The Qualities of a Good Tour Guide
Anyone who has taken a group tour knows just how important the guide is to the success or failure of the trip. A good guide can elevate and enhance the experience, creating cherished memories that will last a lifetime and make guests want to return. A bad guide can do the opposite, leaving guests feeling neglected and unimportant.
What are the qualities of a good guide? Based on my own experience, both as a guest on several tours and as a guide for 17 years who has taken hundreds of guests around Italy, I’ve put together a list of the must-have traits of a good guide.
Answering questions they’ve already answered multiple times will not bother a good guide. They will show both competence and enthusiasm, as if they are hearing that question for the first time.
Good with “Difficult People”
Most times the problem is that “difficult people” don’t know they are difficult. Great guides know how to master the “beast” in the group. They deal with them and they keep the rest of the group safe from them.
Empathic — Can Feel the Room
Their radars are always on to feel the room. They will put people at ease, reassuring them that they are in good hands and that they should try to have the best time possible.
Good Sense of Humor
A guide with a good sense of humor will increase the enjoyment of the tour and temper any tensions that may arise.
Long days, large groups, physical activity, and nearly daily crisis management require a great deal of energy, both mental and physical. Guides often have back-to-back tours and no days off.
Punctuality is a must-have quality for tour guides. If a guide is not on time that makes for unhappy travelers and frustrated co-guides.
If a tour guide is organized (and the tour is well-planned), the experience should feel seamless and effortless. Logistics should be nearly invisible to the eyes of the participants.
Federica Luppi translating a complex cooking demonstration. One of the areas where she shines.
Form Group Bonds
Unless it’s a private tour with friends and family [link], group tour will be made up of participants from different locations with diverse personalities and backgrounds.
Without a doubt the success of a tour often relies on the members of the group getting along well and enjoying the shared experience, and a good guide can work wonders to make that happen.
Great tour guides share their knowledge in an engaging, illuminating and entertaining way, rather than repeating a list of facts and instructions.
When appropriate, a flexible approach can be the difference between a good and a great tour guide. Being flexible means being open to unexpected challenges and changes, as well as being open to spontaneous moments that will arise on a cultural active vacation.
Outgoing, but Not Overly Enthusiastic
A guide has to have an enthusiastic leading style, but not so enthusiastic that they fail to sound genuine or that they stop listening.
An Acute Sense of Direction
Tour guides should know where they’re going! That’s a given. They should also be able to help direct guests on the fly. Should they be forced to take a detour, they can find an alternative route with a glance at a map or by looking for landmarks.
Simone Scalas welcomes everyone like family in Sardinia
Local (by Birth or by Trade)
What’s great about the “local guide” quality is that in addition to the planned activities and routes, they can bring their own knowledge, experience and personal anecdotes to the tour. This can make a tour feel particularly special for guests who are looking for authentic experiences.
Even if they weren’t born and raised in the region where they work, the best tour guides own a deep knowledge of the history, geography, culture and traditions of the area they guide in. They can point out landmarks, tell stories about the characters who call the area home, identify wildlife, and explain dishes and wines. That depth of knowledge makes guests feel like they’re getting their money’s worth on a tour.
Continues to Learn and Train
A good tour guide should continuously learn about his/her destination. They should also improve their hard and soft skills with off-season training. Lastly, they should research new activities, hotels, and vendors in the area.
Now. What Makes a Great Tour Guide?
Being a great tour guide comes down to going the extra mile. Great tour guides aren’t just the most knowledgeable or the most entertaining. They do special and unexpected things almost by instinct.
The most memorable tour guides are the ones who obviously love their jobs and their personalities always shine through. Great guides know how to use their strengths and knowledge to make sure their guests have the most amazing tour possible.
Tourissimo works with some of the best tour guides in Italy. Do you have a great guide story? Post your comment.
This article by Beppe Salerno (myself), the founder of Tourissimo, an Active Travel Company, has been edited for Medium. See the original article here.