After a year, 1200 votes from Explore customers and an afternoon of tough decision-making by our panel of judges, we can now reveal the results of our 2015 Explore Leader Awards.
The winner is... ABHISHEK CHORDIA from India.
Abhishek has been leading our trips in India for five years and has previously been named in the shortlist of our awards, plus was a runner-up last year. This year he went one step further and is our overall winner.
Abhishek said about his life as an Explore Leader:
"My life as an Explore Leader revolves around my passengers. It's fun mostly, stressful at times, but I work with only one idea at the back of my mind. People come to India with many preconceived notions about what to expect, what they'll see, what they'll eat, what they'll experience and what they'll discover. My objective is to make them shed all such notions and be receptive to whatever comes their way, like a blank canvas. That their holiday experience in this ever vibrant country paints a kaleidoscope of colourful and joyous memories, and this holiday evokes a nostalgia for many years after the trip."
Over the past year, we have received many nominations for Abhishek and just a few of the comments he received are:
"Abhi was the perfect guide, incredibly organised, friendly, efficient and caring. I am certain the whole experience wouldn't have been the same without him."
"Abhi was a superb Explore Leader. Nothing was too much trouble for him. He was inclusive of all the group, very well organised and informative. In fact, Abhi was much more than a leader, he was more like a friendly host. Thanks to Abhi, we all enjoyed the trip even more than we could have hoped for."
"From the first meeting at Delhi airport Abhi was so friendly and supportive of all of us on the trip. Myself and my brother Trevor both have a hearing impairment but Abi took this on board immediately and throughout the trip ensured that both of us were fully aware of all the information that he imparted to the group. Apart from this, he knew an incredible amount of information, and put himself out to ensure that our holiday went so well, even when events beyond his control caused us to need adjustments to the itinerary. One of the highlights of the trip for me was when Abhi graciously invited us all to his home for an authentic Indian meal with his family. It was a superb evening. Abhi proved to be a truly excellent guide, his attention to detail, and local knowledge making our holiday truly memorable. It was with sadness when we said our goodbyes in Kolkata, as Abhi had become a true friend. I have no hesitation at all in recommending him for the highest award you give, as he thoroughly deserves it."
During the judging, our panel also had a lot to say about Abhishek including:
"He’s excited to see the trip just as much as the customers."
"He's changing people’s perspectives about the country."
"He's excellent at helping less able customers."
Chris Siviter who leads trips in Belize and has been working with us for 13 years. Chris was actually the first ever winner of our Explore Leader Awards when we launched them in 2008. The judges said "All the comments received about Chris really jump out and they're very inspiring."
Win Zar Zar Min from Burma who has been leading our trips since 2013. The judges said "She's an ambassador and great mentor for other Explore Leaders."
Gusti Sigurjon Hardarson has been working with our groups in Iceland for many years but officially became an Explore Leader in 2014. The judges said "He's a huge character - you can feel his personality coming through in the comments".
The judging panel
The people who had the unenviable task of choosing the winners from the outstanding pool of Explore Leader talent were:
Ashley Toft, Explore Managing Director
Peter Woo-Ming, one of Explore's most travelled customers
John Telfer, Explore Product Director
Margaret McEwan, Explore Head of Customer Relations
Katherine Lawrey, Features Editor of TTG magazine
They were ably assisted on the day by Explore Operations Manager Yvonne Ramsay and Product Assistant Katie Sinclair.