Why be a Tour Guide?
Work as a tour leader, tour manager, tour director – it doesn’t matter what the title is – the job is pretty much the same all over the world!
A tour guide’s duties will vary according to the type of tour company employing you. For example if you work for an overlanding (what’s this?***) tour operator you may have to drive the vehicle, carry out vehicle maintenance, cook on a camp stove…..
If you work as a tour director for a coach tour company you will probably have to do narrations en route, organise seating, answer lots of questions…..
- Whatever type of job you have in this field, you get to work with people when they are happy – most people don’t go on holiday to be in a bad mood, or complain. It’s lots of fun!
- The job is never boring. You get to solve problems, think on your feet, and be inventive. You may encounter danger; you’ll certainly encounter the unexpected.
- You get to travel free, and even get paid for it.
- You meet all sorts of interesting people, from all over the world. Some you get to work with, some will be your clients
Here’s what some tour guides have said about their job:
‘…..challenging, painful, thrilling, inspiring, exhausting …’
‘…..the most exciting, fun, scary, off-the-wall job I’ve ever had…’
‘….the best job in the universe…’
Working as a tour leader is demanding and the better prepared you are, the more you’ll enjoy your work and the happier your clients will be, not to mention safer, and more likely to travel again with your company!
The plus side
- Make friends with people of all nationalities and backgrounds
- Learn about other countries and cultures
- Learn new languages or improve your foreign language skills
Be aware of:
Long hours, no fixed routine. You are on duty 24/7!
Some expense – not all meals will be covered and alcohol won’t be!
Long periods away from home
Repeating the same itinerary several times
Often the time you spend doing a reconnaissance (what’s this?***) of a destination will be unpaid
Work can be seasonal with no guarantee of further contracts
You may be self-employed, with no job security or redundancy pay
You must be fit and healthy – there’s no one to take over from you on tour (but in the case of serious illness the company will usually send out a replacement leader/guide)
*** Overlanding is travelling with a group on a specially designed vehicle over often rough terrain. It usually involves eating al fresco, camping in camp sites or ‘bush camping’ where no facilities are available, where you sleep under the stars. It may be in the silence of the desert or among the cacophony of noise in the jungle…..you are close to nature!
*** A reconnaissance (French) is a pre-tour visit to a destination to get to know it, make contact with local hotel personnel/guides/agents, seek out restaurants suitable for groups, and make yourself known. If there are any walks or cycle rides on the tour itinerary, now is the time to do them yourself, making notes of difficulty, any hazards, duration, optional alternative routes, and so on. There is no substitute for your own knowledge of a destination or walking route; even other tour leader’s notes are not always reliable (circumstances / staff may have changed, paths disappeared…)
Do a sketch map of every route – you may not remember them all!
For top tips on tour leading work, see my e-book ‘How to get a job as a Tour Guide’
Introduction to the Course
The good news: adventure tour operators are always recruiting! Many tour leaders usually only work for a few years before they move on, either to settle down or because they have simply ‘burned out’. And research shows that even in times of recession, people take holidays, though they may not travel as far afield.
The bad news: the job is very demanding. It can be stressful, it is certainly lonely.
Job application procedures: after completing an application form, which can usually be obtained from the tour operator’s website (read any published guidelines before completing it), you may be invited for interview. At the interview you will surely be asked how you would cope in certain situations, to see if you can think ‘on your feet’ – an important aspect of the job. If successful at interview you may then spend some time (anything from a day to two weeks) training. This may include ‘shadowing’ an experienced tour leader.
Background and experience: some tour operators stipulate certain qualifications and/or experience. Overland truck companies require you to have a suitable driving licence and possibly also a mechanical qualification. Other tour operators need their leaders to be able to speak the language of the region/s they specialise in. Others still, e.g. bird watching tour specialists, require their leaders to have knowledge of their particular field. Mostly though, tour leaders need to be resourceful and bright, with good communication skills, regardless of their age or background.
In this course you have 100 lessons about every aspect of tour guiding, managing, leading, supervising and directing. But don’t worry, they’re all very short!
The course is divided unto 5 modules:
Safety on tour
Leadership on tour
Responsibilities on tour
Communication on tour
Emergencies on tour
You will be tested on each module
Questions will be multiple-choice and marked by computer
There are 12 questions for each module, with a choice of 4 answers for each. Only one answer is correct. You can retake the test as often as you need until you pass
You will be issued with a certificate showing your competency statements
How to study this course
Your course has been designed for ease of use. You will find lots of short sentences with bullet points, as the brain can hold short sentences in memory for more time than long ones. Also the fewer blocks of text there are on the page, the less tired the eyes get and the easier the information is to read. You’ll also notice that the sections of each module are short, for the same reason. Main points have been underlined to help you – but the best way to learn is to write these down yourself, in your own words.
Learning takes place when you are thinking, not merely transcribing, and if you have to write something in your own words you have to understand it first – which is where the thinking comes in.
How many times have you read to the bottom of a page then found you had to go back to the beginning and read it all over again? That’s because you didn’t set yourself a target before reading. Ask yourself a question and the brain will automatically look for the answer – and what’s more, will remember it more easily!
For example if the chapter is called ‘Ideal background of a tour leader’, ask yourself, ‘What is the ideal background for a tour leader?’, then begin to read the page. After each section, look away from the page, then repeat to yourself what you’ve just read. Note down what you thought then check it against the text – especially any underlined sections. These notes will be the basis of your revision before you do the end of module test. Instead of re-reading the whole module just read through your notes, and memorise them by repeating without looking. Because you’ve produced the notes you will both understand them and be able to remember them more easily.
Three great tips to help you study:
- Ask yourself a question about the topic to set a reading goal
- Read, look away, repeat, make notes
- Refer to notes when revising