Friday, August 5, 2016

TALES OF A TOUR GUIDE...a handbook

Often the difference for a great tour experience is having a super guide! I've taken many guided tours... and I've also been a guide... so I understand the demanding nature of the job. I'll take you on a visual journey showing the day-in-the-life of a tour guide and share ideas from my experiences hosting trips for Wesco Fabrics around the world. There are more and more special interest tours today. If you have a love of travel and enjoy people you may have interest in leading your own tour, so I'll provide some ideas for you.

Alain Rimondi has been a tour leader on a number of my Experience Plus cycling tours in Italy. On a typical day his job entails being: a bike mechanic, translator, a safety manager, a comedian, driver, an expert on regional cuisine and wines, local restaurant guide, a cheer leader, and a fount of historical knowledge of the region. He excels at all of these things!

A great trip begins with sharing knowledge of the daily itinerary with a prepared handout. People want to know what to expect and what the day & evening plans are. Advanced preparation is key to a super trip experience! A tour leader needs to know whether a beach is sandy or rocky, the size of hotel rooms (often small in places like Paris), the attire needed on tours (very specific for places such as temples and places of worship), and if anyone has difficulty with stairs. I remember having to carry heavy luggage to a third floor hotel room in Sienna with no elevators after a tough 5 hour bike ride.

Marla & I have been tour leaders for nine Wesco Fabrics' tours with our clients. Preparation is essential for a fun & transformative trip experience! I research the safety of our destination on sites such as the U.S. State Department, United Kingdom, and the Australian government if traveling to a foreign country. I sign up for "travel warnings" and "register" our foreign travel with the U.S. State Dept. It is important to know recommended local travel medical centers. I always recommend medical evacuation insurance like Medjet. We know in advance about our guest's food allergies and all important medical issues. Always have contingency plans. Our goal is always to have smiles on our travelers from the first day to the last!

Great food is always a key to a great trip. A good breakfast is the best way to start a tour. A tour leaders job is to know all the great restaurants where they travel.  The top image is at La Tagliata in Montepertuso, high above Positano. The bottom is at the classic"Sala Rim Naan" restaurant of the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok. 

Take guests to places that they normally would not visit. One year our Wesco Fabrics' group dined in the medieval style (complete with period costumes) with the Vicomte & Vicomtesse Vignial at their amazing Chateau de la Flocelliere in the Vendee region of France. A little royalty is always a good thing!

If you are using local day guides it always helps if they look like an Italian movie actress like this one in Pompeii.

A good tour guide is an expert in the art of schmoozing. Travelers want to feel appreciated and welcome. Marla and I loved being with our group in Cannes on the French Riviera. Engage them with questions about themselves. Remember,..."it's not about you,'s about them!" We had 24 people on our Cannes trip so some evenings we divided them into two complementary groups for more intimate dining. It is best to have experienced a restaurant before hand so you don't have surprises.

Make them laugh! Marla obviously said something funny on this trip to Bali. The key is to have fun!

Give your guests something to talk about!

Our Wesco Fabrics' trips were educational as well as fun. Our guests were always interior designers so we would take them to places of interest like this textile weaving factory in Thailand. Some of our guests helped me select fabrics which eventually were in our line.

Surprise them with unique activities such a riding an elephant like this trek north of Chiang Mai Thailand. We were on our way to visit a Hill tribe village. Travelers desire more than simply visiting iconic locales. They want unique experiences and a great tour can give them memories to savor for a lifetime!

Guests always love a boat ride so take them to the water. The top image shows one our Experience Plus tour leaders, Michela Bresciani, taking us to dinner at a grotto restaurant on Lake Lugano. The bottom image shows a few Wesco customers on a raft in Northern Thailand. I am sure they are thinking,..."Where is Dick taking us now?"

Take them on a hike.

Take lots of pictures! Travelers love pictures of their trip. This was a "Sojourn Travel" bike tour of Sonoma County in California.

Marla always knows the best places to shop on a trip! We shopped a number of nice boutiques and markets in Bangkok.

Be prepared for the unexpected! A tour leader often has things pop up unexpectedly, so have a plan B, or C.  You may even have a monkey jump on you!

A tour guide's job is a whole lot of hard work. I took this picture of Michela & Alain getting bikes ready for another destination in Italy while at Lake Como last month.

And, when the time comes to say goodbye to your tour group, it always deserves a toast for a job well done.

***If you have questions on leading a tour or travel questions in general please email:

***Go to GCTRENDS Tuesday for a blog about the multitude of specialized tour experiences available today.


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