become a tour guide

What does a Tour Guide do?

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A tour guide works in a variety of places such as museums, historical landmarks, cities, and other areas that are of interest to tourists. They educate a group of people on the culture and heritage of the topics on their tour. They may deliver several tours a day to different groups or may provide one, larger tour for one particular group. They may also often lead tourists to and from various destinations while taking care of the logistics such as hotel accommodations, meals, tours, transportation, and itinerary. When at each destination, this guide may work with local guides to ensure their group receives the best cultural and historical information possible.

Watch a video to learn what a tour guide does:

How to Become a Tour Guide

A tour guide usually needs a high school diploma or the equivalent to get your foot in the door. You may also be asked for a valid driver’s license. If working with international tourists, the ability to speak another language may also be appealing to an employer. Some tour guides may need a formal education in the topics they are discussing, especially those working at museums. Check out the following steps to get started:

Step 1: Get Educated

Though an education is not mandatory to become a travel guide, O*NET OnLine reports that most travel guides had some college credit but had yet to earn a degree. Beneficial college courses that directly relate to this profession are those in travel, hospitality, and business.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Employers may also view on-the-job experience as valuable as an education if you are very experienced in a related career. For example, travel agents handle book travel, answer travel-related questions, and handle customer’s travel logistics every day. This experience translates very well for those that wish to become travel guides.

Step 3: On-the-Job Training

Once employed, you may receive one to two years of on-the-job training under more experienced travel guides. Tourism companies may even have recognized apprenticeship programs you can apply for. Though you may be paid as an apprentice, you may not earn as high a salary until you are fully trained however. During your training, your customer service, communication, organization, listening, and attention-to-detail skills will be put to the test as an employer must be confident in your ability to work independently and make smart decisions.

Step 4: Lead your First Group

Once you are fully trained and your employer is confident in your ability to lead with little support, you are ready to take your first group of travels on your own. You will assist your group of travels from the beginning of their travels until the end and ensure they a wonderful, memorable experience. Word-of-mouth referrals and online reviews of travel services is important in this industry, so ensuring you receive quality reviews that will draw more customers is vital.

Job Description of a Tour Guide and Travel Guide

become a tour guide

Tour guides provide additional tips on how to keep children entertained during a tour, how to navigate a large group through a tour, and where to stand and how to project your voice so everyone can hear you. They may also relay common questions participants ask and how to answer those. You need to have excellent communication skills, have patience working with the public, and be charismatic so your customers are entertained and excited about what they are learning. You should also be free of any prejudices and treat everyone equally in a pleasant and professional manner. Being able to adapt to a situation to personalize the tour for different groups is essential.

A tour guide works in a variety of places and this dictates the sort of tour they are required to give, such as very educational and in-depth tours for adults or a simpler presentation for school-age children. They work for museums, landmarks, and private companies giving several tours a day.

Tour guides are expected to be able to give information that points out facts from legend while keeping customers entertained and interested. They answer any questions concerning the place visited in a clear, pleasant, and knowledgeable way. They are also expected to be prompt, responsible, and dependable so that all guided tours are run according to set schedules. They must also keep track of the number of people on the tour from beginning to end and assist with any special needs that a customer may have. Sometimes, they also need to educate their audience on proper etiquette so that they respect the landmarks, locations, and different cultures they visit.

Travel guides plan, sell, and arrange tours for groups or individuals that are normally at long distances from their customer’s homes. These guides organize full itineraries to include recreational activities and events and provide that information to their customers. They are knowledgable of the geography of the destinations and plan travel routes that best accommodate the group. They even consider how to handle an emergency should it occur by taking routes where medical facilities may be available if necessary.

These professionals also handle the group’s transportation, accommodations, and even meals and more often than not travels with the group and stays in the same accommodations. They also solve any problems that may arise both before and during the tour and make sure the clients are satisfied and taken care of throughout their travels, especially those individuals with special needs. They handle stressful situations well and are flexible and professional at all times. After the group’s travel experience has ended they may also request feedback and improve their services based on that feedback.

Free Teacher and Student Resources

The TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) International Association has a free lesson plan: Let’s take a trip (link opens in a new tab). This lesson plan helps students provide educational information about objects they bring in for a show and tell.

Tour Guide Video Career Transcript

Meeting new people, sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm for a place, and being on the go– tour guides and travel guides introduce groups and individuals to places of interest and travel experiences. Tour guides escort people on sightseeing tours, cruises, or through public buildings, art galleries, or industrial sites. They describe points of interest and respond to questions. Many tour guides research topics related to their site such as history, art, or corporate culture.

Guides often plan commentary or activities for tours for audiences of all ages. Tour guides greet and register visitors, provide printed or digital information, and often collect fees and tickets. Travel guides plan and operate long-distance tours and expeditions for clients. They organize itineraries, research local attractions, and make arrangements for accommodations, dining, and access to medical care. They often lead groups to tour site locations and describe them in depth. Typically, they ensure travelers’ needs are met, pay the bills on-site, and handle all paperwork. Some travel guides may fly airplanes or drive vehicles to tour sites, set up camp, and prepare meals.

Some also instruct travelers, for example teaching wilderness survival skills. Skills in public speaking and customer service are essential, as is the ability to solve problems as they come up. Guides are typically responsible for the safety of groups, and may provide first aid or handle emergencies. Education qualifications vary significantly; tour and travel guides may need to be bilingual, have relevant specialized skills, a related degree or work experience. Many employers provide on-the-job training.

Article Citations

National Center for O*NET Development. 39-7011.00. O*NET OnLine. This page includes information from O*NET OnLine by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license. O*NET® is a trademark of USDOL/ETA. RethinkOldSchool, Inc. has modified all or some of this information. USDOL/ETA has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

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