Nature Trail News – Spring 2017
Welcome to the first seasonal edition of Nature Trail News – Spring 2017.
On 23rd August 2017, I decided to proceed to launch my business venture, Nature Trail following personal encouragement from business coach Chris.
My initial aim has been to return to fitness through my one of passions, hiking, since first making contact with Sydney Institute of TAFE at Ultimo on 8th March 2013. Head of Travel and Tourism, Mr Garry Hartley, who runs the guiding course, was so encouraging and flexible about adjusting class attendance so I enrolled.
I completed the Certificate 4 in Guiding that year, then the Certificate 3 in Outdoor Recreation at Blue Mountains College of TAFE in 2014, the the Diploma in Outdoor Recreation in 2016.
During that time, bills had to be paid and so in addition to my other business interests, I drove buses with local operator Blue Mountains Bus Company from 16th August 2013 through to 22 October 2015. My intention was always to run my own hiking tour operation, so it was just a question of when.
The first ever tour undertaken as a practice trip for Nature Trail was a Garden Tour on 1st February 2014 involving a very informal interpretative walk around Phillip’s Japanese Garden and ponds with a few friends and fellow hikers, Vivian and Richard. We enjoyed a sushi lunch at Nature Trail Base afterwards.
The second more substantial practice trip was arranged on 4th June 2014 to Everglades Garden, including a site guide and lunch in the House. Anna, Phillip and Geoff attended. The autumn weather was sunny, there was no wind. It was just perfect.
Thanks to Chris, and with support from fellow hikers, Annette, Anna, local historian John Low AO, environmental activist Ivan Jeray ,and supportive neighbours Phillip and Geoff – all friends, Nature Trail was launched into practice phase on Saturday 2nd September 2017.
A simple morning tea was held at Nature Trail Base in Katoomba. I spoke at the time,
“In some way, everyone present here has contributed ideas and encouragement to me setting up Nature Trail. So I welcome each of you and thank you personally. Some of you may not know all the others here, yet I sense after tea we shall.
I have conceived Nature Trail as a way of keeping fit and healthy while enjoying the great Blue Mountains in which we live.
My intention is to start off non-commercially in order to undertake practice trips at no cost with trusted people I know, as an informal walking group – ‘Friends of Nature Trail’ – if you like.”
Having completed the formal training in guiding and hiking, with some tandem business planning and policy documentation drafted as part of my Outdoor Recreation Diploma, the next step was to address compliance and business planning and organising matters.
Such matters require altogether different skill sets to leading tours and hikes. Consider the following essentials:
- Business Strategy and Plan
- Insurances – Workers Compensation and Public Liability
- Tourism Licensing to operate tours commercially on local council lands
- Tourism Licensing and Eco-certification to operate tours commercially on National Parks lands
- Catering Planning and Food Safety Supervision certification for handling food
- Maintaining tour guiding industry memberships
- Maintaining first aid certification currency
- Equipment planning
- Tour vehicle selection
- Tour driver licensing
- Tour design and trip planning processes, documentation and log book
- Risk managenent and designing tour agreement with terms and conditions
- Website design and content
- Marketing, logo, motto, brochure and business card design and printing
Over the months, many iterations of what, why and how about the tour business offering have been thrashed out.
During Nature Trail’s first ever tour season in Spring 2017, Friends of Nature Trail helped undertake eight practice trips in and around the Blue Mountains region. These varied from day hikes to road touring and to open formal gardens.
Other practice trips were hikes along the Jamison Escarpment, The Grose Valley Escarpment, Shipley Plateau, Megalong Valley and beyond. Also we explored Mount Victoria’s Zig Zag Track and took a road tour out to the Rydal Daffodil Festival and another trip to Mayfield Garden, sampling historical heritage en route.
Tours were starting, if only practice trips. More importantly, I was enjoying the whole experience of running my own tour operation and Friends were enjoying range of different the trips.
Getting back to Nature.
Steve, Tour Director