When you start as a tour guide, we all make mistakes and the worst part is that in many cases, we don’t even notice them! That’s why we wrote this post with the most common mistakes tour guides can have when starting to receive their first groups of travelers.
- Before the tour
- At the beginning of the tour
- During the tour
- At the end of the tour
- BONUS: How to manage travelers at the meeting point?
Before the tour
- Don’t look at the weather forecast: is it going to rain today? Perhaps it would be nice to warn travelers that the tour is adapted and that it’s still on despite the rain. Otherwise, many travelers may not come. You can also recommend them to come with comfortable clothes etc.
- Dress badly: if you are well-dressed and looking sharpy, travelers will value your time more and it will give you more credibility and help you to earn more money.
- Forget to drink water: for 2 hours or more, you will talk almost non-stop and your throat will dry up. We recommend that you always have a bottle of water with you!
- Not knowing how to adapt your route: you need to know the streets and layout of your city well. Maybe someday some of the roads or walkways you use on your tour will be cut off and you will have to adapt the route quickly without getting lost.
At the beginning of the tour
- Look down on yourself: on the first tours, many guides seek compassion from travelers to make them more forgiving, and say that it’s their first tour, that they are not experts or that they have been living in the city only for a short time. It’s the worst thing you can do. You have to highlight what makes you a good guide and you should not let them know that’s the first time you are doing it. Otherwise, you will lose credibility and the traveler will regret having booked your experience.
- Forget to tell travelers to let you know if they have to leave before the end of the tour: at the beginning of the tour, you should ask the travelers to let you know if they will have to leave before the end of the tour. This way you can organize the tour better (you do not have to look for them) and you can make sure you get your payment.
- Not to mention the concept of free walking tour: that depends on each guide. If you don’t feel comfortable, you do not have to mention it, but if you decide to, do it in a fun way. Many travelers know how a free walking tour works, but it must be made clear that it’s not free of charge, but “free to give what you want”.
- Wait for the latecomers. You can wait 5 minutes extra, asking travelers who are already there if they don’t mind waiting a few minutes. But no more than that, as they might think that they are wasting time. Ideally, you should start your first explanations at the meeting place so that latecomers can easily join. You can also send your location directly by WhatsApp, so they know where you are at all times without having to call you.
During the tour
- Do the tour in uncomfortable places: avoid explaining where travelers may be uncomfortable (smell of garbage or restaurants, crowded places, near a noisy water fountain, where there is a lot of traffic, …). If there is no other way, perhaps it’s better to explain a bit earlier and then go to the place with travelers.
- Mentioning that you forgot to say something: it can happen to all of us: we are explaining something, and we forget to say part of it. In many cases, the traveler will not notice that, so you can say it naturally later or avoid mentioning it. But in all cases, it’s important not to mention to travelers that you forgot to explain something, as it seems very unprofessional.
- Turn your back on travelers: that can happen when you’re explaining somewhere. Keep in mind that if you turn your back on them, they won’t hear you well and they may think that you don’t care about them.
- Walk in a hurry: although you have to respect the tour schedule and not delay the tour, it’s important to do the tour in a relaxed way and not run from one place to another. Travelers should walk at a nice pace. Furthermore, if you walk too fast, it increases the risk of travelers losing you along the way.
- Forget to leave time for pictures or to ask questions: sometimes it’s great to give 5 minutes to take pictures in a very famous place. You always have to say it before explaining the place, otherwise many will take photos while you explain and you will lose their attention.
- Start explaining when the whole group has not gathered: if you start explaining your stop without waiting for the whole group, some will miss a part of your explanations, complicating the understanding of the entire speech and it can frustrate travelers.
- Explain while walking: we do not recommend it, since it’s difficult for you to be heard and that can be very frustrating.
- Don’t talk to travelers: When they walk from one place to the next one, many guides go ahead of the group without listening to anyone until they reach the next stop. Don’t do this! Use these moments to sympathize with them, and create a connection with them, which will increase their attention during your tour and the money you receive.
- Use complicated words: Forget about the words only the persons working in your field may understand. Moreover, some travelers may not have a fluent level of the language of the tour, so it’s important to explain with easy words.
- Give your opinion as a fact: you can comment on something you said to make your group laugh but you have to make it clear that it’s your opinion, not a fact.
- Talk about religion and politics: these are topics that we do not recommend including in a free walking tour, since they are sensitive topics and may cause disagreements among travelers.
- Abusing historical dates: it can be too boring. It’s better if you use comparisons (it is bigger / older than …) or the context (from the same time, year …).
- Be the only one who speaks: it’s important to let travelers participate. It can be by asking them questions, acting with them, teaching some typical words or a dance they have to do, … This will make the experience more fun and travelers will be more attentive.
- Lie if you don’t know the answer. Explain that you don’t know the answer, that you are going to look for it and send the answer later. Thank the traveler for his/her question as you will be able to improve your experience (this way the traveler feels good to have contributed, and he/she does not leave with a negative impression of your tour for not having received an answer).
