The difference between an ordinary tour and an unforgettable experience relies on the qualities of a good tour guide. For that reason, finding an amazing tour guide is not easy, and being one also requires effort.
This blog post is as much for those who aspire to become the best tour guides, as is for tour operators. If you run a tour business, you should know what skills to look for in a good tour guide. If you are a tour guide, you should know how to deliver the best experience for your guests.
A good tour guide is made of a combination of qualities related to personality traits and professional skills.
Of course, if you are a tour guide, you don’t need to have them all to shine in your profession, let alone be born with all of those characteristics. Most of it you can learn and improve with experience.
Now let’s take a look at those traits.
Many of the qualities of a good tour guide are related with their personality.
When attending a tour, the guest wants to be involved by the story they are being told. Hence, the person who is telling it needs the ability to transmit all the knowledge and emotion of it.
To delight the guest, a good tour guide needs to be:
It’s pretty much safe to say that enthusiasm is the most important part of this job. The tourists will sense if you don’t feel passionate when you’re talking to them.
Also, when tour guides are enthusiastic about their subject, they are inclined to acquire more knowledge about it. It doesn’t hurt to mention it helps the guides to withstand mentally and physically exhausting experiences.
Great tour guides will share their knowledge in an engaging, interactive and entertaining way. Effective tour guides also invite questions and interaction from tour members, rather than treating the tour as a one-person show or a school lesson.
The tourists themselves should be interested in the subject matter because they need to be enthusiastic about what the tour guide is saying.
Let’s not forget that the success of a tour often relies on the members of the group getting on well and enjoying the shared experience. The guide can do a huge amount to make that happen by making sure everyone gets to know each other.
Having strong communication skills is one of the most important qualities of a good tour guide and a must for tour guide personality traits. You could say they need to have extremely good people skills. As much as tour guides need to be able to speak loud and clear, they need to know how to listen.
Good listening skills mean they can understand what the group is interested in. The conversation between the tour guide and guest has to be an interactive relationship, not just one way. Tour guides have to talk to new people daily, and it has to be in an easy-to-understand way.
Well, the trait mentioned above leads us directly to this one. It takes communication skills to a whole new level.
There can be a bit of social awkwardness when a new group of strangers shows up, and a guide should be able to break that immediately. That helps people feel comfortable talking to each other and their guide. This ensures, later on, they feel open to add comments or add questions along the way.
The ability to entertain people with stories and anecdotes would be hard for someone with an introverted personality.
A sense of humor is one of the most welcome qualities of a good tour guide. Intrepid Travel’s Dheeraj “Monty” Bhatt, who won the Wanderlust award for outstanding achievement cited “a good sense of humor” as one of the strongest weapons in a guide’s armory.
It especially helps if you can crack a joke in a crisis. Just like being outgoing and enthusiastic, humor can be the perfect tool to cut any tensions. And as always, add an extra layer of entertainment for guests.
Leadership and decisiveness are important skills of a tour guide. Although they have to be friendly and funny, at the same time they should maintain a certain level of authority.
There will probably be many unpredictable occasions where they’ll need to make a decision. And make it fast. That has been put nicely in the book Conducting Tours: A Practical Guide.
“Tour leaders translate experience and common sense into firm, quick actions.”
Every tour company will want that their tour guides leave a professional appearance. It instills trust and confidence in travelers. That way, it makes them feel safe and like they made a great tour company choice!
It will certainly help with your goal if your staff has those qualities of a good tour guide:
It comes almost without saying. Tour guides, responsible for organizing and leading a whole group of people, have to be well organized.
Among other things, this involves setting expectations before the tour – informing customers of the location, time, and length of the tour, what should they bring, and/or any rules or special considerations (if your online booking system doesn’t automate this for you).
For tourists, the tour should seem effortless and seamless.
Punctuality comes hand in hand with organizational skills. Nobody would be happy about having displeased customers if a tour guide didn’t show up on time to meet them.
Improvisational skills are always needed, not just in crisis situations and tour guide traits. Whether it’s just a minor hiccup in the plan or something bigger happened.
A quality of a good tour guide is to always find a way to calm down people, explain everything in the right way and make them feel better. The same goes for preparedness in case of medical emergencies. Some kind of tours can be much more dangerous than others.
Patience is the kind of virtue that any tour guide without it, usually, won’t be very successful. Jonny Bealby, founder of Wild Frontiers came into guiding following a career as a travel writer. He cited “patience, and lots of it” as the premier quality of a tour guide.
Tour guides will sometimes have to be taking time to explain a complicated historical event. Answer questions they’ve already answered multiple times in their speeches. Walk as slowly as is humanly possible, while waiting for a part of the group to catch up with them. A tour guide needs to be comfortable taking things slowly and to do so with a smile.
A great tour guide should be sensitive towards the needs of the group. Tour guides must be aware that what is obvious to them may be completely new for their tourists.
Their clients come from different backgrounds and they are presumably in unfamiliar situations. A perfect guide will be attentive and respectful to everyone in the group, making sure that everyone can see and hear well.
They should make sure everyone is as safe and comfortable as possible. It’s important for the tourists’ satisfaction with your tour.
There’s no need to state the obvious—tour guides have to know what they’re talking about. Ideally, they would be experts in that area. It helps a lot if they are personally interested in what they are presenting.
Travelers will sense it in the enthusiastic tone of their voice. Tour guide presentation style and tone give a unique touch to the tour experience and an irreplaceable sense of authenticity!
These are a few things they should aspire to be:
Speaking multiple languages is, if not a necessity, then just an excellent quality in all the tour guide traits. Ideally, your tour guide should speak a range of languages, including your own, as well as the local lingo.
At the very least, tour guides must have a conversational grasp of commonly encountered languages. This knowledge becomes extremely useful if someone has an emergency.
Knowing a local is truly an asset when it comes to tour guide traits. They must be able to recite facts from memory and be clear on delivering them.
Facts, of course, have to be accurate—otherwise, they should be able to say they aren’t sure and get back to the customer asking.
Guides provide information about the area, including facts that may be of interest to the group. Which means, they should get to know the group.
Storytelling is a key part of the job. A great storyteller will make any story sound like it’s their own.
The great tour guides should continuously work on fine-tuning the tour to make it an exceptional one.
They pay attention to what guests enjoy the most and the least about the tour. They ask the guests some questions and answer theirs. And they encourage guest feedback at the end of a tour.
This trait can help realize what further steps need to be taken to enhance the tour.
These were some of the most important qualities of excellent tour guides. Sure, for even better success, one could always add a few more. For example, a good sense of direction, good pacing (not too slow, not too fast), good health, etc.
Well, if you find a tour guide who’s got all this or if you are this guide—you don’t have to worry about the success of your tour.
Which quality would you add to this article? Feel free to share your thoughts in our LinkedIn group.
on June 8, 2021
by Daria Keršić
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