Country Walkers

Waterbury, VT, 20 Employees

Playing the Field: Travel Industry

STATUS REPORT: Global tourist arrivals declined 1 percent in the second half of 2008, down from 7 percent growth in 2007, according to the World Tourism Organization, and experts say the industry could see a 2 percent decline in 2009. But not all sectors are suffering equally: Anecdotal accounts strongly suggest that luxury travel has been hit hardest, while adventure travel—and ecotourism in particular—has dropped off more slowly. Why? Adventure travel is generally more affordable, and "adventure travelers are more passionate," insists Shannon Stowell, president of the Adventure Travel Trade Association.
OUTLOOK: Experts predict several long-term trends. Travel to Europe will slowly decline (thanks to a strong euro and a thirst for new horizons), while budget destinations in the U.S. and nearby Central and South America will see growth. Experiential vacations—which include volunteering, learning, homestays, etc.—will remain popular, as will trips involving surfing, scuba diving, biking, and sailing. By some estimates, ecotourism, a red-hot sector for the past five years, may grow 10 percent annually.
BREAKING IN: A top adventure guide can make $250 per day, plus tips of up to $5,000 for a two-week trip. But you'll need an advanced degree or specialized training in natural history, archaeology, or your chosen sport—and years working as an assistant guide. Faster tracks: trip sales (up to $100,000 a year)—much needed in a tough market—or, if you have the skills, cooking. Chefs (up to $50,000 a year) easily find work at varying venues, from guest ranches to raft trips. All travel jobs start with networking: Attend events hosted by the International Ecotourism Society (ecotour­ism.org) and Adventure Travel Trade Association (adventuretravel.biz).
—KATE SIBER.

GREEN LIVING: At this specialized travel provider, based in the Green Mountains, a "late shift" policy allows for morning trail runs or ski turns at nearby Stowe Mountain Resort, and telecommuting is an option one day a week. On-the-job training for all staffers includes free passage on a Country Walkers trip. "They need firsthand experience so they can be passionate about what we sell," says director of operations Jamen Yeaton-Masi. Employes are also encouraged to pursue volunteer opportunities, like joining a local school's mentoring program, all on company time. countrywalkers.com

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: FROM THE COMPANY

ABOUT
Country Walkers is a small company in the Green Mountains of Vermont that offers walking tours for travelers in more than 70 destinations throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and New Zealand. We have a staff of 20 and pride ourselves on offering top-notch customer service, a passion for our product, and unique, authentic experiences for our guests.

GREEN INITIATIVES
We pride ourselves on being green. We have an active Responsible Tourism Committee, which sets standards for our tours and office systems. Our kitchen provides dishware to discourage the use of paper products, and we recycle all paper, cardboard, and kitchen products. We are also hard at work to become a paperless environment.

COMMUNITY SERVICE
We're committed to the communities in which we walk and support many service projects and organizations around the world. For example, we belong to the Travelers' Philanthropy, which currently highlights our Dormitory Project in Patacancha, Peru—a project we funded to build a dormitory for schoolchildren in the Andes. Additionally, in celebration of our 30th anniversary in adventure travel this year, we are donating 100 percent of the proceeds from two special anniversary tours in Egypt and Vermont to local "giving back" efforts in those regions.

OFFICE CULTURE
We hold weekly Friday trainings for our entire staff. Typically these are tour destination trainings, which include tour images, regional music, food, and cultural highlights. Each staff member participates and takes turns leading the training sessions. In addition, all staff members—from the accountant to the mail room supervisor—have the opportunity to join our walking tours. Since we are passionate about our product, we believe it is essential for each employee to experience it firsthand. This may mean an eight-day trip to Crete or a 12-day trekking tour to Nepal. We have a casual, dog-friendly office. We promote open communication and have an open-door policy so everyone has a voice. To promote physical fitness, we offer a shower and locker facilities as well.

FLEXIBLE HOURS
Many of our employees enjoy our "late shift" option, which allows them to arrive at work late morning. This allows staff to bike to work or enjoy a few hours of skiing before coming to the office. Others utilize this schedule to spend more time with their children. This schedule is especially nice during the long winter days with limited sunshine. Some staff members also work what we call a "marathon" day in order to leave early on alternate days.

EMPLOYEE RECOGNITION
We organize quarterly Staff Appreciation outings, such as our Fall Foliage Hike, Winter Ski or Snowshoe Day, Spring "Giving Back" Fling, and Summer Retreat. And since we are a walking company, we encourage everyone to take their lunch breaks to walk, play tennis, bike, or just enjoy lunch outside. We also encourage participation in local walks and races, and sponsor staff joining annual corporate walks.

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