In November 2017 two Wilderness First Aid workshops were given in Chengdu and Lhasa. 32 guides from Tibet Eco Travel Collective members took part in the certification training given by Josh Olsen.
We are happy to welcome the following new members to the Tibet Eco Travel Collective:
Tenzin Woaber, I-Tibet Travel
“I belief we have a special responsibility to minimize the environmental impact of each and every tour we undertake and we also have a huge responsibility in promoting local economy and share the well-being with how may ever need our help.
I was a tour guide in late 1990’s and many of the clients from abroad made me environmentally conscious and then forced me to start my own company to fully realize my dream for a eco neutral and carbon neutral travel agency in Tibet.”
Dhondup, Tibetan Guide Travel
“We run our business with the idea of “Think Local , Act Global”. All our staff are local Tibetans, including myself. All of us are from different parts of Tibet. We can’t boast of how much we are benefitting local communities but we do make an effort to bring every yuan our clients spend in Tibet to locally owned shops and restaurants.
In every car we use we put trash bins so that we don’t leave behind any waste while travelling. Since our company offer trips to each and every part of Tibet, we have different environmental awareness slogans written in Tibetan on each car to encourage and promote environment protection awareness among local people as well.”
Tenzin, Tibet Travelers
“Tibet Travelers have big respect for protecting nature. We promote loving nature and protecting nature on our website, as well as social media. Nature is providing us everything, starting from the fresh air to the cool water. Nature is one of the best blessings, even just being in nature without putting any effort we become peaceful naturally.”
The TSBTO exchange program commenced in New York City on April 28th with twelve Tibetan participants arriving from Chengdu.
Activities included sightseeing, business training classes, educational presentations and field based experiential learning where participants experienced ecotourism related small business case studies by participating in activities and visiting local tourism operations. The group also spent five nights in home stays with local American family hosts.
The group bonded very quickly and turned out to be a very cohesive group. They approached all activities with enthusiasm and curiosity and it was very rewarding being their mentor and teacher throughout the program. Once again, hosting the program in the spring enabled a wide range of regions of Yellowstone National Park to be used for the program.
The following training sessions and classes were facilitated during the time in Montana:
1. Workplace First Aid Training (2 days)
2. Interpretive Guide workshop (4 days)
3. Small Business Training workshop (13 days)
- 7 main site visits and/or business case study presentations
- 14 half day classroom based presentations/sessions
During a visit to Lhasa in November 2016 to follow up with participants of the USA Exchange Program and give marketing support to the members of the Tibet Eco Travel Collective, we received three requests for hospitality training.
Since the focus of the USA Exchange program is also shifting from focussing mostly on travel agencies to including more guesthouse and hotel owners in the program, we decided it was a logical progression to offer a basic hospitality training in Lhasa in April 2017.
We started looking for trainers to build a team and we were fortunate to find Cameron Davenport willing to come to Lhasa from Bozeman USA to join Sam Voolstra to give the training. Cameron is very experienced in developing and managing tourism properties in the USA and South America. He has given lots of staff training over the years and helped hotel and guesthouse owners improve their service levels, marketing and management.
Sam Voolstra is co-owner of a resort in Nepal since 2005 and has trained all levels of staff. She also has a wide experience in hotel marketing and management.
Together they developed a basic four day training focussing on guest relations and services. The hospitality training focussed mostly on practicing interaction between hotel staff and guests, in role play and group sessions. The training was in English, and translated in Tibetan. The training had 20 Tibetan participants from 9 different hotels and guesthouses based in Lhasa.
A Wilderness First Aid Training and Guide Training was hosted in Shangri-la, Yunnan in winter 2016. There were 22 Tibetan guides of several travel agencies taking part in the program.
In 2016 11 participants travelled to the USA for another successful exchange program.
In winter 2016 marketing consultants Julie Thorner and Sam Voolstra visited most members of the Tibet Eco Travel Collective to answer questions they had about marketing and business development.
Most of the session focussed on online marketing. We reviewed their websites and other online marketing efforts, discussed the use of analytics and SEO to improve their ranking, and looked at online review sites and other online marketing platforms.
Since the domestic market continues to grow rapidly, most of the members are now also marketing to the Chinese market. The younger agents are very creative with using WeChat and other social media to reach out to the Chinese traveller market.
It is more challenging for the more traditional agencies who initially got most of their clients from international travel agencies. They now have to adept to the changing travel market with less international tour groups and more individual online bookings. The decrease of the number of foreign visitors to Tibet is also forcing them to reach out to the domestic market and change their marketing accordingly.
The members requested more marketing training focussing on improving website ranking and creative use of social media and review sites.