At the end of the tour
- Not having a good ending: it’s the most important moment of the tour, you have to thank the travelers, make them realize how incredible the experience has been with you, give suggestions about what travelers can do later and remember that they leave you a review, always with a good sense of humor.
- Do not ask for feedback: especially if these are your first tours, try to understand what travelers liked the most and the least. There are always things that can be improved. If you receive several similar comments, then you could consider changing something.
Bonus: How to manage travelers at the meeting point?
In this bonus section, you will find out everything you want to know about how to manage travelers at the meeting point before starting the tour 🙂
The importance of making a good first impression with travelers
The experience truly begins when travelers make their first contact with you. That’s when their expectations meet reality. Travelers are looking forward to your guruwalk and it’s important to keep it this way. That’s why we are giving you the following tips:
- Create trust and make them feel more confident. It’s important for travelers to trust you and feel close to you in a city they don’t know. It’s part of the job description. This is the best way to connect with them authentically, and because of this, they will reward you with better tips.
- Think of the travelers as your friends. Don’t be too formal, forget about titles such as ‘sir’ or ‘Ma’am’.
- Take off your sunglasses. Your eyes definitely convey a lot of trust when you talk to someone.
- Don’t turn your head while talking to them: your entire attention must be directed to them.
- Don’t be on your mobile phone all the time. It creates distance.
- Surprise travelers. In addition to creating camaraderie, if you manage to surprise travelers, they will think: “Wow, this guide is better than I thought.” It can be as simple as saying “welcome” or “thank you” in their language for example. Or say something nice about their country, and if you have traveled to their city, travelers will very likely enjoy hearing about it. These are small details that make a big difference.
- Have a good attitude. You are more than a guide, treat them with the same attention as if they were your friends. Crack a smile, speak calmly and clearly, but also with enthusiasm …
- Be professional. Although you should treat travelers as friends, don’t forget to be professional and respectful. When they arrive at the meeting point, introduce yourself, welcome them, ask if they have any questions, tell them when the tour will start, …
What to do with travelers who are already there?
The first travelers can arrive 15 minutes before the tour begins, while the last ones can show up late. How should you manage travelers during this time, when the tour has not started yet?
- Give some recommendations to travelers. That way they aren’t just waiting with nothing to do. It’s important that, wherever they go, it’s close to the meeting point and that it can be seen in a few minutes, so as not to miss the beginning of the tour.
|Make it clear that they have to come back a few minutes before the starting time, and that if they are late, you will not wait for them.|
- Visit something. Ex: the entrance of the town hall, a church, …
- Go to the bathroom. If you don’t take a bathroom break during your tour, we recommend you to say where the nearest free bathroom is and invite travelers to go before the tour.
- Buy water / coffee or something to eat to go. Perhaps travelers have not eaten before your tour. If they come hungry, they will not have a good time and it will result in fewer tips. Therefore, we advise you to tell them where to buy something to eat or drink.
- Keeping the travelers’ energy levels up. Participating in a 2-3-hours tour can be very tiring. If the weather is very hot, recommend a spot where travelers can wait in the shade, sitting or with air conditioning. If it’s too cold outside, invite them to wait in a heated place. That way they won’t waste their energy waiting.
- Make conversation with travelers. This is what we told you in the first part of this post: make questions to travelers and the waiting time will not seem too long:
- What do you think of my city? When did you arrive? How long do you stay here? Where do you travel next? What have you done so far? What do you want to do after the tour? etc.
People love to talk about themselves and be the center of the conversation, keep it in mind.
In addition, you can get valuable information about what interests them (and thus better focus your tour) and about the organization of your tour (was it easy to get to the meeting point? etc.).
- Pay more attention to the solo traveler. When people travel as a group or as a couple, they have someone to talk to and feel safe while they wait for the tour to begin. It’s not the case for someone who is traveling alone. That’s why, you have to pay more attention to this traveler, as chances are higher he/she is going to be bored, resulting in a bad experience.
What to do with travelers who have not yet arrived?
- Stay visible and accessible. Although the first travelers are there, it must be easy for other travelers to identify you as the guru and be able to speak with you easily. Although you are in conversation with travelers, you should be able to attend those who arrive quickly and efficiently.
- Contact travelers who have not arrived yet. If you realize that some travelers are missing 5 minutes before the tour, it’s better to contact them to help them find the meeting point and find out if they will come to the meeting point or not.
The most practical way is to prepare a template (so you don’t have to spend time writing each message again) and send it by WhatsApp (not by email, as travelers don’t always check email on a trip) saying the following:
- That you are waiting for them (this way they realize the urgency of the situation);
- That you hope they didn’t have a problem (this way you show empathy and it increases the probability that they answer you);
- That the tour will start in a few minutes and that you will not be able to answer their calls. Therefore, we advise you to send your live location (and so you can be found at any time of the tour).
Watch out! Remember that you shouldn’t be on your mobile phone all the time in order to be available and accessible to the other travelers who arrive on time.