The Complete Guide to Successful Tour Guide Management

By Checkfront Marketing

Business Tips

A hiking tour

As a tour operator, each day is filled with a variety of responsibilities. From juggling the day-to-day operations to helping guests to tour guide management, the job description can be long. 

One of the most important resources you’ll dedicate time to will be to your tour guides. As the face of your business, the quality of experience your tour company provides is directly connected to the skills and traits your tour guides possess. 

Taking the time to educate, coach and engage your tour guides will create an incredible team that offers outstanding experiences.

Wondering how to best support your tour guides? We’ll walk you through some of our top tour guide management tips, including training resources, feedback tips, and more. 

How do I hire great tour guides

A strong team starts with a well-planned and intentional hiring process. To begin, reflect on what your goals are for the company. 

What kind of experience do you want to offer? How about the values you want to live by? And what qualities are important in your staff? 

Once you have a clear idea of what you are looking for in a tour guide, write a compelling job description outlining the tour guide job responsibilities and post it online. 

Then, when you hear back from potential candidates, an interview allows you to get a sense of who the applicants are and why they’d make an incredible tour guide.

At this point, it’s important to dig deeper into skills, values, goals, and personality. These are the things that will filter out those that know what makes a good tour guide from the ones who don’t. 

So, what are the qualities of a good tour guide? There are seven qualities that all great tour guides have in common:

  • Passion
  • Communication
  • Storytelling
  • Humour
  • Flexibility
  • Punctuality
  • Sensitivity

These qualities can easily be seen when you interview a potential candidate. Be sure to ask questions that help determine their values and goals – these will tell you what the candidate finds important. 

Throughout the interview, you’ll see personality shine through as candidates answer questions. If you get a good first impression, it’s likely your guests will also.

group of three travelers holding map and looking excited

What is a tour guide responsible for

When you break it down to the very basics, there are three core areas that tour guides are responsible for. When it comes to how you manage your tour guides, keep these responsibilities in mind.

1. Providing a great experience

Tour guides are a key part of your guests’ experience. From guiding a tour to sharing engaging stories to providing travel tips and local recommendations, a great tour guide offers immense value to your guests. And the work begins before welcoming guests, so it’s key for your team to know what a tour guide has to do before a tour.

2. Safety of guests

For guests, part of any great experience is knowing that they’re safe and have no need to worry. Inherently, they trust tour operators and tour guides to provide them with an outstanding experience, with safety as the number one priority.

3. Representing your company

As your tour guides are the ones connecting directly with guests, your tour guides represent your business and should demonstrate the values that your company operates on.

How to manage tour guides

Once you’ve determined your vision for your business and have hired a fantastic team, it’s time to manage your tour guides! This isn’t limited to training and scheduling – tour guide management is an ongoing process and should be a regular focus.

When it comes to managing tour guides, it can be challenging to provide a balanced approach. We recommend focusing on the four following categories to provide a well-rounded approach to tour guide management:

  • Training
  • Education
  • Feedback
  • Engagement

Training

You may be wondering how to train a tour guide, so let’s start with the basics. After you’ve hired a tour guide, you’ll want to spend some time creating a solid onboarding plan. Here are some suggestions:

1. Show them around

Give your new team member a tour around the property, introduce them to the rest of the team, and share any basic bits of information that will be helpful for them to know. 

Consider sending them out on tour to get to know the flow and structure while experiencing it as a guest. These tips will make your new tour guide feel at ease, and provide a clear example of what you’re expecting from them as a tour guide.

As mentioned earlier, it’s a great idea to give your new tour guide an opportunity to learn from other tour guides, as they may be wondering exactly what they’re supposed to do.

Your current tour guides know the route, script, and commonly-asked questions while being ready to troubleshoot, so it’s beneficial to have a new tour guide shadow them. That way, they’ll gain knowledge from their seasoned teammates and experience the tour first-hand as a guest.

3. Supervise their first few tours

While it can be anxiety-provoking to have someone observe their first few tours, it is essential for a new tour guide to get some feedback, both positive and constructive, as they get comfortable in their new role. 

Education

Both new and seasoned tour guides can benefit from ongoing education. Tour guides juggle many responsibilities – managing groups, time management, navigation, entertainment – the list goes on! 

Encourage your tour guides to diversify their skill set by participating in courses related to tour guiding.

