Skilled staff at the heart of the outdoor experience

Summer is here and, while most of the country is winding down, preparing for a relaxing holiday break, many of us in the outdoors sector are gearing up for our busiest time of year.

Domestic tourism is on the rise, and more and more visitors are arriving from around the world every day to explore the amazing scenery New Zealand is famous for. Kiwis and international visitors will be taking advantage of the many types of activities on offer, from jet boating to active outdoor pursuits like kayaking, bush walking, caving, canyoning and rock-climbing.

How memorable these experiences are for locals and tourists alike depends, to a huge extent, on the quality of the guidance and instruction they receive.

A good instructor or guide does more than teach us how to paddle a kayak or climb a rock face. They understand and respond to an individual’s needs, gauge their abilities and help participants become more adept and confident.

New Zealand’s outdoor organisations are fantastic at recognising the value of selecting and nurturing professionally qualified instructors and guides who can provide for safe, enjoyable and instructive experiences in the outdoors.

Many are investing time and effort in ensuring their staff have the right qualifications and experience. One example of this is Motueka-based Abel Tasman Canyons. Managing director Toine Houtenbos leads by example and ensures his staff are suitably qualified. He also runs the New Zealand Canyoning School, wrote the Code of Practice for Recreational Canyoning in New Zealand, and is a canyoning assessor for NZOIA.

Similarly, Rohan Haskell, owner of R&R Kayaks in Abel Tasman National Park, sees the obvious value of competent, qualified staff to both his business and its clients. An NZOIA member himself, he has made a commitment to continually upskill his staff, ensuring they are fully trained, qualified and experienced.

These businesses aren’t unique in their commitment to guide and instructor professionalism. The story is the same in many adventure activity operations and outdoor sector businesses across the country. Operators that are committed to ensuring the best possible experience for participants are investing in the skills, qualifications and professionalism of their staff.

This investment might mean supporting them to undertake training or courses, either as refreshers or to obtain new qualifications. NZOIA is a professional association for outdoor instructors and guides that offers qualifications across nine outdoor disciplines – bush walking, rock climbing, alpine, white water kayaking, sea kayaking, caving, canyoning, canoeing and wall climbing. The qualification assessments we offer reflect our belief that quality instruction and guiding depends on ongoing training and development.

And, while nothing is ever guaranteed in the outdoors – unpredictability is often part of the appeal – professionally qualified staff are, without a doubt, one of the best ways to ensure participants have fun, stay safe and walk away with new skills.

For that reason, it makes absolute sense to invest in high quality training, development and qualifications for the guides and instructors who help to make our outdoor experiences truly memorable.

By Gillian Wratt, NZOIA Chair

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