We partnered with the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) to come up with tips to help you host a safe overland expedition 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.
Set the right expectations
If there are health, fitness, or other requirements needed to safely enjoy the experience, make this clear in your experience’s description. This includes providing details about the length of time, exertion and fitness required, driver’s license requirements, and skill levels needed.
Here’s a guide from the ATTA to help you communicate to guests what skill level is needed for your overland expedition experience:
Beginner: A guide-driven, vehicle-based journey which is short in distance and duration, in safe destinations on good roads. Driving for long periods, on mostly good roads and tracks in low risk destinations.
Intermediate: A guide-driven, vehicle-based journey which will be longer in duration and distance, occasionally driving on poor roads, in safe destinations. Driving for long periods over longer durations, on some poor roads, dirt and gravel tracks, and some low risk off road sections. Destinations should be low risk.
Advanced: A guide driven, vehicle based journey which is long in duration and distance, driving on poor roads, in destinations that have an increased risk of instability. A journey that is guide led, but vehicles are driven by guests, occasionally on poor roads in safe destinations.
Communicate with guests often
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.). 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 to know if and when it’s acceptable for you to guide groups on the intended route, especially if this takes on off road trails, and what rules or regulations apply to areas in which you may drive. You should know the weather forecast, and how this can affect the route or roads, 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, take the time to brief your guests about what to expect, how to safely drive off road over the conditions, ground and terrain that you will be experiencing in the activity, and any safety or emergency procedures. Once on the experience check in regularly to ensure the experience matches their expectations.
As a 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 driving, 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.
For 4×4 expeditions, it is advisable to set the correct and appropriate speed and guests follow behind leaving a set distance between each other depending on climatic conditions 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. Vehicles may be fitted with CB radios to make communication easier.
Provide the right gear
Let your guests know if you’ll provide any gear. 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.
If you are running an overland expedition in a truck, then ensure that this is fit for purpose and designed for the intended use. It should be clean, and regularly serviced, maintained and inspected and have the necessary paperwork such as licences, permits, tax, and registration documents for the countries that will be driven through. All individual seats should be fitted with seatbelts. The truck will be able to be fitted with a large drinking water tank and long range fuel tank.
For 4×4 expeditions, you will most likely be supplying an appropriate 4×4 off road vehicle; if so, it should be suitable for the driving conditions and terrain that you will be encountering. It might be that these are upgraded such as with better AT tires, modified suspension and underbody suspension, and possibly fit roof tents. All group equipment should be distributed amongst the group, apart from safety equipment such as first aid kit and recovery equipment which should be kept with the lead guide vehicle.
You should ensure that there is enough drinking water to be carried and that it is always potable, with plenty held in reserve. Food should be fresh and the strictest of food safety and hygiene standards employed when handling, prepping and cooking food for guests.
It is expected that some spares, tools and recovery equipment will be taken and you have some simple mechanical knowledge, along with being able to use the recovery equipment to perform a self recovery.
You should carry (and know how to use) a first aid kit for stabilizing an injured guest and safely evacuating them, even if they’re unconscious. You should have enough first aid items to deal with a multi-casualty incident, such as a road traffic collision.
It’s a good idea for hosts to know if and where they have cell service coverage, and hosts need 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 not only in good shape, and that they’re using it correctly.
Choose the proper conditions
Talk with your guests about the range of conditions you’ll encounter, including what temperatures to expect, any heavy rain, or extremely hot conditions. Let your guests know how these conditions will affect the driving conditions and if this will affect the overall expedition plan.
You should be able to tell when conditions are too dangerous for your guest’s ability level. Don’t continue with your plan if there is an unreasonable or unexpected risk to your guests.
Keeping the experience fun: always choose safety
Make sure you have a clear itinerary that matches your guests’ skill levels and that your guests know specifically 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 activity you’ll be doing.
Additional safety tips:
- Always keep speed to manageable levels and within local regulations, both when driving and when guiding self driven tours. Have experience of the destination and the local driving habits, and always ensure that there are plenty of stops and rest breaks to ensure that fatigue does not set in.
- Instruct guests on the correct driving techniques if driving off road, and ensure there is an effective means of communication, such as using CB radios fitted into each vehicle.
- Brief guests on any precautions or measures to keep safe in certain areas, high risk destinations or for general personal safety, such as don’t take pictures around military installations, never travel on their own, etc.
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, or if the destination and risk suggests to have a higher level of competency, it is safest to have Wilderness First Responder (WFR) or Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) and 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.