What does this look like? The sky is the limit! There are many different courses that can provide value to tour guides. A couple of ideas include:

Photography

Travellers appreciate having photos as souvenirs of their favourite experiences. Tour guides can take some great snapshots of guests while out exploring or immersed in the activity, that you can gift or they can purchase prints for taking home. Not only that, these images can be used for marketing purposes and branding.

Public speaking 

Tour guides spend most of their time speaking to guests, including following the script, providing additional facts, answering questions on the fly, and cracking jokes.

Any tour guide should consider fine-tuning their public speaking skills to make the tour less of a presentation and more of a conversation.

Perhaps the most important thing? Allow your tour guides to pursue courses and educational opportunities that speak to their personal interests. 

This will create a knowledgeable, well-rounded team who feel empowered to pursue and share their passions, which will always result in a better experience for your guests. And whether guests enjoy a tour guide or have a few comments to add, you’ll want to make a point to gather their feedback.

shadows of people riding camels in the desert

Feedback

What do I do if a tour guide is consistently late? Or if a tour guide has been receiving negative reviews? 

Feedback is a critical, yet tricky, aspect of tour guide management. It can be uncomfortable to give feedback, but constructive conversations enable your tour guides to continuously grow in their role.

The best way to deliver feedback is to provide actionable steps while taking an empathetic approach. 

Before you have the conversation, first ask yourself if this particular piece of feedback needs to be shared. If it is important to share, there are four principles to follow when sharing feedback:

1. Approach with neutrality

While it can be challenging to keep cool, calm and collected, it is important to enter the conversation without strong emotion. 

Your goal should be to deliver the feedback without causing the tour guide to feeling defensive and creates a space for constructive dialogue.

2. Consider the guide’s perspective

Be understanding and empathetic. Your guides will naturally feel nervous during these conversations. 

To create a dialogue that is both respectful and constructive, avoid accusations, lead with a solution, share your learned experience, and provide general coaching tips.

3. Offer ongoing team training 

Try providing group skill-building sessions – this will benefit tour guides in need of specific coaching as well as seasoned tour guides who may need a refresher. 

Encourage your experienced guides to take a mentorship role with newer guides and let growth happen naturally. 

4. Prioritize regular communication

Make an effort to communicate regularly with all of your staff. That way, a feedback conversation will be one of many conversations you have. Share positive feedback with the entire team and remember to always lead with positivity and support.

Engagement

We’ve all been there – following the same script every day can become routine and not-so-inspiring.

While interacting with a variety of guests helps break up the routine, a powerful motivator for your tour guides will be opportunities for engagement. This will look different for everyone, but some engaging activities can include:

1. Guide-to-guide education

Every guide will excel at one thing over the other guides. One may have a knack for conflict resolution while another excels at storytelling. 

Encourage your tour guides to share tips and tricks with their colleagues. This will foster a culture of communication and growth within your business, which will keep your tour guides enriched and engaged.

2. Guest speakers

Consider bringing in guest speakers to inspire your tour guides. This could be a local historian who knows all the interesting facts about your region or an inspiring leader in the tourism industry. 

Having someone share stories with your guides can provide new information to share on tours or a newfound passion for the industry.

3. Facetime with each traveller

Ignite curiosity in your tour guides with an inspiring traveller passionate about exploring new experiences. 

This could be someone who loves travel or even an actual guest. Host an ‘ask me anything’ session where guides can ask a traveller in-depth questions about what it’s like being on a tour, including things like what they wish more tour guides would do or what their favourite tour experience was and why. 

These sessions allow your guides to find answers to any questions they may have about your guests’ experience and provides information that can be used to provide an even better experience for future guests.

4. Share personal stories

Personal stories make tours unique. Encourage your guides to share stories with each other, as they may enhance the route’s narrative. 

For example, if one guide has grown up in a neighbourhood where the tour passes through, other guides can share a story about their colleague to personalize it. 

Alternatively, guides can collaborate and share the stories they tell on their tours to create a collective of stories your guides can share.

5. Encourage professional development

Most people, regardless of the industry they work in, want to continuously grow and develop throughout their careers. 

Invest time in allowing your tour guides to build skills. Whether they’re interested in social media and content creation, evaluating tours, or creating company values, allowing your tour guides to explore a variety of skills will make them well-rounded and content employees. 

Final thoughts

When it comes to tour guide management, there are many things a tour operator needs to consider. At the end of the day, as long as you remember to live by your values, lead with compassion, empower your tour guides, and remain passionate, you’ll create a strong team that provides an outstanding experience for your guests.

Interested in more resources for tour guides? 

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