Tour guides escort individuals or groups on sightseeing tours or through places of interest. They provide directional, historical and cultural information about local landmarks, museums, art galleries, scenic landscapes and other tourist destinations.
Tour guides select the best travel routes, recommend establishments for food and lodging, and arrange group activities. They answer questions from group members, monitor their safety, and provide training on necessary skills such as climbing.
- Greet and register guests, issue identification badges, and collect fees or tickets
- Escort groups or individuals on cruises, sightseeing tours or through places of interest
- Provide historical and cultural information on local landmarks and other highlights of tour
- Select the best travel routes and places to visit based on personal knowledge and experience
- Offer directional advice, recommend finest or most intriguing places for dining and lodging
- Educate group on establishment or tour regulations and safety practices, and monitor for compliance
- Research various topics related to tour sites in order to answer questions from group members
- Conduct educational tours and activities for school-age children
- Teach skills such as wine-tasting, climbing or horseback riding to enhance tour experience
- Assemble supplies and equipment needed for tour, and drive vehicles to transport group to destinations
- Train other guides and volunteer staff
- Provide first aid and transport injured or ill members to medical facilities
- Market tour and sell souvenirs to group members
Skills and qualities
Gaining extensive knowledge of an area and providing tour members with an engaging experience will make you a desirable candidate. Earning additional education, training and certification also helps you earn a spot with tour companies, cruise lines and other businesses. In larger organisations, you may advance to director and other supervisory positions.
Some tour guides prefer to start their own tour company and put together local or international travel tours. The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) and the National Tour Association (NTA) both offer useful training and certification.
You may prefer to transition to related jobs such as teaching assistant or television announcer. Many tour guides use their knowledge and experience to write travel articles, guidebooks or travel-inspired fiction and autobiographies.
Nights, weekends and holidays
Scheduled hours for a tour guide can vary greatly and often include evenings, weekends and even holidays. Those with permanent guide jobs at landmark buildings, museums and other year-round institutions will have steadier schedules. Most other tour guide positions are part time and temporary. Some guides travel across the globe for work, capitalising on the peak summer seasons in various countries.
During the busy seasons, tour guides can work long hours, conducting multiple tours for up to 15 hours a day. You may also have to deal with difficult weather conditions and terrain. Responsibility for a large group, particularly with unruly members, can be stressful.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Qualifications and training
Travel guide certification
Most tour guide positions only require a high school diploma or equivalent. A degree in history, archaeology or hospitality can help you stand out from other candidates, however. Knowledge of the area and specific cultural sites is essential. Proficiency in two or more languages is also useful.
Training programmes and certification are available from several organisations and online schools. The International Tour Management Institute (ITMI) and International Guide Academy, for example, offer short-term programmes for tour guides and directors. Participants can enhance their skills, network with industry colleagues and receive job placement assistance.
Check with your local licensing boards for specific requirements in your area. Many states in the US as well as international locations require professional licensing to be a tour guide.
SourcesInternational Tour Management Institute (ITMI) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) International Guide Academy O*NET Online Oxford Martin School United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) National Tour Association (NTA)
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2022