To be a tour guide is to be so many things and yet most tour guide training focuses on very specific core skills.
Tour guides are educators, entertainers, anthropologists, cultural translators, couples counselors, psychologists, social connectors, hosts, etc.
And they’re often ALSO archeologists, historians, art historians, museum docents, safety-certified, and more impressive accreditations.
All this to say, guides are highly skilled, highly niche workers. Yet most tour guide training focusing on basic core skills.
To set yourself apart, and stand out to potential clients and employers, I always recommend expanding your skillset beyond communicating history and culture.
In this article, I’ll list out some practical skills that not all tour guide training encompass.
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- Expand your knowledge
We all have those areas of history, or our city, or our tour where we don’t know as much.
While it’s important to have a niche or a passion and incorporate that into your tours, you can always benefit from more information in your arsenal.
In addition, history is constantly being relooked at and re-narrated, so it’s important to keep up to date on the newest research.
- Dealing with tour distractions
This is one of those guide-skills that come with experience.
One easy way to practice that skill is to list out common distractions (someone externally interrupting your tour, a food-stop that takes forever, transportation that doesn’t come through, unhappy kids, etc) and come up with different solutions for how you can handle that.
It seems simple, but practicing those solutions beforehand can make those challenges easier to deal with in the moment.
- Making a tour interactive
The best tours are engaging, and the best way to do that is to be interactive.
Think about different ways to do that on your tours (trivia, teaching guests local vocabulary or slang, help the guests to interact with vendors, etc).
- Accommodating travelers of all abilities
The Accessible Travelers market is growing, and you’ll be in demand if you can confidently accommodate travelers of all abilities on your tours.
How would you need to adjust the current tours you give for someone who uses a wheelchair? Or someone who is visually impaired?
- Getting reviews
It’s something all tour companies are going to ask you to do, and it DOES make a big difference in terms of future customers, so why not get really good at securing a 5-star review.
Talk to other guides who get lots of reviews and ask them for their tricks, experiment on friends & family, and find what feels most comfortable and most authentic to your guiding style.
Other relevant guides skills.
Beyond tour guide training specifically designed for guides, there are many more ways to round out your skillset.
Looking outside of tourism can help you develop skills that you might not have thought of but are super useful to a guide.
Many of these skills can be improved using free resources; books, articles, podcasts, youtube, TedTalks, etc.
- Foreign-language skills
- Public speaking
- Meditation (for keeping focused when you have a lot happening at once)
- Yoga (for keeping you healthy and relaxed during multiple walking-tours per day)
- Psychology (handling unhappy guests becomes easier when you can analyze their behavior)