecotourism-A Training Manual for Guides and Community Members” co-authored by Mr. Masanori Shintani, Ms. Lisa Brochu and Dr. Tim Merriman. Both the classroom and the field practice consisted of the following lessons:
- Understanding global issues of tourism
- Understanding ecotourism and community-based ecotourism
- Understanding local issues and benefits of tourism
- Creating quality visitor experiences by:
- Decision Point: Understanding that a visitor chooses to visit a place or a travel agent chooses to send their guest to a particular place. Then how a guide or community member can help make them decide by providing clear information of the place like what can be seen and done, prices and optional expenses, etc…
- Entry Experience: Traditional greeting with respect, guest orientation, place orientation (use maps and signs).
- Making Connections: Sharing personal and non-personal experiences interpretation sticking to the tour theme, developing local programs with demonstration of local authentic activities, let guests participate in activities for experience. Example video of a visitor experiencing wool shearing and making a wool glove for himself in Mongolia, a family visitor experiencing local cuisine in Malaysia.
- Exit Experience: giving visitor opportunities to think about their visit as they leave (through good experience, local made souvenirs, suggesting websites or books)
- Commitment phase: Interpretation is the key to encourage the visitors to support the local community. For some influence of interpretation can lead to: extended stays, repeat visit, recommendation to others, purchase of local products, volunteerism, donation, etc..
- Interpretation as the key to a successful tour: sharing experiences and local knowledge and ways to make people appreciate about the local resources.
- Delivering interpretive communication: how interpretation should be and should not be.
- How interpretation will bring benefit: understanding the local beliefs and how conservation of the natural and cultural resources will bring benefit.
- Interpretation is engaging: understand visitors pay for interpretive experience with money and time. Those experiences should be worth and therefore it is advise for a guides to develop a things to do list to remain prepared for a good tour.
- Interpretation conveys message: Creating a tour program which has a good meaningful flow of the program.
- Interpretation relating to an individual: most people has no experience with a local culture, therefore they need to understand things in more simpler ways. It can be done by talking about universal concepts such as family, food preparation, and festivals, so the visitors can understand as these are also things that will also be in their own culture.
- Customer service
- Addressing to visitor needs
- Keeping the visitor motivated
- Learning about the visitor: understand what motivates them and their interest.
- Learning about the subject: having knowledge about the local information
- Informal interpretation: conversation with visitor, invite them to ask questions, comparison to help them understand.
- Preparing program content/ package: title, theme, time, locations, background, materials needed, conclusion
- What to plan ahead.
- Sharing experiences through souvenirs, music, games and local skills
- Preparing a personal checklist by individual guides
- The Health Assistant of the Basic Health Unit in Phobjikha also gave a basic training on how to attend to simple emergency First Aid needs of a visitor in case of an accident during a tour. The first aid focused on treating minor wounds, control bleeding, taking care of fractures, etc.