Our Tour Directors
ATW tour directors (TDs) are hired as independent contractors. An independent contractor is required to prepare for the tour and the work he/she is scheduled BEFORE the arrival of the group. Preparation time is not compensated.
ATW runs tours on behalf of other companies. Our trips vary by tour operator. They can be camping trips, budget trips, luxury trips, trips with all meals included, and trips where no food is included. It is the TD's responsibility to become familiar with the tour.
We expect that our TDs research the tour, the program, the hotels, campground, hikes, excursions, destinations, and prepare complete and comprehensive commentary in advance of the arrival of the group. While our office provides many resources, it remains the responsibility of the TD to be fully prepared. Being unprepared could lead to serious consequences and financial implications for us and the TD. PLEASE CHECK YOUR TOUR PACKAGE WELL I ADVANCE OF YOUR TOUR, in case something is missing, so that we still have time to get it to you. We strive to put together complete tour packages and correct information, but errors do occur from time to time. Please proof the materials you receive from us and ask us for clarification if something is unclear.
Please note that the office closes at noon on Friday.
European Union Laws
ATW works under the business laws of the European Union. Our clients are mostly from Europe and therefore we need to honor the contracts the clients have with the tour operators they book with in Europe.
Under European Consumer Protection Law, passengers have a right for a substantial refund should not all points of the tour be reached. They can also demand large amounts of money back for the following issues:
✓ dirty rooms
✓ construction at the hotels / noise pollution from roads
✓ not all advertised hikes completed (exception: bad weather/force majeure)
✓ shortened hikes (not entire mileage hiked - some pax measure the miles hiked)
✓ tour directors who are not prepared, not knowledgeable, or who do not give complete commentary. (Complete commentary is: Information on the US, various states visited, cities visited, each National Park visited, history, geology, Native Americans, Mormons, etc - also: birds, plants, flowers, animals, etc)
✓ delays of more than 30-45 mins due to vehicle issues, or improper planning on the side of the tour director, time lost for delays waiting for other passengers (some people are notoriously late and need to be disciplined by the tour director - stick to the schedule)
✓ TDs who get lost or take too long to drive from point A to B, in general people do NOT like the long drives (therefore do NOT add extra driving on any tour)
✓ a change in accommodations that was not advertised
✓ a program that is not executed as it was advertised
It is the TD’s responsibility to avoid or remedy all complaints on tour. Exchange dirty rooms for clean rooms. Demand rooms further away from construction or to the back side of a hotel to reduce noise. Conduct all hikes. Guide all hikes that are advertised as guided hikes. Be prepared. Give all commentary every day even if pax seem bored. Do not skip commentary. Do not skip a portion of the program. Skipping any portion of the program requires written consent from every passenger, dated, and signed. Speak the languages in which the tour is advertised. Sick or slow pax may cause problems, and these issues must be addressed. Contact the office.
If for whatever reason any of the above issues arise on tour, the TD should contact the office immediately. It is always easier to fix a complaint, or compensate the clients during the tour, than to get massive complaint issues once pax return. The TD should keep a written record of any such incidents, in the form of an incident report or an e-mail.
IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT that the TD delivers the entire program. Should a program describe a hike or a tour with which the TD is not familiar, it is the TD's responsibility to become knowledgeable on the subject before the tour. The tour must be delivered as promised to avoid refunds Being unprepared is NOT ACCEPTABLE. If the TD is negligent, we will pass damages on to the TD.
A tour director is a mediator between the various group members and interests. He/she instills a sense of structure, concern for the well being of the passengers, and shows an organization that builds trust. THERE IS NOTHING WORSE THAN A TOUR DIRECTOR THAT IS UNPREPARED!
A good TD does not get flustered by too many demands. A good TD will understand the entire tour and explain why certain activities or hikes will be done on a certain day. Many programs list a bunch of choices per day but of course not all things may be possible to be done on each tour. Tell the groups that on some days the group may have to choose what to do, either hike or raft or.....?
Before each tour, it is the TD's responsibility to fully prepare / collect maps, commentary, location knowledge, and timings for each day. It is important to know what the daily driving distances are, how long it will take, etc.. Also, the TD must know the trails, from easy to hard, and the length of each trail, with elevation loss and gain. Pax also want to know the elevation of each location in feet and meters. A lot of this information will be in each van; however the resource books are just a back-up.
Pax expect commentary that includes information on various facets of the tour. Commentary should include background on the US, the various cities and states visited, each National Park, public land, museum, or site visited, history, geology, Native Americans, Mormons, etc - also: birds, plants, flowers, animals, etc. TDs cannot be experts in all of these areas, of course. A good understanding of each area will serve the TD well.
We have devised a tour structure that will allow the TD to establish authority and control over the group in a professional and kind way by holding a detailed introductory talk, plus a safety talk. Please follow our guidelines for a successful tour. You can always rely on the office for help.
