We partnered with the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) to come up with tips to help you host a safe off roading experience. These are best practices, but you’re the expert on the activities you lead. A great Host always thinks about what more they can do to keep everyone safe.
Match your guest to the right trip
If there are health, fitness, or other requirements needed to safely enjoy the experience, make this clear in your experience description. This includes providing details about the length of time, exertion and fitness required, and skill levels needed.
Here’s a guide from the ATTA to help you communicate to guests what skill level is needed for your off roading (ATV or 4×4) experience:
- 4×4 and ATV beginner skill level: Guests should be comfortable sitting as a passenger in an off road vehicle and be driven over rough terrain, obstacles and steep inclines by an experienced 4WD guide.
- 4×4 intermediate skill level: Guests should be comfortable being instructed to drive over potentially rough terrain, obstacles and steep inclines by an experienced 4WD guide.
- ATV intermediate skill level: Guests on easy ATV tours should be comfortable driving their own vehicle and follow a guided tour, where the speed is controlled and the terrain does not pose any substantial risk to a novice rider.
Once someone books, you can use Airbnb’s messaging system to introduce yourself and help your guests feel welcome and prepared. Let them know that you’re available to answer any questions.
You should create an experience where your guests feel comfortable asking questions at any point. Try to anticipate common points of concern (such as how to use the bathroom on your experience, expectations for interaction with others, etc.). It may seem obvious, but if it’s part of your experience, you should consider explicitly confirming that all guests are open to driving a powerful machine that can travel at high speeds and have a valid driver’s license in advance. It is also important to communicate that guests are not to consume alcohol before or during a driving or riding experience. Address any concerns outright–and make yourself available to attend to these and any others questions throughout your experience.
Listen with patience and authentic concern, and try to put yourself in your guests shoes. This could include practical matters like if there will be food, snacks, or water provided, if they should bring their own water bottle, and what bathroom facilities are available. Try to address these concerns before guests have to ask. What may seem normal to you may be difficult or fear-inspiring for your guests, so your communication is key to a safe and enjoyable experience.
Follow local regulations & check forecasts
You should have the local knowledge (or do the research) to know if and when it’s acceptable for you to guide groups on off road trails and what rules or regulations apply to areas in which you may ride. You should check the weather forecast, and know these sites well enough to be able to anticipate harsh conditions and know evacuation options.
Set expectations with a pre-trip briefing
Before you start driving or riding, take some time to teach or review the necessary skills with beginners, like operating the vehicle or ATV correctly, keeping to safe speeds and body positions on certain turns or terrain. As a 4×4 or ATV host, you should be constantly assessing your guests’ skills, while demonstrating the correct procedures and techniques both off and on the vehicle. Once you’re riding, keep checking in: ask guests how they’re feeling and observe them to see if they’re comfortable and their skills match what you are doing.
It is advisable to set the correct and appropriate speed and have guests follow behind, leaving a set distance between each other depending on climatic conditions, terrain and experience levels.
You can stop regularly and check and communicate with the guests, or describe what is up ahead, such as an obstacle crossing which might need a certain technique to cross.
Check that your guests have all the food, water, and gear they will need during the experience. Since some guests may be out of their comfort zone, they may need more of certain items than an experienced rider would, so if you can anticipate these needs, you can make the experience even better.
Provide the right gear
Let your guests know what gear you can or will provide in advance. For any level of activity, find out if the guest plans to bring their own gear. Any gear you provide for your guests should be in good condition, clean, and fit each guest properly. More tips:
- For every level of activity, you will need to provide a clean, well maintained and regularly serviced vehicle. The vehicles have to comply with any current regulations on emissions, noise levels and otherwise. If 4x4s are being used on public roads, they should be registered, taxed, licenced and inspected according to the local regulations.
- For ATV experiences, a certified ATV helmet will need to be provided, or motocross style helmet if the activity level requires it. For 4×4 driving experiences, helmets may be required for vehicles such as UTVs or open buggies. All helmets need to be regularly inspected for damage and wear and tear. The level and style of the activity should determine the type of helmet that is provided to the guest. If guests bring their own helmets, these should also be inspected for suitability for the activity. Guests should be shown how to correctly size and fit their helmets. All helmets must meet minimum safety regulations.
- You should communicate with guests what clothing and footwear is appropriate to wear for the conditions that are expected, and you may consider providing a set of clean driving overalls.
- For certain activity levels, terrains and climatic conditions, it may be appropriate to provide goggles or eyewear such as sunglasses, gloves and boots. If these are not provided to guests, you should communicate that in advance, so they can bring their own equipment if needed; any eyewear provided by you or brought by a guest should be checked for suitability.
- For any level of experience, guests may need food and water and extra layers of clothing, so be clear about what food and drinks they should bring, and what you will provide.
Hosts should carry (and know how to use) a first aid kit for treating a guest who gets injured, which may include items necessary for stabilizing and safely evacuating them, even if they’re unconscious. For 4×4 experiences, a host may need to bring equipment to perform self recovery in case you get bogged in, as well as tools and spares to fix basic repairs.
It’s a good idea to know if and where you have cell service coverage, and to ensure you have the means to communicate with the outside world and to activate emergency services if needed. If you don’t provide gear in your experience, you’ll still want to check your guests’ equipment to make sure it’s in good condition, and that they’re using it correctly.
Choose the proper conditions
Talk with your guests about the range of conditions they may encounter on the experience, including what temperatures to expect, wind, visibility levels and any precipitation, or extremely hot conditions. Let your guests know how these conditions could affect the wind chill factor, the trail and overall riding conditions. You can also tell them how they can best prepare for these conditions, as well as unexpected but possible challenges.
You should be able to tell when conditions are too dangerous for your guest’s ability level. Don’t continue with your planned activity if you encounter an unreasonable or unexpected risk to your guests.
Keeping the ride fun: always choose safety
To help provide a safe experience, make sure you have a clear itinerary that matches your guests expectations and that guests know what to do if they become lost or injured. As a host, you can help prevent some of the more common sources of injury for whatever kind of driving or riding you’ll be doing by;
- Ensuring guests match their speed with the conditions, their ability and experience level and also local laws and regulations, when riding on marked off road trails on public land.
- Instructing and coaching guests on correct techniques with body position when turning, crossing steep terrain and obstacles.
- Ensuring there is an effective means of communication that guests can use to pass on important information, whether this be with hand signals, horns, walkie talkies or radios, and guests know how this is used.
You want to have an emergency action plan that you have practiced before an experience, and the means to evacuate guests if the unexpected happens. If you’ll be more than an hour away from medical care, it is safest to have Wilderness specific first aid (WAFA or WFR) and an up-to-date CPR certifications. Find out more about making an emergency plan.
Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA): Courtesy of the Adventure Travel Trade Association. ©2021 Adventure Travel Trade Association. All rights reserved.
The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) name and logo are used with its permission, which in no way constitutes an endorsement or vetting of, express or implied, of any product, service, person, company, opinion or political position. The ATTA does not select or approve, and is not involved in the selection or approval of, Airbnb Experiences or hosts. For more information about the Adventure Travel Trade Association, visit adventuretravel.biz.