Service Value — You have to provide what you promised and a little more. Value does not mean inexpensive, value means everyone leaves with more than they started with. Personal and group enrichment drives return business more than discounts and special offers.

As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jack Wise.

Jack Wise has worked in the outdoor adventure travel business for 41 year since graduating from Virginia Tech with an Economics Degree. As a 41 year employee, Jack has worked the front line, led trips, trained staff, built facilities and helped develop a culture of service and respect. Jack is an owner and CEO of Wildwater Ltd.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

A general love of the outdoors and adventure fueled a desire to find a job that would allow me to enjoy my pursuits, while also sharing experiences with others.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Early in my career, I learned it was not about me but the shared experiences we have together. The best experiences we have in life are the ones we have with others. I have grown from being part of a family, to raising one of my own, to working with a group of like-minded individuals with mutual respect, sharing, and caring. When I joined Wildwater as a guide, I immediately felt a connection and support of a family of people who had made it their stated mission to take people safely into the outdoors. A synergy is created in this atmosphere and everyone benefits.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

After training to become a raft guide, including an advanced first class, I thought I had it all figured out. I had plenty of whitewater experience paddling with friends and mentors, so my first morning getting my raft ready and meeting my Guest crew, I was confident we were going to have a great day. Thirty minutes later, we were stuck on a rock. I hopped out and pushed the raft off. That’s when the light bulb went off in my head — it was not just a raft full of happy people- that was my raft and people I was responsible for. I jumped in the river and swam after the raft catching it a minute later. We had a great day on the river enjoying the scenery, paddling teamwork, and challenge of class III whitewater. Later that evening, it turned out my swim on the river did not go unnoticed, and I bought my first case of “Swim Beer” for the rest of the guide crew.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Jim Greiner founded Wildwater Ltd. with his wife and family in 1971 on the Chattooga River. Jim knew early on that he wanted to build an outdoor company whose focus was the environment, staff, and most importantly the customers who paid for services. From the very beginning Jim hired people who were good communicators and had empathy toward others. Jim always said you can teach many skills but the hardest of all was to teach kindness. “If you find good people and teach them the technical skills needed and you can’t go wrong in business”

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

Adventure travel has matured over the last 50 years in the United States and around the world. Today adventure seekers come in all shapes, colors, and sizes and the expectation of comfort is universal. Better equipment, better facilities, better training is important; we must always strive to be better at who we are and what we do. Part of our focus is expansion into other areas; food, retail, lodging, and complementary activities to round out a full vacation experience.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

We are all conditioned to seek comfort and ease but we see our best personal growth when pushed outside our comfort zone. We are constantly looking for ways to meet our Guests needs, and at the same time, introducing new experiences for them.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

COVID19 has brought more people outside where it is safer to interact. We need to keep these people outside, build new traditions and share our corner of the world. Gone are the days of a lunch food buffet. Today we provide custom prepared sandwiches to limit interaction and enhance service.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

People gravitate to their comfort zone, going somewhere they have already been or doing something they have already done. For relaxation and ease, these are the things to do. But to grow we have to go somewhere new, try something new and be forever changed by a new experience. Start with comfort, but do not be afraid to go outside your comfort zone from time to time and you will lead a richer life.

Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.

From its inception, Wildwater has felt our Team cannot deliver outstanding service without training and support. The front line Team serves the Guests, the managers serve the front line team and the owners serve the managers. You may have noticed I refer to our customers as Guests. If we treat our customers as our Guests and show them true southern hospitality, how can we go wrong?

We visit places, take pictures, and remember where we have been but it is often the people, cultures and interactions that change our lives and create lasting impressions.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Transactional Ease — There needs to be a trust and ease to any transaction, the unexpected and difficulty at the time of the sale is a turn off. With so many reservations being book online, how can you make that experience smoother and impart the best information?
  2. First Impressions — Life is easier when we all start off on the right foot. Character and different personalities bring depth and fun to an experience. But overbearing and weird bring unease and stress that is often hard to overcome. Every owner/manager should walk out to the street and enter their facility with their eyes open. So many of us go straight to their office through the back door. How many of us use the front entrance and look for updated signage, maintenance, adequate parking, fresh paint, and use the Guest bathroom during busy times?
  3. Authenticity –In a world of enhanced images can we make real connections, invite people into our world, show our real selves, and be proud of what we have to share? Honesty and integrity go a long way even in times of stress and uncertainty.
  4. Personal Connection — Is every experience about the Guest, the guide or the company? Have we created a synergy where we all leave with more than we started with? If there is not success across all perspectives we have not met our stated goals.
  5. Service Value — You have to provide what you promised and a little more. Value does not mean inexpensive, value means everyone leaves with more than they started with. Personal and group enrichment drives return business more than discounts and special offers.

Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Outdoor recreation keeps us all connected to what is fundamentally important: respect for our environment and each other. We visit places, take pictures, and remember where we have been, but it is often the people, cultures and interactions that influence us most. The power of shared experiences makes our connections with each other deeper whether for just a day or a lifetime.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We grow most when we are learning and are exposed to new people, places, and experiences. Wildwater is always looking for groups and individuals who will benefit from new experiences without regard for price. It is our responsibility to foster opportunity. Give away a few experiences and we will all be richer for it.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.