Tour Guides offer company and information to individuals or groups of travelers. They are knowledgeable and savvy about the places they show to tourists. On tours that include sightseeing historical buildings, sites, and locations, Tour Guides must be able to provide travelers with all the information they should know about the place they’re visiting. Most Tour Guides work on a pre-established route and visit a selected list of locations. They are usually employed by tour operators, hotels, resorts, and other establishments such as museums or historical landmarks. However, some Tour Guides work independently or are self-employed.
Tour Guides are expected to provide tourists with information regarding the place they’re visiting, describing it in an accurate, simple way, answering any questions they may have, and adhering to a pre-designed route to avoid getting lost.
Some Tour Guides work with city sightseeing companies that take tourists around a city and show them the main landmarks. A few of these tours are performed from a bus, while others are on foot. Tour groups may vary in age, from teenagers to senior citizens, and country of origin. Tour Guides can be limited to specific establishments such as museums, zoos, parks, or historical places, while others take people on adventure trips in the wilderness, like in a safari or an animal reserve; these are known as Adventure Tour Guides and they must have some extra qualifications due to the nature of their work field.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Tour Guides are required to complete.
- Getting briefed by Tour Managers on important information related to the tour group (e.g. age group, interests, and special needs).
- Greeting tourists before starting the tour:
- Learning their names;
- discussing essential details with the tourist group (e.g. prices, ways to transportation, places to visit, among others);
- memorizing their faces; and
- checking the number of people in the group.
- Explaining emergency procedures to the group and making sure they understand them.
- Distributing promotional material about the trip to the tourists.
- Escorting individuals or groups on sightseeing trips:
- Providing interesting and accurate information about the history, and culture of the places they visit;
- describing points of interests; and
- answering questions tourists may have.
- Managing groups of up to thirty people:
- Being able to keep the group focused;
- making sure no one gets lost or left behind; and
- making sure the group is safe.
- Driving a motorized vehicle like a bus or a boat when necessary.
- Making sure that the group adheres to and follows local laws, regulations, or rules of specific destinations, as well as all procedures established by the tour company’s management.
- Responding to emergency situations:
- Providing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or first aid to tourists if needed;
- remaining calm during stressful situations; and
- handling a group of panicking people.
- Assisting tourists with special needs like senior citizens, people with disabilities, and people with small babies.
- Pre-briefing about the group and the information that will be provided.
- Meeting the group.
- Going over emergency procedures with the group.
- Explaining points of interest during the trip.
- Answering questions about the tour.
- Distributing promotional material.
- Making sure the group stays together and is safe until the end of the tour.
The average Tour Guide salary in USA is $32,197 per year or $17 per hour. This is around 1.1 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $23,000 while most experienced workers make up to $45,000. These results are based on 138 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Outstanding interpersonal and communication skills:
- Communicating clearly with tourists in order to explain safety regulations and procedures;
- being proficient in a second language;
- explaining points of interest in a loud and clear manner;
- being empathetic and able to inspire trust; and
- having a friendly, outgoing, enthusiastic, and engaging personality and being able to handle large groups of people.
- Passion for customer service:
- Being able to tend to the needs of tourists and answer any questions or complaints they may have.
- High organizational skills:
- Being able to adhere to a time schedule;
- having an excellent memory to remember important facts;
- being able to organize and watch over a large group of people; and
- being able to follow a pre-designed route.
- Safety conscious:
- Being able to go over security checklists, to identify possible security threats, and to react accordingly; and
- remaining calm in emergency situations.
- High levels of initiative, resourcefulness, flexibility, patience, and compromise.
- Must be able to work with people from different cultures, ages, and walks of life.
Tour Guides can work in all sorts of locations. They are usually hired by tour operators, hotels, resorts, wildlife parks, cities, museums, or historical sites. Their main task remains essentially the same regardless of their work environment, to guide and show people around their designated locations.
Depending on where they work, Tour Guides will be required to meet certain qualifications. Most employers only require the minimum working age of the area they are in, a high-school diploma, and an extensive knowledge in the field they specialize in, as well as the ability to easily learn new facts. Some establishments such as museums or wildlife parks will prefer to hire people with a university degree in an area related to the field of the tour. For example, an art museum would prefer to hire guides with a degree in Arts, whereas a wildlife park would rather choose someone with a degree in Zoology or a Veterinarian.
Having a professional license is not always necessary; however, depending on the state, applicants will be required to be certified by a specialized and recognized academy, such as The International Tour Management Institute, as well as passing the corresponding examination. Since companies always contact regional, national, or international guide associations when in need of a Tour Guide, it is also highly advisable to join a specialized organization in order to have more work opportunities.
While there are some schools and institutes that offer special courses and training for Tour Guides, most employers offer their own in-house training for the people they hire. A large part of the training involves learning the necessary information pertinent to the tour, such as the history and background of the exhibits in a museum or the landmarks in a city sightseeing tour. The other part of the training is focused mostly on group management. Trainees are taught to handle large groups of people, engaging techniques, dealing with people of all ages and special needs, and managing groups in emergency situations. Even though training is not obligatory, it will improve the applicants’ chances of being employed, since training programs benefit both employees and employers. Tour Guides also frequently use microphones, megaphones, video cameras, maps, guide books, or may display pictures or videos to the tourists. They are also often expected to memorize large scripts regarding the tour and they may use annotations and other tools to help them remember what they’re supposed to say.
Tourists may come from all over the word, therefore many tour operators and companies prefer hiring Tour Guides that are proficient in at least two languages. The most demanded are English, Spanish, French, German, Mandarin, Japanese, and Arabic.
Depending on the type of tour and routes, some Tour Guides might be required to drive a motorized vehicle or operate heavy machinery. In these cases, it is preferred that applicants have pre-existing experience with such machines, although training is often available to those who don’t possess said experience.