Rainbow Glacier Adventures is founded on the idea of connection. Our mission is to “connect our guests with Alaska through our high-quality guides.” We know that people will care about and want to protect that with which they connect.
One of our founding principles is small-group tours. We feel that small groups help facilitate the connection between guides and guests. With large groups, too much time is spent on group management and waiting around; the chance for guides to connect with guests on an individual basis is reduced.
The company founder, Joe Ordonez, has a B.S. degree in Environmental Education from Western Washington University and has over thirty years experience in the field of ecotourism. Joe continues to take an active role in the hiring and training of RGA guides and actively steers the company forward.
Hand-in-hand with our small groups are our high-quality guides. How do we define “high quality”? Our guides are not only knowledgeable about the area, they are also great communicators. It is very important to us that our guides impart the information in an engaging fashion. Crucial to our success in this regard is hiring, training and retaining our employees.
The first step is to hire the right guides. The majority of our guides are locals who live in Haines. This provides a basis for imparting information that can only be attained by living in Alaska. Our guides who are not hired locally acquire inside knowledge quickly by joining a team composed of mostly local hires.
The next step is our training program. RGA does not skimp on guide training; we have one of the most in-depth training programs in the business. We meet together each season to cover safety information, review customer service principles, and renew our commitment to high-quality tours and to the local environment.
The third step is retention. By treating guides fairly, rewarding them for a job well done, and providing a nurturing work environment, RGA has maintained one of the highest return rates for any Haines or Skagway tour company.
Once we’ve combined a small group of guests with a high-quality guide, the next step to our success is the actual tour experience. Our mainstay tours of kayaking, rafting, wildlife viewing and photography all share several aspects in common:
- The experience is not “contrived.” We offer authenticity.
- The experience involves immersion in the local environment.
- The experience is educational.
Our rafting and kayaking programs are non-motorized. This not only reduces production of greenhouse gasses, but also allows our guests an opportunity to experience the natural sounds of a pristine environment. On our driving and photography tours, we take time to get out of the vehicles and immerse ourselves in the natural environment. In addition to providing high-quality guides, we believe that our tours should involve the opportunity for Alaska to speak for itself.
RGA considers the environment in all aspects of our business decisions. We keep our vehicles maintained to the highest level possible to reduce any undue emissions. Rather than buy brand-new vehicles regularly, we maintain our fleet in top condition and keep our vehicles for many seasons, thereby reducing consumption. Most of our employee communication takes place online, to reduce the creation of waste paper. Paper waste that we do produce is recycled. The water bottles utilized on our tours are recycled. When possible, we use post-consumer and compostable products.
RGA believes in donating a portion of our profits to environmental causes. On a local level, we help support Lynn Canal Conservation and Haines Friends of Recycling. On a broader level, we are members of Southeast Alaska Conservation Association and the National Audubon Society. This spreads our influence and connection from the local to the regional, national and even international sphere.
We are also active in educating our guests about the potential dangerous consequences of a proposed toxic mine upstream of the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. Joe Ordonez wrote and published a book entitled Where Eagles Gather: The Story of the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. This book highlights the beauty and fragility of the Chilkat ecosystem, and educates readers about the threats proposed by mining. This book is made available to guests on all our tours.
Our guides are sensitive that there are a variety of opinions among our clients regarding conservation, and each guide has their own level of commitment. By working for Rainbow Glacier Adventures, our guides have decided to join a company that is committed to taking a stand towards conservation, sustainability and environmental education.
We respect the views of our guests and create an environment where we can learn from each other. Our guides do not force their values onto their guests; experience has shown that this type of approach does not work. Our guides have done the research that allows them to have in-depth and intelligent conversations with guests who want to know more about environmental issues.
In addition to our environmental commitment, we are also committed to the other key components of sustainability, including social and economic fairness. Our hiring practices and our tours are inclusive. We do not discriminate on our tours or in our hiring on the basis of race, sex, age or sexual orientation. While we do not have wheelchair lifts for our vehicles, we do all we can to make our tours accessible to those with physical challenges.
We believe in paying a fair wage to our employees and charging a fair price for our services. We spread our money throughout the community and utilize local sourcing for most of our goods and services. Our first priority is local hire; only when we have a position that can’t be filled by a local resident do we reach outside of our community.
We are not a budget tour company; our guests understand that small group tours with high-quality, well-trained guides and safe, up-to-date equipment cost more than low-budget tours. Our guests’ expectation levels are high, and we work hard to exceed their expectations.
We strive to provide opportunities for guests to immerse themselves in the Alaskan experience. The RGA concept is, above all, about connection. It is our firm belief that those who connect with the beauty and fragility of Alaska and have an understanding of the issues at stake will be more likely to care about the area and want to protect it.