From November 3-7, 2016, the Tibet Eco-travel Collective hosted a first-aid training in Shangrila, Yunnan. The training was led by Mr. David Zinn, and he was assisted by Krista Elkins, Jason Matthews, and Jed Weingarten. Topics covered ranged from CPR to medical and trauma emergencies, and participants who completed the entire course were certified in CPR and Wilderness Advanced First Aid, and in addition to be being able to offer better service to their customers, they will now be able to help members of their local communities with medical situations as well. Huge congratulations to the participants!!
Welcome to the following new members of the Tibet Eco Travel Collective:
Penpa Tsering – Easy Tibet Tours
“One of the main goals is introducing our beautiful land and it’s people to tourists by hiring only locals and by making our contribution to the local communities by providing education opportunities and making donation to disadvantaged groups. From the start of our business, we aim to provide more opportunities to people in local community since we feel it is our responsibility towards our community.”
Nyima Tashi – Kham Voyage
“The Kham region has diverse landscapes, culture, languages and spiritual practices that are yet to be known to the majority of tourists traveling to the Tibetan Plateau regions. Kham Voyage is dedicated to provide rewarding tours where clients can have an in-depth experience of the local natural environment, culture, spirituality and lifestyle.”
Dawa Tsering – Tibet Shambhala Adventure
“We pioneered in giving training to young disadvantaged Tibetans in cooking and hospitality. We look after our staff and provide them with extra incentives and insurance including medical insurance, commercial insurance, pension insurance, and industrial injury insurance.”
All current and some past alumni participated in one on one business mentorship consulting sessions.
A video editing workshop was also hosted in Lhasa – giving tour guides skills to shoot and edit short videos for promotional materials for their companies.
In November 2015 the program hosted a Wilderness First Aid and guide leadership workshop in Lhasa.
In May 9 tourism and hospitality entrepreneurs attended the USA exchange program. This year the successful new program format based in Bozeman followed again.
Welcome to Lobsang from Tibet Experience as a new member of the collective!
Lobsang: “When I was young there was no plastic in the area where I grew up. I did not even have shoes, just boots made of yak skin in winter. So when plastic packaging and goods came I had no idea about the effect on nature and I would just throw everything on the ground or in the river. When I became a guide it were the Western tourists who taught me that it is bad for nature to just throw rubbish away. Now my pockets are always full of packaging waiting to be thrown in the bin from things I ate or used or what I found in nature.”
In January seven young Tibetans undertook an exchange program for 2 weeks. They visited New York and Washing DC then undertook field activities in Yellowstone National Park and Bozeman area.
The second exchange trip for the year took place in May with nine participants The group then travelled to Washington DC and on to Bozeman, Montana as a jumping off point for visits to Yellowstone National Park and surrounds. Activities included sightseeing, educational presentations and field based experiential learning where participants experienced ecotourism businesses by participating in activities and visiting local tourism operations.
The group bonded very quickly and turned out to be our most cohesive group yet. They approached all activities with enthusiasm and curiosity and it was very rewarding being their mentor and teacher throughout the program. Running the program in the spring enable different regions of Yellowstone National Park to be used for the program. We were also able to do different activities (such as horse trekking) due to the warmer weather. The good weather and wider range of activities contributed to the success of the program.
Business consulting workshops were run in August with all 2014 program alumni in Lhasa, Xining, Chengdu and Shangrila.
On March 9th and 10th 2013, a group of 9 Tibetans representing different regions of the greater Tibetan area attended the Wahington DC Travel and Adventure Expo (www.adventureexpo.com). Before the show, they met with international booking agents in New York City, and gave presentations on their companies and specific activities they offer. At the show, they promoted their own companies and tours, and also provided visitors to the booth with an education about traveling in Tibetan areas.
After visiting New York City and Washington DC, the group traveled to the world’s first National Park, Yellowstone. From March 12th-17th the group explored the Northern Range of Yellowstone, getting an introduction to the Great Yellowstone Ecosystem, and even having an amazing with Yellowstone’s famous Lamar Vally wolf-pack. In addition to visiting local eco-lodges, they also went on a dog-sledding trip in Tom Miner Basin, with several of them actually “driving” their own dog-sleds. After the trip local eco-tourism operator Jason Matthews spoke to the group about the challenges and benefits of ecotourism in the region.
On 12th and 13th of January 2013 six young entrepreneurs traveled to the USA to attend the Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show www.adventureexpo.com. The group received sales and marketing training in the lead up to the trip and promoted their own tourism products at the show. After the show they traveled to Yosemite National Park and visited local ecotourism operators to learn more about tourism operations in the USA. They also traveled to Washington DC and NYC for site-seeing and cultural exchange. They returned to Tibet in time to prepare for the up coming summer tourist season.
