Nature tour guides trained in Abaco

bah-parrot-may-10-09-abaco-blogThe Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, in partnership with the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), held a Nature Tour Guide Training Course May 25 – June 1, 2011 in Abaco. This certified training course exposed participants to national parks, the history of birding in The Bahamas, and wildlife and environmental regulations of The Bahamas, and included educational presentations on the key terrestrial Bahamian ecosystems–wetlands, pine forest, and coppice forest. Bird identification was a key component of the course, with the tour guides in training receiving extensive training, not only in the classroom, but in the field as well. Ten participants successfully completed the 35-hour course and earned their designation as a Nature Tour Guide. The course was coordinated and facilitated by Janell Campbell of the Ministry of Tourism, Lynn Gape, BNT Deputy Executive Director, and Predensa Moore, BNT IBA Coordinator and Grants and Projects Administrator.

According to Lynn Gape, who was also one of the facilitators of the course, “We have conducted bird tour guide training before; however, this is the first course that introduced the business elements of nature tour guiding.”  Ms. Gape added participants were very fortunate to have excellent presenters from the business community, as well as from the Ministry of Tourism.

Earlston Mcphee, Director of Sustainable Tourism, presented on the importance of having trained guides for nature tourism market. He emphasized that bird watching tourism is a lucrative and high income producing sector of the tourism market. Carlene Farquharson, Alexiou, Knowles & Co., presented in step-by-step format what is necessary for registering a company in The Bahamas, as well as speaking extensively on the need for planning and assessing the risks involved in operating a tour guide company.

Also presenting was Mrs. Erika Gates of Grand Bahama Nature Tours, one of the most successful eco-tour operators in The Bahamas. Mrs. Gates who has been in the business for more than 20 years spoke on how she began her operation to its present day success, providing great insight into the nuts and bolts of running a nature tou roperation.

How to market your tour guiding business was not overlooked and Misti Guertin of Coastal Angler Magazine gave a great presentation on social marketing and the new communication tools that are now revolutionizing the tourism industry. Website design and new social marketing tools such as Facebook and Twitter were all presented in the context of promoting business.

According to Janel Campbell of the Ministry of Tourism, the Nature Tour Guide initiative is very important for the Ministry of  Tourism. “It is the goal of The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism to have well trained and knowledgeable guides. We are seeing visitors traveling to The Bahamas, who are not only interested in sun, sand and sea, but are interested in learning about the flora, fauna, culture and history of our country. Nature Tourism is an important niche market and we are anxious to provide our trained guides with support in the marketing of their product.”

The training involved classroom presentations and field work. The purpose of the field work was to reinforce the flora and fauna presentations given in the classroom, but also to familiarize the participants with the different habitats on the island of Abaco. The facilitators were more than pleased with the results of the field work seeing over 48 bird species on one of the field trips which included almost of all the Bahamas and Caribbean specialty birds that can be seen on Abaco.

“Abaco has the best birding of any island in the Bahamas,” said Lynn Gape. “One can see more West Indian specialty birds here than on any other island. Bahama parrots and West Indian woodpeckers are common. Both of these birds are a treat to see in the wild.”

As a result of the training, a BNT Abaco Nature and Bird Watching Group was established and the BNT is now coordinating monthly nature walks. Additional Nature Tour Guide Training Classes are scheduled, with the next scheduled in August on the island of Andros.

For more information, contact or call the BNT’s Abaco Office at (242) 367-6310.

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