Every season, you set out to find a tour guide who will be a perfect fit for your tour operator business. There are lots of applicants out there — because travel is trending and everyone is catching the wanderlust bug — so why wouldn’t someone look for a way to be paid to travel?
But you don’t want a tour guide with a passion for travel…and only travel (though it is one of the points listed below). You want someone who is passionate about everything else that comes with the job.
A tour guide is the face of your tour business; they have the most interaction with your guests. If they love what they do, they’ll want to be the best tour guide possible. When you have a tour guide who cares, your guests will be talking about the exceptional experience for weeks — but if they show up with a ho-hum attitude, don’t be surprised if there’s an outpouring of bad reviews.
As you’re listing tour guide qualifications, remember that passion is essential. Make it known on the job posting you’re screening for passionate individuals. This requirement will help separate those looking for a fulfilling job in tourism from people only wanting to fund their travels.
I’ve compiled a list of 6 passions a tour guide should have. Throughout your search, keep these in mind for what to look for in a candidate.
1. Passion for travel
Of course, having a passion for travel is a given for tour guides. There’s an exciting world to explore, and they’re out exploring it more.
They want to hike the tallest Canadian Rockies, eat the best Mexican tacos, and cycle along the Amsterdam canals. An office job doesn’t cut it as their ideal work environment.
In a tour guide position, they’ll have the opportunity to satisfy their adventure cravings daily. Though it’s still a job — and there are bound to be not-so-glamorous moments — they’ll lead the tour with enthusiasm because they’re grateful for the opportunity to live and work in a sought-after destination.
2. Passion for people
Tour guides are around and in front of a group of people every single day. It’s an excellent job for someone who loves being surrounded by others. So hermits need not apply — not joking.
I’m not saying the job is extrovert exclusive. Yes, they should have tour guide jokes and a charismatic personality. But it’s so much more than that — having a passion for people means having a desire to connect.
During the season, many new faces arrive at your door. A tour guide must love meeting new people; introductions shouldn’t become tiresome after awhile.
Every group coming through is an opportunity to get to know someone new. So the tour guide will want to ask questions and remember names because the connections they make is one of the best parts of the job.
3. Passion for learning
No one is an expert in their field from the get-go. Even if the tour guide has years of experience, working for a new tour operator business will come with a bit of learning.
They’ll have to learn about the location — getting around, fun facts, cultural customs, and secret spots. And they’ll have to learn about your tour business — like how to use your online booking system.
If they aren’t willing to learn, they won’t be a good fit for your operation. You have a talented team, and everyone is there for each other. When something breaks down, all hands are on deck. When someone calls in sick, another teammate takes over their responsibilities.
It doesn’t matter if their designated role is leading tours. As a passionate lifetime learner, they’ll want to familiarize themselves with other areas of the business so they can assist when necessary…which brings me to my next point.
4. Passion for the tourism industry
Another season doesn’t mean another job — at least not for a passionate tour guide. The position won’t be playtime in their twenties. No, they’ll see it as an opportunity to advance their career in the tourism industry.
Maybe they want to become tour manager one day. Or maybe they want to run a tour business of their own. Whatever the case, they’ll be showing up to work on time, going above and beyond their expected duties and doing everything they can to impress you.
5. Passion for serving
Your tour isn’t designed as a fun vacation for your tour guides. Yes, they’ll enjoy themselves on the job because they love what they do, but the tour isn’t for them, it’s for your guests.
For example, while on a hiking tour, if a rare bird is spotted ahead on the trail, your guide shouldn’t be the first one to run up and snap a photo. Instead, they should point it out to the group, walk up slowly and make sure everyone has a chance to see it.
When someone has a passion for serving, they put others above themselves. Your tour guide will make sure your guests are having the best time.
So they’ll give tips, share advice, answer questions and accept requests — like stopping at the gelato store for a local treat. Because for them, it’s more rewarding to witness others fall in love with a destination.
6. Passion for community
You may want to find a tour guide who’s local. They know the best watering holes, memorized the mountain biking trail map and have become friends with the baker down the street. Showing off the greatness of their home will come naturally.
Hiring an outsider means they won’t have the same background that bonds them to your community. But that’s okay! People move all the time and make new places home.
When someone is passionate about community, it doesn’t matter whether they were born there, they’ll get to know the area like a local anyway. And they’ll do that by not sticking around the tourist hotspots.
A place is more than its 700-year-old clock tower or outstanding views of a jagged mountain range. It’s also about the people. Your tour guide understands this and makes sure to know the people as much as the place.
If there’s a centennial parade, they’ll be throwing candy off the float. If the high school baseball team makes the finals, they’ll be in the bleachers cheering. So they’ll have interesting stories to tell on tour because they’ve experienced everything the area has to offer.
Hiring a tour guide who has a passion for travel and all of the above is not impossible. Start in your local neighbourhood and then expand your search elsewhere. Your next passionate team member will be a valuable addition and will want to stay for seasons to come.