How to give a tour that guests rave about

Carla Vianna
Carla Vianna
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How to give a tour that guests rave about

An exceptional tour is one that captivates guests to the point where they lose track of time — and can’t wait to return for more.

However, not every tour or attraction can capture a guest’s attention this way. Engaging guides, personalized experiences, and outstanding hospitality are a few of the factors that can make a tour truly memorable.

In this post, we’ll explore the key elements of an outstanding tour.  

What are the elements of an outstanding tour?

An outstanding tour leaves guests anxious to return for another. It’s the kind of experience where no one is looking at their iPhone or watch to check the time. They’re surprised when the tour ends.

Yet it’s not easy to keep guests engaged during a tour. Whether it’s a 3-hour historic walk or a full-day snorkeling experience, an outstanding tour requires meticulous planning and preparation. You also need to hire guides who interact well with guests. They should be skilled storytellers who can weave an interesting narrative that keeps guests invested in the tour from start to finish.

Two other key factors are personalization and hospitality. Personalization is the key to making your guests feel special and connected to the tour; while hospitality makes them feel welcome as soon as they arrive.

Tour planning and preparation

Every tour involves careful research, logistical coordination, and attention to detail. 

Begin by exploring your own destination, becoming an expert on the particular topic you plan to focus on. Then, you can curate a well-informed narrative and prepare your guides to answer questions knowledgeably, which will enhance the overall experience.

When creating your itinerary, try to balance must-see attractions with off-the-beaten-path sights, such as a favorite cafe that only locals know about. Carefully consider factors like travel time, physical exertion, and the interests of your target audience.

Logistically speaking, always make sure that the transportation and necessary reservations are secured well in advance.

Finally, prioritize the safety of your guests. Have an emergency response plan in place so that your staff knows what to do in the case of a mishap.

Storytelling

Storytelling breathes life into your tour. It helps to organize your tour around a compelling narrative. Whether it’s the history of a city or curious facts about a prominent character, a strong storyline keeps guests engaged. Here are a few storytelling tips to help you create an exciting tour script:

  • As you’re writing your script, use descriptive language that can create a vivid mental picture for your guests. For example, Instead of saying, “This is a historic building,” you might say, “Imagine standing here a century ago,” and describe the scenery back then.
  • Break the monotony of the tour by engaging with your guests. Include a few trivia questions to give them a chance to interact with the storyline.
  • Encourage your guests to ask questions and allocate specific time slots where they’re free to ask whatever they want.

Personalization

A good tour guide will tailor every experience to their audience.  Before starting the tour, take a look at the guest roster: Are they a group of friends, foodies, adventure seekers, or families with kids?

Personalizing the experience to their interests and needs can turn a good tour into an exceptional one.

For example, if a guest expresses a particular interest or curiosity about a subject, discuss it further with them. This goes both ways: If you notice that your guests aren’t very interested in the history of a landmark, pivot to something they would enjoy more, such as moving on to the next stop or taking an Instagram-worthy photo at the site.

Hospitality

How can you make your guests feel welcome, comfortable, and cared for throughout their tour?

Starting the tour with a warm welcome and introduction of yourself sets a positive tone from the beginning. Make sure to tell your guests why you’re excited to share this experience with them. Perhaps you’ve lived in this city your entire life, or have a special connection to the activity.

Then, pay attention to the little things. Offer water on a hot day, provide comfortable seating during breaks, and be attentive to guests’ needs (without being intrusive).

Finally, be professional. Having a sense of humor is a plus for a tour guide, but pair that with punctuality and respect for your guests. Address any issues or complaints with kindness and understanding.

What are the elements of an exceptional tour guide?

An exceptional tour guide is the linchpin of a memorable tour. The tour guide’s role is to lead informative and engaging tours. Yet they’re also in charge of making it a memorable and fun experience for everyone. This requires guides to have a combination of hard and soft skills, which we’ll explore below.

Tour guide technical skills

Technical skills are specific abilities, capabilities, and skill sets that every tour guide should demonstrate, such as:

  • Subject matter expertise: Tour guides should be an expert in their subject matter. Whether navigating a historical site or leading a culinary tour, guides should have a deep, well-researched understanding of the topic.
  • Navigational skills: Navigational skills are crucial, especially for outdoor or adventure tours. Guides should be adept at reading maps and using a GPS.
  • Emergency response knowledge: Guides should be trained in first aid and emergency response procedures. They should be quick on their feet and know how to handle unexpected situations, including guest injuries.

