Ok, so here we are talking about a dream job. You’ve read my first article on how to be a tour guide. You’ve weighed all of the pros and cons and now you are ready. SIGN ME UP, COACH. I get that you’re an eager beaver. You do want to “travel and get paid for it” after all. But before you run to tell your mom and dad that you’re quitting your comfortable corporate job to travel the world ask yourself these questions:
What qualifications does it take to get this dream job?
- Are you a
goodgreat public speaker? As a tour guide, one of your main responsibilities is to talk. A lot. You are consistently providing your group with information. This could mean the historic and culturally significant details about the Eiffel Tower as you stand in front of it or it could be a run down of restaurants, pharmacies, and convenience stores within walking distance of your hotel. How’s your vocabulary? Do you consciously use inflection and excitement when you tell stories? Do you talk too fast or too quietly? Can you command a large group? If you aren’t sure about these things it’s time for self-assement. Next, take the time to hone your craft. No guest on any tour wants monotone, bulleted facts about XYZ–if that were the case a lot of tour guides would be out of a job–guests want an interesting story to listen to. A real story, based on fact, but one that is entertaining and all consuming. Now, PRACTICE. Talk to yourself, your cat, your baby sister. The more you tell a story, the better it’s going to be. Additionally, if you are leading multi-day over the road tours, it’s almost a guarantee that you will spend a lot of time talking to your guests on a motor coach, which means you will be using a microphone. Have you ever spoken on a microphone at a time that didn’t include a drunken karaoke version of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”? Quite honestly, it can be daunting to hear your voice amplified. Do yourself a favor and borrow your cousins sing-along machine and start practicing speaking into a microphone. Even if its just reciting your ABCs to your dog–you want to be comfortable hearing your own voice.
- Do you have excellent customer service skills? You better. The longer I worked as an over the road tour guide the more I realized that my job was 80% customer service and 20% everything else. When you are on a multi-day tour, you are the face of the company. You are the one person that a guest will come to if there is a problem. What is a problem? A problem could be that they are unhappy with their hotel room because they were placed too close to the elevator or that they are gluten free and even though they have the option of eggs, cheese, meat, yogurt, and fruit at breakfast, they want gluten free toast and are up in arms because it’s not available (this actually happened to me once on a Trafalgar US tour). A problem could also be that they have a medical issue and need to seek treatment or they have somehow lost their passport. All of these things happen while on tour. It is your responsibility as a guide to make sure that a sound solution is found quickly and you are present to mollify ANY situation in a thoughtful and professional manner. To be fair, if you are a local guide who is leading walking tours you might not need to address the scope of problems an over the road guide would. However, you’re still responsible for something as little as making a restaurant suggestion, helping someone get a Lyft, or find the nearest restroom.
- Time management and superb organizational skills: like most (any?) job these need to be on point at all times. Enough said.
- Are you a people person? Really ask yourself this. When you are leading a group whether it be for two hours or two weeks, you are surrounded by people all the time. You are asked dozens of questions–about your background, your job, the destinations–over and over and over again and you need to answer those questions with the same zeal whether it be the first time answering or the fortieth. You genuinely need to like people if you want this kind of job.
In my next post on “how to be a tour guide” I’ll talk more about specifics on how, exactly, to apply for such a job and what training might look like (though this certainly varies from company to company). Questions? Thoughts? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.