Thursday, November 24, 2016

What Makes a Good Tour Guide: The Art of Guiding

Peru Trekking Adventure - Salkantay Trail
I’ve had the privilege of being able to do a lot of travel in my life and have learned that nothing beats the knowledge of local guides. But what makes a good tour guide? What type of skills and training are required? And how do you make someone have an unforgettable experience?

I recently returned from leading a group of people to Peru and we had the most amazing tour guides for each of our experiences – this inspired me to write this blog. What made these guides stand out was first and foremost their passion for sharing their culture and history with all of us. This quality is not something you can learn in a training course. You have to have the desire to share information about your culture and to create excitement and understanding with your guests.

One of our guides that was with our group leading a 7 day trek to Machu Picchu set the tone by doing an introduction about the culture and the history of the region we were about to hike through in such an engaging way. His passion was evident. He spoke slowly with a lot of emotion making all of us instantly engaged in what he had to say.  During the tour he would find special places for us to gather to hear stories, and he allowed time for intimate ceremonies at significant sites during our trek. The trek itself and environment was amazing, but what made the journey special was our guides.  So that demonstrates that passion is a major quality in what makes a tour guide great.

If you are a tour guide it is essential to be able to tell engaging stories. You can just list facts about a place, but you will lose people’s attention span fast. Being a Tour Guide is all about being able to deliver a great story. We had another incredible guide in Peru that had an amazing ability to tell a great story. We were on a boat tour with about 1 hour to our next destination and he had all of us sitting in anticipation of what he had to say next. He was so interesting and incorporated historical facts with great storytelling. He made the 1 hour ride seem like no time at all.

Guided Tour of Machu Picchu

You also need to pay attention to your group’s behaviour and be able to judge the type of personalities and group dynamics.  In other words, you have to feel the vibe of the group and adapt accordingly. Guides will be asked all sorts of questions and will have to deal with a variety of different personalities. This will be a true test of character and your ability to adapt is critical.  Since we had a group of 10 people in our trek, we had varying personalities and levels of fitness so our guides did an amazing job managing our group’s dynamics.

Above I mentioned some of the qualities that make a good tour guide, but there of course is a lot of training required as well. It was evident that Peru had excellent training programs for their guides. They were professional, had incredible customer service skills, were highly trained on the environment, history and culture of the area, most were fluent in several languages, health & safety standards were at a high level, and they were trained in how to project their voice and share information in an engaging way. All of these skills take a lot of time and practice and even people that are naturally good at guiding still require proper training.

So to some all of this up, I’ve narrowed it down to 4 key elements to what makes a good tour guide:
  • Passion – You need to be passionate about what you are sharing with visitors
  • Become an Engaging Storyteller
  • Ability to Adapt
  • Training and Skill Development

If you or people in your community are interested in becoming a Tour Guide contact CES for information on how to get started.

T: 1-877-444-5550