With customer reviews for 13 short-listed candidates to wade through, our trusty team of judges had their work cut out to choose a winner of the 2012 Explore Tour Leader Awards. After several hours of deliberation and lively debate, the panel finally chose Julius 'Whitey' Mtongore as this year’s worthy winner.
Julius, also know as Whitey, has been running the Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Route (KC) and the Tanzanian Volcano Trek (TV) for the past two years.
When choosing him as their winner, the judges praised the quality of customer feedback he had received. Julius tour leads and manages the porters and is greatly respected by both his colleagues and Explore customers. Feedback describes Julius as ‘a real character – full of energy, motivation, always happy and smiling’. He inspires his clients and represents all of the Explore values; responsible for the safety of others while leading adventurous treks, is passionate, trusted and fun to travel with.
Julius will receive a £1,000 prize, half of which he will donate to charity – more details to follow shortly.
Explore received a staggering 1240 nominations for 301 different Tour Leaders for the 2012 Tour Leader of the Year Award. Once the nominations had been short-listed, it was up to the panel of judges to choose the winner. The judging panel met on the 18th February 2013 and included Ashley Toft (Managing Director), Carolina Gryngarten (Head of Operations) and Margaret McEwan (Head of Governance and Customer Relations) from Explore; Peter Grunert (Editor, Lonely Planet Magazine), Niall Douglas (Managing Director, Full Circle Travel) and Alison Smith (Regular Explore Customer).
The standard was very high; deciding on a winner from a large group of highly praised Tour Leaders was difficult and extremely close – the three runners up in no particular order were:
Zafer Yucedag – Turkey
Zafer, who also was short-listed for last year’s award, impressed the panel with his passion and depth of archaeological knowledge. Zafer has never visited the UK yet his command of English is very good especially for communicating a complex historical subject. Many customers fed back to us how he brings history to life through his excellent story telling on the Asia Minor Explorer (TU), inspiring people to further explore Turkey.
Myo Set – Burma
Myo has been leading the Burma Highlights (BUH), and Burma In Depth (BUI) tours for the past two years. The judges were impressed with the consistent great feedback, highlighting Myo’s attention to detail, great sense of humour, knowledge, warmth and honesty. He provides an enriching experience to everyone who travels with him in Burma.
Wit Nawabol Panotha – Thailand
The judging panel noted that Wit had worked for Explore for many years; he was amongst our first local leaders in Thailand and has led successful multiple tours ever since. The panel was also impressed by the wonderful warm feedback received from both Explore colleagues and customers, with many customers saying their kids loved him on the Magic of the Mekong (FBM) tour, and wanted to return to Thailand to explore more with him.
Zafer, Myo and Wit will receive £500 each, with half going to a local project or charity of their choice – more details to follow shortly. This year we will be bringing all four winners to the UK and they will visit us here at the office.
Congratulations to all the nominees and especially to the four winners and a very big thank you to you, the Explore customers for your excellent feedback.
Tour Leader Awards 2011 Update
Last year’s winner Sudarshan KC (Nepal) donated £500 to the Image Academy, a school near Kathmandu. His donation helped to provide the school with stationery and equipment. He also kindly donated his own winnings to a school for the deaf in Gorkha.
Jorge Mario (Guatemala) donated £250 to Amor y Bienestar (AMBI), a local children’s nursery.
Huan Van Tran (Vietnam) donated £250 to Go Vap Centre, a children’s nursery in Ho Chi Minh City.
Lou Van Zwanenberg (Nicaragua) donated £250 to Asociacion Hermandad Un Porvenir Major, a residential care home in Juigalpa.
Tour Leader Awards 2013 – voting is now open! If you have travelled on any Explore tour in 2013 and would like to nominate your leader, please take a few moments to submit your vote HERE.
For your Tour Leader to be considered for the 2013 awards, please get your nominations to us by 15 January 2014.
Find out who was 'Tour Leader of the Year 2011'