At some point or another, you or someone you know may have signed up for a guided tour at least once. You may have heard from your own family, friends, and even customers (existing and potential alike) about their tour experiences and what made them memorable. Almost always, they will tell you that it’s the tour director and/or tour guide that made the most difference and who created a fantastic travel experience for them.
For our fellow new professional tour guides and tour directors, our friends from International Tour Management Institute (ITMI) and BeABetterGuide.com have provided helpful and practical tips and tricks to help you become an effective and successful tour guide and tour director.
Here are 4 important lessons learned for new professional tour guides:
1. Always be prepared. We can’t stress this enough especially to new professionals like yourself. This means:
- Staying healthy – this includes maintaining good physical shape and also keeping your voice warmed up and ready to go. This will enable you to project your voice so that the people in your group can easily hear you, and also will sustain you (or survive) for the duration of the tour.
- Improving social skills and practicing them constantly – this includes making yourself human and relatable to the people in the group so you can develop rapport and they, in turn, can empathize with you. As Kelsey Tonner, founder of BeABetterGuide.com says, “Connecting on an emotional level provides the kind of service that customers are likely to remember and cherish.” So, get into the habit of knowing the people in your group and this will certainly reap benefits for you in the long haul.
- Practicing storytelling skills – Storytelling is a way, according to Ted Bravos, CEO of ITMI, of connecting with the people in your tour group. He explains that in ITMI, they stress storytelling as a conversational art form. You develop skills that allow you to talk “with” people instead of “at” them. Moreover, storytelling allows the tour guide and tour directors to overcome the fear of public speaking, particularly for those who don’t feel comfortable talking on a microphone in front of a crowd. Finally, storytelling can be a tool to help set the tone or the mood because it’s a great way to share information and at the same time entertain people, so that they can be inspired, become enthusiastic and look forward to the rest of the trip.
- Practicing crisis management skills – As every tour guide and tour director will tell you, there will always be something that can go wrong during the tour; you name it – from mechanical transport problems, roommate situations, missing meals, to frequently complaining guests. Aside from keeping a cool head and stepping back to assess the situation, it’s also great idea to ask your more seasoned and experienced colleagues how they would handle these kinds of situations themselves. If possible, find a mentor who can take you under his or her wing so you can learn from them and then you can pay it forward to future newbies.
- Learning constantly and staying curious – This is tremendously useful especially when you’re crafting your storytelling narrative and then relating them to the people on your group. For example, if one of the tour members was a US veteran, you can give tidbits about military battles, or famous royalty, or generals who fought at a historical field or castle.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate – This is vitally important especially when managing groups of people for the duration of your tour. Always keep everyone informed and repeat more than once so as to ensure everyone understood and got the message. Also, follow through on the things you’ve said to your group. If you said you’ll be doing it, then do it. For instance, you’ve encountered a minor issue when an entrance ticket for one of the museums is missing. You found a solution and dealt with it, and then quietly told the guest so it became a non-issue.
2. It’s ok not to know everything. Certainly the people that join you on your tour groups don’t expect you to know everything. A useful tip is to turn the situation into an interactive discussion so that it becomes a way to get to know more about the people/clients in your group. Be gracious and acknowledge that you don’t know the answer at the moment but will get back to them at a later time.
3. Have patience. This is especially true when handling members of the group who are perennially late and/or hard to catch up to the rest. Perhaps, you have group members with young kids or older adults, so understanding who makes up your group would help so knowing beforehand is key (preparation again!) in this situation.
4. Have fun. Smile more, exude positive vibes and adopt a can-do attitude. Be flexible in situations and keep yourself in tune with the pulse of the people in your group. For instance, if you have many foodies in your group, why not adjust and share a tidbit, say the best gelato in the area or where to get good extra virgin olive oil. Little things like these, plus engaging your group members in an enthusiastic manner, can enhance their travel experience.
To sum up, our main goal as tour guides and tour directors is to ultimately create an unforgettable travel experience for our existing and potential customers. By taking up some or all of these tips can make a huge difference, particularly to new tour guides and directors, on both a personal and a professional level. Lastly, when customers thoroughly enjoyed their travel experiences, they will most likely give glowing reviews, resulting in increased credibility and reputation on your part, an uptick on good tips, and more loyal followers and would-be customers — a win-win situation for all.
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