Finding an amazing tour guide is not always easy. Every tour guide that cares about this profession should constantly try to improve. Tour guides make all the difference.
Travel companies may have the best itineraries and the best trips, but if the tour guide doesn’t do the job as well… There’s no chance for success. This blog post is as much for those who aspire to become the best tour guides, as is for owners in the travel business. The owners should know what traits they need to look for in their employees. Let’s break it into categories.
What kind of personality have the great tour guides? Not everyone is cut out for this position and it would be easier if they already had some of these characteristics. Or if that’s not the case, at least willing to become:
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 a must for tour guide 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. It has to be an interactive relationship, not just one way. Tour guides have to talk to new people on a daily basis, and it has to be in an easy to understand way.
Well, the trait mentioned above lead 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 show up, and a guide should be able to break that immediately. That helps people feel comfortable talking to each other and their guide. Which ensures, later on, they feel open to add comments or add questions along the way. The ability to entertain people with the stories and anecdotes would be hard for someone with introverted personality.
A sense of humor is one of the most welcome tour guide traits. Intrepid Travel’s Dheeraj “Monty” Bhatt, who won the Wanderlust award for outstanding achievement last year 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 skills and decisiveness are much appreciated among tour guide traits. 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 it can be said that your tour guides are:
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 prior to the tour – informing customers of 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. Your job is to make it all easier for them, and Orioly just might help you with that.
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 good tour guide will 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 the 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 gives a unique touch to the tour experience and an irreplaceable sense of authenticity! And there are a few things they should aspire to be:
Speaking multiple languages is, if not necessity, then just an excellent benefit 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.
Having the knowledge of 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 for 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 – you don’t have to worry about the success of your tour. And to ensure you’ll have the best offer in the upcoming year – read all about the trends for 2017!
Reach out to us if you’d appreciate some help! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact us or share it right here.
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on December 16, 2016
by Daria Keršić
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