Cultural Issues on Tour
✓ very punctual
✓ very exact
✓ pax expect a lot of detailed tour commentary
✓ TD has to be totally prepared
✓ offer less choices in the daily activities
✓ stick to the program
✓ pax love wild campgrounds and remote places
✓ pax love steak and red meat
✓ pax are always upset with American continental breakfasts, buy imported black bread for breakfasts as well as lunches
✓ pax are upset about the long driving days
✓ pax often challenge or disobey the TD especially if the TD shows weakness or is unprepared
✓ groups easily split into 2 creating mayhem
✓ TD must work at integrating the group to become one, the Germans are not inclusive people
✓ TD must be an extremely strong leader to get the respect of the group, respect is not gained through kindness but through stern leadership skills, preparedness, and previous experience
✓ Germans do not tip on own, but will be very generous if the TD accommodates extra wishes
✓ Germans are very direct and don’t whine a lot, but they can be quite aggressive
✓ pax dont mind helping and pitching in
✓ BREAKFAST: black bread, cheese and cold cuts
✓ LUNCH: black bread, cheese, cold cuts, veggies
✓ DINNER: meat and potato
✓ fun and easy going
✓ expect a lot of flexibility but also structure
✓ do not like to tip
✓ very frugal
✓ expect beautiful campgrounds with pools and are upset about national park camp sites
✓ BREAKFAST: bread, cheese, jam, yogurt
✓ LUNCH: bread, cheese, cold cuts, veggies, variety
✓ DINNER: meat and potato
✓ stick to program
✓ be politically correct
✓ pax have lots of interest in birding and natural history
✓ pax are very demanding on tour commentary
✓ pax will not complain to your face, but afterwards write scathing evaluations
✓ do not like to tip
✓ love eating veggies and fruit
✓ pax are upset about the long driving days
✓ somewhat uncoordinated and scattered
✓ BREAKFAST: bread, cheese and cold cuts, eggs and ham
✓ LUNCH: bread, cheese, cold cuts, lots of veggies plus one fruit
✓ DINNER: mix of various meals, one pot dinners are ok too, they do not know how to grill
✓ always want to eat dinner at 9 pm
✓ prefers continental breakfasts, but is hungry at around 11 am
✓ is often late
✓ can be very uncooperative
✓ limited English
✓ somewhat new to travel and therefore unprepared
✓ BREAKFAST: continental breakfast
✓ LUNCH: bread, cheese, cold cuts, veggies, love ham and salami, olives
✓ DINNER: very late
✓ always complains about food
✓ food is the most important part of their vacation
✓ pax expect beautiful campgrounds with pools and bars and are upset about primitive sites
✓ pax expect someone else to do all the work, are upset when they have to pitch in
✓ pax prefer really long dinners in camp with hours of talking
✓ very social and loves to talk
✓ somewhat new to travel and therefore often unprepared
✓ BREAKFAST: continental
✓ LUNCH: black bread, cheese, cold cuts, veggies, much variety
✓ DINNER: late, long dinners, multi course (3-5 courses), many veggies
✓ many pax are older by the time they leave the country
✓ often complain about the exhausting traveling (because of age?)
✓ typically when they leave their country they do a very long trip, therefore they get tired
✓ often they seem not so well traveled
✓ because of the flatness of their country they are often not as fit as they should be
✓ BREAKFAST: bread, cheese and cold cuts, eggs, and ham
✓ LUNCH: bread, cheese, cold cuts, veggies, variety with lots of fresh stuff
✓ DINNER: similar to American
How We Work
Adventure Travel West, Inc. operates tours for many different companies from different countries. Each tour operator has different expectations. Moreso, one tour operator could offer several different programs, each with different expectations. We try to communicate as much of the details of the tours and the tour operator as possible. However, we want to encourage you to check with us for clarification. We strongly advise you to check out the tour operator’s web site prior to conducting the tour, even if you do not understand the language. This way you get an idea of the corporate image of the tour operator.
We operate 3 kinds of tours: CLOSED GROUP DEPARTURES, PRIVATE TOURS, and FIXED DEPARTURES
• CLOSED GROUP DEPARTURES will have pax only from one tour operator. Everyone will have received the same information and will have paid the same price. Generally these groups are easy to handle as they are more cohesive. Generally the passenger identifies with the tour operator. They often do not know ATW's name. They just expect the same service they have had in other countries, and now they expect it from you. There will be many unspoken expectations, which can be tricky. Many pax pay a premium to travel with one of the well known tour operators; therefore it is important to know the tour operator and the product range that this tour operator offers. Contact the office for an up-to-date briefing on each tour operator.
• PRIVATE TOURS are tours booked by a tour operator for a family or a circle of friends. Private tours can be very challenging as pax may feel that they have a private slave as a TD. Make sure you set the rules about the hours you can work during the day as per DOT regulation. Of course flexibility is important. Most private tours are from France and Spain. The challenge with groups from these countries is that they like to eat at 9pm making the days impossibly long. Explain to them that in the USA different rules apply and that dinners are between 6 - 7 pm. Make sure you communicate the driving regs at your intro meeting in a kind and professional manner so your group understands that you cannot work longer than 12 hours on duty per day.
