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'Slightly bonkers, but then you have to be to do her job. She deserves to be sainted. Superb. You should double her pay.'
This was just one of nearly a thousand client comments that we received for our 2011 Exodus Leader of the Year Award and it neatly captures in 20 or so words the reason for us running this award!
Now in its third year of operation, our Leader of the Year Award is designed to showcase to the adventure travel world the incredible range of talents and skills that our tour leaders demonstrate day in day out, often for months on end.
Sitting at a desk at Exodus Towers, it is easy to forget sometimes the effect that having a truly inspirational leader has on our clients – we received hundreds of comments where the feedback stated that the trip had been life changing or that the leader seemed to work 24 hours a day to make sure everything ran smoothly or that the leader went so far beyond the call of duty to help the group that the clients doubted their sanity at times!
Whilst I’m not expecting our leaders to drive themselves insane by trying to run the perfect trip, it’s the extra effort that they put in to making a trip perfect rather than just good which has shone through in this year’s feedback.
In the 2011 nominations, client votes poured in for more than 200 different leaders, which showed us the incredible depth and breadth of talented leaders that we had running trips for us. The downside of course (if you can call it that) is that it made trying to find the “best of the best” quite a complicated and difficult task.
In order to make the judging as fair and as unbiased as possible, we selected a crack team of top Exodus staff and then invited Justin Francis, the founder and Managing Director of responsibletravel.com, to come and sit on the panel and be our adjudicator.
In order to come to a decision about who to shortlist and who should go on to be the overall winner, we considered a wide range of sources including the number of client votes, the quality of the client comments, client feedback from the Holiday Evaluation Form questionnaires and finally we canvassed opinion from relevant Exodus office staff and from our local partner companies. This was obviously a large and bureaucratic task which ended up with a fair bit of heated argument, the use of some high tech (back-of-the-envelope) statistical analysis and some fairly partisan lobbying at times!
Luckily we did eventually come to a consensus, so, without further delay, the results for 2011:
The Judge’s Special Mention leaders:
Ilse Alt, International leader who leads cross-country ski trips such as Cross-Country Skiing: Kvitavatn
Juan Cardenas, Peruvian leader who leads walking and discovery trips such as Inca Trail & The Amazon Rainforest and Essential Peru
Khaled Alomar, Jordanian leader who leads walking and discovery trips such as Petra and Wadi Rum Trek and A Week in Jordan
Long Le Truong, Vietnamese leader who leads cycling and discovery trips such as Cycling Vietnam and Thai Indochina Grand Tour
Maho Arican, Turkish leader who leads multi-activity trips such as Lycian Activity Week
Santosh Kumar, Indian leader who leads walking and discovery trips such as Spice Trails of Kerala and The Tropical South
Sujan Weerakoon, Sri Lankan leader, who leads discovery trips such as Discover Sri Lanka
Yazel Petersson, Cuban leader who leads cycling and discovery trips such as Cuba: La Isla Grande and Cycling Cuba
|Karl Mather, International leader who leads walking and snowshoeing trips such as Classic Dolomites and Snowshoeing in the Dolomites.
Typical client feedback included 'Deciding what holiday to pick from all of the trips Exodus offer was difficult, but from now on, whatever Karl is doing, I’ll pick those. He was not only a knowledgeable and confidence-inspiring mountain guide, but he wove the war history of these mountains around us into our daily walks'.
|Lazarito de la Maza, Cuban leader who leads cycling trips such as Cycling Cuba.
Typical client feedback included 'Perfect in every way, meeting all our whims with a huge smile and efficiency. His knowledge of the country and history was outstanding, and his ability to get hold of things like birthday cake and rum was incredible! Always on call, from breakfast to teaching us salsa dancing in the early hours of the morning. I can’t fault him. He made the holiday one of the best I have ever had.'
|Liz Proctor, International leader who leads a wide range of trips including Atlas Descent and Snowshoeing In The Dolomites.
Typical client feedback included 'Liz was a great leader; she made us feel welcome at the start and was professional throughout the week. She was informative and was happy to repeat things over and over. She looked after us and went out of her way to be helpful. A lovely, kind person that made the trip even more enjoyable, thank you!'
|Mel Potter, International leader who leads trekking trips such as Mont Blanc Circuit.
Typical client feedback included 'From the first meeting, Mel’s love for the area was infectious. Her knowledge of plants was remarkable and her very good communication skills meant that she was successful in imparting that knowledge. We all came home with hundreds of flower and fungi photos we are now struggling to name! Her relaxed and friendly style belies the skill and effort it takes to keep 16 clients, with an age range of 20 to over-60s, enthused through bad weather and wet clothing while camping. 11 out of 10 Mel!'
|Roshan Fernando, Sri Lankan leader who leads discovery trips such as Discover Sri Lanka.
