Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sustainable Tourism

by Mark

Just in case anyone was interested in what I've been working on for the past 4 months...this is what I've been up to.  Starting in January of this year I began writing a 3 part training on Sustainable Tourism in Mongolia, specifically in our region of Arkhangai.  I mixed in many aspects of business basics in general, but had a tourism industry theme throughout.  I started by putting a powerpoint together so that I could have a general idea of what I wanted to cover, and I used the slides and the slide contents to form an outline for the training manual I had in mind.  The entire powerpoint ended up being something like 55 slides (over 3 parts), and the entire training manual ended up being 69 pages long.  It took three months to write and I was fairly proud of the work, even though I was fully aware it was just a rough draft.

At the end of April, we decided it was time for me to pass along the knowledge I had gathered.  My translator and I worked on translating the entire powerpoint into Mongolian (this took about 2 weeks), and then we set a time to have a 3 day training for the 3 separate parts of the course.

The training ended up being 4 days because it went much longer than any of us anticipated.  The entire thing took just over 12 hours over 4 days, and by the end I think we were all ready to be done.   But our rest would be short lived, because even though this training was led by me for the purpose of training two staff members - they would be thrown into the fire just 2 weeks later.  We were going to replicate the training in two nearby soums over the next two weekends.  So while the two newest trainers were preparing, my translator and I worked on translating the entire 69 pages of the manual into Mongolian.  It was a rough draft, but it was good enough for the trainers to use as a reference.

The two new trainers, Mogii and Khorlo, had 15 participants at their first training - exactly the number we were hoping for.  We split the room into two groups and had them working together on everything from SWOT analysis to ideas for business expansion and networking!  Overall it was a success...though there were a few bumps along the road.  

One of the ways we chose to measure the success of the trainers was for each participant to take both a pre- and post-test.  I intentionally made it difficult so that there would continue to be area for improvement over time.  I expected about a 33% score on the pre-test, and was hoping for scores to go up on the post-test, not really being sure what sort of numbers to expect.  

The first soum we visited, Tsenker, scored about a 32% on average for the pre-test and after 4 hours of training those scores jumped to 53%!  We were excited, but we knew that a few more things needed to change to make the material a little more accessible to the attendees.

The second soum we visited, Tariat, was known to be a little more knowledgeable of the tourism industry to begin with, so we expected higher pre-test results.  We saw that in their 44% average pre-test score.  And after 4 hours of training there, we saw post-test results averaging about 56%.  

I know you might be thinking that scores in the 50% range aren't spectacular, but we were thrilled!  Overall this meant that with just over 2 weeks of actual experience, our two new local trainers were seeing increases in the level of knowledge of the participants.  I personally wasn't worried about everyone scoring really well on their tests, I was more concerned that people were learning and remembering something new from the training.  Seeing a 21% and 12% bump in scores over the past 2 weeks made me proud of my trainers!

The other bit of exciting news, and the other part of what I've been working on for the past few months, was the introduction of the Arkhangai Tourism Website Project.  I'm going to have to dedicate an entire blog post to that topic as it's a monster of a project, but we got to launch it in the two soums we visited...and early results have been positive!  More on that soon...

Overall, our two newest trainers gained an incredible amount of knowledge and experience over the past 4 weeks.  I put them through 4 days of intensive training, and threw them right into the training spotlight - with a small hope that they would succeed immediately.  I believe they did...and we will all take this experience with us as we continue to teach the tourism businesses of Arkhangai about creating sustainability in their companies!  

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