Twenty-four tourism and hospitality employees and entrepreneurs mostly from Yushu Prefecture in Qinghai were taught ecotourism concepts and tourism and hospitality service skills in Xining on November 4 till 9, 2012.
Many participants expressed sincere thanks at the opportunity to learn and pointed out that tourism business and/or environmental training opportunities are very rare. Many participants commented that they had been working in the tourism industry for many years but had never had even basic ecotourism training. Others commented that their companies had done very small amounts of training but as the company owners are so busy they are always distracted and only offer very short opportunities to learn. The level of motivation to learn amongst this group was quite inspiring.
The formal introduction and explanation of ecotourism concepts should provide the participants with a very solid starting point from which to develop their future business plans and products. Without this relatively formal understanding of these basic concepts, it is extremely difficult for these participants to look down the road towards a long-term, sustainable business model. Indeed, the very idea of a long-term, written business plan was new to most of the participants, but we believe that such plans are essential to the development of true, community based ecotourism.
International tourism experts worked alongside local experts to give an introduction in the basic requirements for ecotourism and look at possible ecotourism products like home stay, hiking, horse trekking, cultural tours, art courses and other local experiences. SInce monasteries play a leading role in these areas and a clean environment is key for ecotourism to be a success, monks were given practical training in biodegrading time of waste, organizing clean up programs and the importance of making waste management systems. The monks will share their new knowledge with the local communities.
December 5th-19th, 2012, a group of high-level Tibetan scholars and business people visited the USA on tour of ecotourism sites and educational institutions. They started in San Francisco, where they visited several parks, including the Marin Headlands, Mt. Tamalpais, and the Muir Woods National Monument, home of the tallest trees on earth. They then visited Yellowstone National Park where they saw bison, elk, coyotes, wolves, and more in their natural setting. Finally, they visited sites in Washington DC, and New York City, including the beautiful campus of Columbia University.
In October 2011, 14 Lhasa based guides attended a workshop focusing on introducing ecotourism concepts among local tour guides. Hosted by a local travel agent guides from various agencies attended teaching sessions including, customer service, Leave No Trace, Remote Area First Aid, and Itinerary Design. A Tibetan Doctor from the Lhasa Medical Centre taught the first aid class. The group spent a half day out at Drak Yerpa learning about campsite set-up. The group observed different types of camping equipment with a focus on the most practical types of equipment for expeditions on the Tibetan Plateau. Proper kitchen set-up, camp hygiene, and waste management was also demonstrated. The group concluded the training with an afternoon site cleanup at the Drak Yerpa Monastery. The did a fine effort – filling an entire truck with garbage left by visitors to the site.
The start of Tibet Ecotourism Collective
In January 2011 the project funded an ecotourism training workshop for 34 participants in Chengdu. Tour operators, guides and local community hosts attended the three day workshop. Training sessions focused on business management for eco-tourism service providers. Participants traveled from all over Tibetan areas including Lhasa, Yushu in Qinghai and Gyeltang in Yunnan. An important aspect of the training was the opportunity for local tour operators to discuss and share knowledge and experiences among others with similar interests and issues. All participants shared the same challenging of competing with larger more business savvy Chinese operators.
In the fall of 2010 36 guides, cooks and managers from agencies in Lhasa met for a week long workshop. Training included: Introduction to Ecotourism Concepts, Leave No Trace, Minimal impact practices in tourism, Responsible Guide Practices, Responsible Travel Practices, Customer Service Concepts, How to be a Good Host – Western Client Expectations Campsite Set-up – Client Expectations & Environmental Considerations. The workshop concluded with two different site clean ups at popular tourist site near Lhasa.
In late September 2009 the project conducted a 5 day workshop in Chengdu for participants from the Kham region of western Sichuan. The workshop focused on introducing ecotourism concepts and how to apply these concepts in local communities. 28 Tibetan tour guides, guest-house owners and tour operators attended.
In October another two day workshop was delivered in Gyeltang/Shangrila in the Tibetan area of Northern Yunnan. On the first day 35 participants took part in training sessions introducing ecotourism concepts practical ways local tour operators can introduce ecotourism ideas into their operations. On the second day the group visited local ecotoruism sites and held discussions on introducing more ecotourism type operations in the area.
Favorite short trek: Yaks and butter tea trek
A 3-day trek up and over a small pass and through Tibetan grasslands, passing traditional Tibetan settlements, walking over spiky tussocks of grass and camping in green pastures or with local Tibetans in their modest houses. It’s as ‘Tibetan’ an experience as you’ll have near Lhasa, with mountains in the distance, yaks grazing everywhere, wide open spaces, and traditional Tibetan dwellings that offer salt-butter tea if you drop in.more
Thanks Kim Bannister!