Typical client feedback included 'Roshan consistently went above and beyond the call of duty on this trip. Nothing was too much trouble for him to ensure that all members of the group were catered for. He combined a great sense of humour with in depth knowledge and pride in his country and in being an Exodus tour leader. His Tsunami fundraising efforts are inspiring and he deserves recognition for this. The whole trip was so seamlessly organised and Roshan was always friendly, available and accommodating. He is a fantastic ambassador for Sri Lanka and for Exodus!'
|Samer Hajric, Bosnian leader who leads trekking trips such as Walking in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Typical client feedback included 'Samer was so friendly and welcoming yet also very professional, patient and generous, nothing was too much trouble, and he looked after everyone so well, made sure no one was left out or left behind. He gave us a fascinating insight into this beautiful country. Definitely a holiday to remember, thanks to Samer.'
|Sayed Mansour, Egyptian leader who leads discovery trips such as Nile Cruise.
Typical client feedback included 'Sayed was more than merely extremely knowledgeable about Egypt, its politics, religions and the history of the Pharaohs. He was patient, amusing, interested in everyone on the tour and always available for advice or assistance whenever required. He led many after dinner debates on a whole range of subjects, much enjoyed by everyone. He was always on top form and became a true friend of the group. Simply the best!'
|Solofoniray Razafimahazo, Madagascan leader who leads discovery trips such as Madagascan Discoverer.
Typical client feedback included 'Sol was always enthusiastic and cheerful, even at the end of some very long days, and had endless patience with questions and requests from members of the group. His knowledge of Madagascan wildlife, culture and landscape was encyclopaedic, and he was skilled at passing this knowledge on, but he was also interested in each and every one of his passengers and their interests and experiences. I've been on a lot of similar types of trip and he was the best tour leader I have ever had and added immense value to the trip.'
Congratulations to our Activity Winners for 2011, who each win £250 in cash and a contribution of £250 to a charity of their choice.
Leader Manager’s comments: Kumar is a complete star! His enthusiasm, friendly outgoing attitude, willingness to learn and improve and his perma-smile make him a hit with every one he meets. At a recent training session for leaders from all over Europe, Kumar attended as a guest and by the time he left there was a passionate and vocal Kumar fan club amongst every one who attended!
Typical client feedback included 'Kumar is fun, fun and even more fun! However, his relaxed and cheerful demeanour belies the huge amount of effort he puts forth to ensure every element of the trip runs smoothly. He continually evaluates his performance asking for, and listening to, feedback. Consequently, he manages to meet everyone's needs, even when it comes to a variety of meal requirements! We cannot imagine another Exodus trip without Kumar; I guess we will just have to return to Nepal! Best trip EVER.'
Leader Manager’s comments: Sara is incredible. She is amazingly diligent, conscientious, hard working and caring. She gets consistently good feedback and manages to lead trips back to back with the same enthusiasm and energy.
Typical client feedback included 'Sara went out of her way to make this our holiday not hers. She is incredibly knowledgeable, efficient and tailored the days to give us the best of walking. We were so well informed. She led with confidence. An inspiration. I felt totally secure with her and whilst appearing to give us freedom on the walks she always knew where we were. Behind the scenes she worked like a trooper. A real star performer!'
Typical client feedback included 'In my view Eric deserves an MBE for teaching such a large percentage of UK ski skaters a wonderful but difficult skill. Eric is a fabulous instructor with an uncanny ability to know exactly what you need to correct. He gives feedback and instruction in a brilliant way. He is also great at finding the best snow and tours to make the best of the conditions. He is also brilliant at "herd management", controlling the group when you have a mix of differing abilities, in a way where everybody is happy and looks after each other. He is also fantastic fun. When on holiday we met 3 separate groups of his former clients also enjoying skate touring and even racing, competing at a high level. Thank you Eric for some of the best days skiing in my life!'
And finally, our overall prize for 2011. The winner of this prize receives £500 in cash and a contribution of £500 to a charity of their choice.
Overall winner - Often Konzoro, Kenyan Leader who leads discovery trips such as Gorillas & Masai Mara.
Trip Manager’s Comments: I never hear anything but good feedback about Often. Clients comment on him repeatedly, not only on their Holiday Evaluation Forms but also in emails and online – they all seem to love him!
Typical client feedback included 'I cannot commend Often enough for his professionalism, sincerity and friendliness. From the first instance of meeting him, he made me feel welcomed and at ease, I felt that I could trust him, and he always had my best interests at heart.
Often was more than happy to answer my questions, and have a laugh, during the trip, which made my experience with Exodus unforgettable. Often constantly went out of his way to accommodate the requests of guests, and he always did this with a smile on his face, even though it created more work for him. I was also surprised by Often and his team, who would always take necessary steps to ensure we were not inconvenienced by uncontrollable changes in the itinerary.
Often should be commended for his local knowledge, outstanding service, and for ensuring that the reputation of Exodus as a reliable and reputable company was upheld.'
We would like to congratulate all of the leaders who were nominated in the Exodus Leader of the Year Award 2011. Thank you to you all for working so hard in 2011 and we hope your 2012 seasons are also a great success.