The importance of good tour guides for a successful travel experience
When customers book a travel experience with your business, they come with expectations. They rely on your expertise, your local knowledge, and your ability to provide them with an amazing experience.
In case they booked a travel experience that involves a tour guide, they want to travel worry-free. With someone else having the responsibility. The quality of the guide is therefore essential for satisfied customers. A good guide is able to boost the travel experience and add additional value. While a lesser guide does the opposite: leaving customers disappointed and dissatisfied.
A good tour guide does not only boost the travel experience for customers. But they are also responsible for making sure the trip creates positive impact on the destination and minimises negative impact.
“Local tour guides and drivers are the principal interface between tourists, the travel experience, the local community and the environment, and therefore have a huge responsibility.”
In this article
The qualities of a good tour guide
Tour guides have a huge responsibility during the travel experience. Not everyone is or can become a good tour guide. We’ve listed six most important qualities for a good tour guide to take into account.
1. Outgoing and engaging
To make travellers feel comfortable during a travel experience, the tour guide needs to be enthusiastic, outgoing, and engaging. Their task is to involve all people in the group and to create a happy and safe environment. They should be easily approachable for questions or concerns and also invite travellers to be curious and ask more questions.
2. Good communication skills
Besides being outgoing and engaging it’s important the tour guide has good and clear communication skills. This is necessary to make sure everyone is aware of the (day) planning and what’s expected of them. Good communication skills also come in handy when explaining specific do’s and don’ts in a sensitive destination.
3. Knowledgeable and passionate
The true added value of a good tour guide is their local knowledge. When visiting a destination, travellers are interested in for example local habits, foreign fruits, and history facts. They will always look at the guide first for further explanation and background information. Preferably, the tour guide is an expert and passionate about the destination.
4. Organised and punctual
Travellers having to wait on their tour guide because they’re late, are often stressed. And might be dissatisfied about the start of the travel experience. So, it’s important for the guide to always be on time, to have a clear structure and to follow the set itinerary. In case the customer requires a change, this could be possible but only when feasible and well-planned.
5. Patient and able to manage a crisis
Not all travellers are easy-going and flexible. A good tour guide knows how to take care of slower or difficult people. They have to remain patient at all times. They also know what to do in case of an emergency: handling the crisis while maintaining a calm atmosphere where possible.
6. Trained and qualified
It’s not a fundamental quality of a good tour guide, but it does add value to have trained and qualified guides. Guides with an official guide training and/or license are professionally trained to be a tour guide. They are able to organise and run a travel experience following official guidelines.
“We know that it’s not possible to provide an unforgettable travel experience without an excellent tour guide” – Anna Grodzki, manager of Matoke Tours Uganda.
Tour guides and sustainability
When you are invested in good tourism, you want your travel experiences to be operated in a responsible way. Your tour guides are at the front of the operations and responsible for what actually happens during the travel experience. Therefore, it’s important they are aware and trained on your sustainability policy and practices.
In terms of sustainability, there are five main tasks of a tour guide during a travel experience. By adhering to these guidelines, they’re ensuring a responsible and good travel experience.
1. Treating local communities respectfully
Especially during community-based travel experiences, but also when simply visiting a local market, treating locals with respect is key. Tourism should benefit the local communities and provide positive impact. The tour guide sets the right example by treating locals with respect and ensuring the travellers do as well. A good guide also encourages authentic interaction.
2. Protecting the natural resources
Same as treating locals with respect, natural resources should be protected and well taken care of. This entails not touching and taking any protected flora and fauna from the environment, staying on the tracks, and always taking (plastic) waste out of nature. The guide is responsible for making sure travellers adhere the same guidelines.
3. Ensuring animal welfare
Travel experiences with wildlife are always sensitive and for the sake of the animals, tour guides have to make sure they’re treated well. Not only do they again set the right example, they’re also responsible for reporting mistreatment of animals. Their role is to explain to travellers why certain (captive) animal travel experiences are a no-go and highlight the animal-friendly alternatives.
4. Driving safe and responsible
When driving, the tour guide needs to follow responsible and safe driving guidelines. Keeping to the speed limits, staying on the designated roads, and turning off the engine when standing still are basic aspects. Also, the use of mobile phones is not responsible driving behaviour. In case of safaris, the guide is expected to keep a clear distance from wildlife and to always give them right of way.
5. Raising awareness and educate travellers
During the travel experience, it’s the tour guide’s responsibility all travellers behave responsibly. Even though they should already be informed before their trip, the guide’s task is to remind them and to explain certain rules and regulations. It’s about raising awareness and encouraging travellers to contribute to good tourism during their travel experience.
Sustainable tour guide training
The most efficient way to make sure your tour guides are following your good tourism practices is training. Provide them with your sustainability policy and explain its practical implementation. Include tasks and guidelines they can relate to and also easily put into practice.
Tour guides are more likely to comply to (new) guidelines and rules if they’re part of the development process. And if they feel they’re contributing to a good cause. Organise a brainstorm session or workshop, ask for their opinion and give them a say. They have more local knowledge and can come up with interesting practices that are useful for everyone.
Best practice example
Matoke Tours’ specialised travel guide training program helps local guides excel in cultural tourism and outdoor adventure tours in Uganda.
To remind them about their training, develop a short one-page document with the practical sustainability guidelines. These guidelines can either be a reminder or a supplement of the actual training. It’s also very valuable to provide to new or freelance tour guides you’ve never worked with before.
By providing tour guides with physical guidelines, they’ll know exactly what’s expected of them on the job. Include the guidelines in their contract but also place them in the vehicles. Not only are they be reminded of it all times, but travellers also notice your effort and their commitment.
If you don’t work with local tour guides directly, make sure your local partner informs and trains them on your basic (good tourism) principles.
Value your good tour guides
Good and responsible tour guides are hard to find but worth so much if you have found them. Invest time or money in working with reliable partners or train guides yourself. Taking good care of your guides benefits your business and make you more successful long-term.
Committed and happy guides do their best to provide your travellers with the trip of their lifetime by taking that extra step. When done well, this results in satisfied and hopefully repeating customers.