• FIXED DEPARTURES are tours onto which many different companies can book space. ATW develops these tours and sells them world-wide to various tour operators. We provide entire programs to the overseas operators. But in the end, we have no control over if the tours have been correctly advertised or if the advertised program is the current year’s program.
Therefore it is really important to check with the group at the start of the trip, so that everyone has an up-to-date program. TD's should encourage pax to note where they see a discrepancy. If there is an important discrepancy, please call the office so that we can create a solution and contact the booking agent to advise them of the error.
We do set the price for fixed departures; however, we have no control over the selling price. It is very likely that pax on tour will have paid various amounts of money. NEVER DISCUSS MONEY ON TOUR. If a pax complains about what they paid, encourage pax to complain to the company in Europe but not have this fact spoil his/her vacation.
Some fixed departures are bilingual, meaning you may have people from various countries on tour. This may represent a challenge. We will tell you in which languages a tour is offered and which languages it should be conducted in. We never speak more than 2 languages on tour. If you speak more than 1 language on tour make sure you divide your attention to the various guests equally. Otherwise you will get complaints.
At times people will bring their children on tour. This is always a challenge. Our tours are designed for adults and are mostly booked by adults. If you have a family on tour have a private conversation with them discussing the needs and desires of the family. Make sure they understand you cannot compromise a tour as you need to stick to the program, even if they are 50% of the entire group. But that you will try to find activities in addition to the day’s program to accommodate the kids. Make the parents your allies. Check in with the mother frequently to see if all is to her liking and if her kids are happy. If you need help call the office. NEVER ad more driving times to the day as kids hate being in the van.
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On our fixed departures we offer ACTIVE SIGHT SEEING, HIKING, TREKKING, WILDLIFE WATCHING, AND FAMILY tours. Each tour has a different focus:
•HIKING TOURS - Hiking tours are focused on hiking. If there is ONE hike per day, then the whole group needs to stick together and do the hike. In this case, the TD must ensure that the whole group stays together - the fast walkers wait for the slow walkers, and the slow walkers pick up the pace. The TD must set the example. If there is a problem with slow hikers that is difficult to remedy please contact the office. It is acceptable for slow pax to stay behind, but not to hike alone.
If there are SEVERAL hikes listed, then the group can split up, and the TD can choose which hike to do. Do not give too many options. Some hikes are too dangerous to let groups hike on their own. Examples are: hikes in grizzly bear country, remote hikes, hikes that are not well marked. This applies to hikes in Yellowstone, Glacier, Havasupai and Canyonlands - Chesler Park trail as examples. Hikes that may have terrible consequences if one gets lost are not acceptable hikes for pax to do alone.
•TREKKING TOURS - A trekking tour is a tour in which pax walk more than a few hours a day, with typically several long days in a row. It is important that the group stays together on these tours. The hiking difficulty is advertised, and pax need to know that they are expected to keep up while hiking. Generally on a trekking tour you will only have one hike per day offered. Again, it is acceptable for pax to stay behind, but not to hike alone.
•ACTIVE SIGHTSEEING TOURS - These tours can be difficult to manage as there may be people with various interests, such as hiking, photography, sightseeing. It is important to get a feeling of what people want to do during the intro talk and then make a balanced decision of what will be offered every day. Not everyone will get everything every day; the nature of group travel is compromise. Pax must understand that. Every park offers a certain activity apart from walking that is best done in that park; here are some ideas:
✓ Bryce: best horseback riding for scenery
✓ Zion: only place where pax can wade in the Narrows, also - tubing, mountain biking, great canyoneering
✓ Yosemite: great walking past waterfalls, amazing Sequoia trees, self-guided floating and tubing on Merced River
✓ Moab area: only place for a 1/2-day rafting trip with great class 2-3 rapids on Colorado River, mountain biking, great 1/2 day canyoneering trip, great jeep tour down the Shafer Trail, rock art visits along the river
✓ Capitol Reef: rock art panel, wading in wild narrows (no tours but simply visits)
✓ Grand Canyon - best place for a heli ride, the one-hour is the best tour
✓ Page - Antelope is a MUST do. Otherwise boat tours at sunset are wonderful, so is the 1/2-day FLOAT trip on Colorado (this trip is sold as a rafting trip but it is not, its only a FLOAT trip)
✓ Monument Valley - best jeep tour in the South West (any jeep tour longer than 1.5 hours), make sure to request a guide that plays the flute or sings in the caves, and a rare location for a cultural Native American encounter (exceptions are Village of Many Nations / near Zion, Havasupai, Hopi Mesas, Canyon de Chelly, which offer additional chances of cultural experiences), you can also ask the guide to stop at rock art panels