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The value of good guiding

Guiding and Interpretation: discussions at 2012 workshop

The value of good interpretation,

At Wildlife Tourism Australia’s third national workshop in 2012, Barry Davies presented a talk on the value of good interpretation, and led a discussion on the same

Some of the comments after the talk included:

  •  What can WTA do if guides involved in the wildlife tourism industry obviously show lack of experience (to an embarrassing extent) including major misinformation? Could we offer peer reviewed counseling.
  • Major tourism boards and trusts need to  see guides as ambassadors for our wildlife and for Australia
  • Providing mis-leading information gives a negative impression to knowledgable tourists and spreads sale notions amongst others
  • Tourists do notice when guides are obviously well-qualified for the information they provide as well as their customer service

Providing high-quality memorable wildlife experiences

Moderator Dr Ronda Green, chair WTA

Dr Roy Ballantyne and his colleagues have produced some constructive papers on providing memorable experiences for tourists that lead to enhanced understanding and concern for some of the conservation issues facing the wildlife viewed by them and there have been a number of valuable reports by Gianna Moscardo and others for the wildlife sector of the Sustainable Tourism CRC on visitor attitudes and satisfaction. There is also much unpublished information and ideas amongst tourism operators and other educators. While some ideas may be guarded because those working in tourism are after all in a competitive situation, there is much we can learn from each other, and there is potential for working together to generally raise the standard of wildlife tourism in our country and to provide the kind of interpretation that truly inspires our tourists to take a real interest in the animals they see, and a concern for conservation issues. We must remember they are on holiday and don’t want too much gloomy talk, but at the same time there has been increasing interest in the environment, and some studies (e.g. at Taronga Zoo) have shown that visitors do want to learn something of the environmental issues that threaten the animals they care about. So how do we provide the ‘wow’ experiences that bring enjoyment and a sense of wonder and get people talking (always a good thing for business) and also to use these moments to get across an awareness and understanding of some conservation issues and actually alter some aspects of our visitors’ lives, whether it leads them to find more information, stop throwing out rubbish and pollutants that could harm wildlife and habitats, refuse to buy wildlife-unfriendly products, donate to conservation projects, design more environmentally-friendly ways of conducting their businesses, lobby the government or?

Questions for discussion:

  • What have been some of the ‘wow’ moments in your own life involving wildlife?
  • Are there some common themes we can identify that can help us reproduce such moments for tourists?
  • Can you recall some ‘aha’ moments when you suddenly realized the extent of a conservation problem?
  • Can you cite some examples of good guiding practice that has enabled special moments of wonder or insights into conservation issues?
  • Have you seen examples of wasted opportunities, where experiences could have been improved by better action or interpretation?
  • How do we reach people of differing attitudes and backgrounds?
  • What are some overall guidelines and information sources we can provide for tour guides and other nature interpreters?

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