Romy Greiner & Aggie Wegner
In the pursuit of delivering high quality tourist experiences in a geographically remote and professionally isolated setting, many tourist guides in north Australia have associated themselves with Savannah Guides Limited (SGL). SGL is a professional association of tour guides operating in Australia’s tropical savannas, a vast landscape renowned as remaining wilderness and harbouring many cultural assets. SGL seeks to set and maintain high standards in relation to interpretation and public education, training and guiding, and natural and cultural resource management. This paper provides a member’s perspective of SGL and its perceived success, and discusses challenges the organisation faces for the future. The paper reports the results of a quantitative survey of existing and former members of SGL to investigate what guides are looking for in their professional association, and to what extent their expectations are being met. Exploratory factor analysis was conducted of Likert scales to detect patterns in members’ expectations of and satisfaction with SGL. The underlying motivations for joining SGL were strong professional branding, working with like-minded people, and a sense of wanting to protect and care for the environment. Member expectations were largely fulfilled and benefits were seen to manifest in terms of business performance and personal satisfaction. From a member’s perspective, SGL is a well-functioning and responsive organisation with strong leadership and a recognisable brand, and well equipped to master future challenges. The paper uses the learning organisation framework to discuss the challenges of ensuring the continued success of a tourist guiding brand focused not only on education and skills. Furthermore, it draws on the importance of SGL’s philosophy and focus on teaching and preserving.
Key words: nature-based tourism, guiding, industry leadership, self-organisation, brand, philosophy