Possessing a broad knowledge, worldliness and amiability are also common traits. They also go beyond the call of duty regularly to make their clients’ experiences memorable ones.
Globus Europe tour director Ben Deham recounts a time when a guest had difficulty climbing out of a gondola in Venice and used him as a hauling device, ripping all the buttons off his shirt before arriving at his Florentine leather belt which latched her to safety.
It’s all in a day’s work for these unflappable leaders.
Creating group morale and engendering a positive group dynamic is crucial for all tour directors, and they tend to assess and cultivate this from the outset.
“At the start of the trip I always ask guests what their personal interests are and why they chose the tour,” APT Australia and New Zealand tour director Sue Gibbons said.
“Each tour director, after some years on the road, develops a sixth sense to get an assessment of the group at the very first instance,” Deham said.
Humour is a vital component of the tour guide’s arsenal too. “The key is to offer guests culture in a fun way, so it does not feels like school,” Deham said.
“I encourage guests to talk to each other, sharing their interests and this helps them to relate easily. A group of people often start a tour as perfect strangers and depart as friends,” Gibbons said.
Escorted tours have evolved over the years to become a more personalised experience. “By treating people as individuals in a group with Freedom of Choice touring we are able to better cater to their needs,” Gibbons said.
here are also issues of guest courtesy to deal with. For instance, historically some tour directors made late-comers sing in front of the bus, but this tactic is disavowed by most today. “Lateness doesn’t happen often, I find people are more respectful of fellow travellers these days,” Gibbons said.
With more than twenty years under his belt, Deham has noticed that clients are increasingly less interested in the journey and more interested in arriving expediently.
“Years ago nobody would ever sleep while driving through the beautiful Tuscan hills from Florence to Venice. Now half of them sleep and the other half are in a virtual world of iPads and iPhones,” Deham said.
Intrepid Travel India tour director Dheeraj ‘Monty’ Bhatt, a finalist in this year’s Wanderlust World Guide Awards has also witnessed a change in perspective after ten years in the industry.
“Clients might be well off but now they choose to travel on our basic trip because they want real life experiences, and are more aware of local travel and responsible travel ethics,” Bhatt said.
For Bhatt, who was raised in a Rajasthan village with a strict caste system, tour leading gave him an opportunity to see the world and interact across cultures that would have otherwise been impossible. And that’s the thing about guided tours.
More than the places, it’s the people you meet, whether guide or passenger, and the stories and secrets they tell that will live long after you depart the bus.
Written by Tara Harrison from Travel Weekly reposted with thanks.