Tour guide soft skills

Meanwhile, soft skills are the intangible qualities that set exceptional guides apart, including:

  • Communication skills: Guides should be able to communicate clearly; simplify complex information; and engage with guests in an exciting way.
  • Leadership: As leaders of the experience, guides should provide direction and maintain the group safe at all times. They should be able to answer questions and address any unexpected situation that may come up.
  • Empathy: Guides should understand and relate to guests’ perspectives, creating a more personalized experience. As we mentioned above, if you notice that your guests dislike a particular stop or activity, you’ll take note and skip onto the next one.
  • Passion: There’s a big difference between having a guide who genuinely loves what they’re sharing about and one who feels indifferent about it. Passionate guides can transmit that positive energy to their group.
  • Personable: Being personable and approachable encourages guests to ask questions and interact with the guide. A well-timed joke or lighthearted comment can also create a more relaxed atmosphere. Guides with a sense of humor can turn a potentially tense situation into a moment of laughter.

3 examples of memorable tours and experiences and what you can learn from them

Here, we’ve cherry-picked three great examples of tour operators or attractions who put all of the above into practice.

1. Spanish Food Tour in Madrid

Spanish Food Tour in Madrid

What makes a memorable food tour? The Spanish food tour led by James from Spain Revealed in Madrid can easily be every foodie’s favorite experience in the city.

The local guide, James, who highlights his expertise in the city by telling us he’s lived there for over a decade, uses humor to build rapport with his guests. As you can see in this YouTube video of the tour, the guide takes the visitor to lesser-known gems for must-try dishes like churros, providing an engaging, behind-the-scenes look at churro making. 

James actively involves himself in the tour, enjoying every meal with the guest while sharing his in-depth local knowledge about local culinary customers, such as the fact that many locals eat the churros with coffee instead of chocolate.

The tour’s balance of diverse foods, from dessert churros to garlicky shrimp, guarantees a well-rounded culinary adventure.

Collaborating with travel influencers further extends the tour’s reach and appeal. Tour operators can learn that humor, credibility, local insights, and guest interaction are key components for creating unforgettable and meaningful experiences.

2. Helicopter tour with Niagara Helicopters

Helicopter tour with Niagara Helicopters

For over half a century, this operator has been showcasing the majestic Niagara Falls to visitors from around the globe.

Tens of thousands of people experience a helicopter tour with Niagara Helicopters every year. The tour company operates year-round, making the most of favorable weather conditions, opening from 9 a.m. until sunset. Its convenient location, just a 5-minute drive from the Falls, and free parking make it exceptionally visitor-friendly.

It also operates a state-of-the-art helicopter fleet with air-conditioning and vibration control. Inside, the seating arrangements were made with the guest in mind, with three in front with the pilot and four in the back that are raised stadium-style, resulting in incredible views for all passengers, as you can see in this YouTube video.

Niagara Helicopters not only sets itself apart from its competitors with its comfortable helicopter fleet, but also its unique flight itinerary. The tour operator also flies guests to a local vineyard for wine tasting and a specially prepared meal.

The tour’s high ranking as No. 15 in the top things to do in Niagara Falls, accompanied by an impressive 4.5-star rating based on 768 Tripadvisor reviews, underscores the significance of delivering exceptional experiences.

Tour operators can learn from Niagara Helicopters that ensuring visitor comfort, offering unique experiences, and encouraging positive customer feedback can elevate their tour offerings and reputation.

3. The VIP Disney Experience

The Disney VIP Tour gives guests exclusive access to the most popular rides, where they’d normally wait hours in line. As you can see in this YouTube video, the visitor waited only 8 minutes for a ride that had over an hour wait.

The VIP Tour is all about customization: Guests have the freedom to decide what they want to see and do, and a personal VIP tour guide is there to make it happen. They also receive private transportation to and from accommodations and priority admission to attractions or activities.

Meanwhile, as you can see in the video, a private tour guide shares relevant information, stories, and context throughout the tour that can make the overall visit more entertaining. The visitor explains that this led to his best experience yet ont hat particular ride, since he had the information necessary to play it correctly.

The Disney VIP Tour model highlights the importance of flexibility and personalization in creating unforgettable experiences for their customers. Convenience and exclusivity are two key elements that can enhance the guest experience and set your tours apart.

Upcoming trends that can improve the guest experience 

Here are four upcoming trends that can be used to improve the guest experience.

1. Personalization

Personalization, such as sending relevant recommendations and offers, not only enhances customer satisfaction and loyalty but can also lead to revenue growth. Travel brands are using AI solutions like chatbots to harness customer data, create buyer personas, and implement technology to deliver tailor-made experiences.

The more personalized a tour, the more it’ll resonate with your intended audience. When you make your visitors feel like individuals, rather than just another participant, their experience becomes more memorable. In turn, they’ll be more likely to share about it on social media and recommend it to others, helping you generate more business.

2. Automation

Operators are using advanced automated tools like ChatGPT for tasks ranging from social media content creation to customer service assistance, freeing up their staff to focus on more relevant operations. Staff members could spend more time crafting personalized tour itineraries, for instance. This not only enhances the operational efficiency of your company, but also allows for a more hands-on approach to the unique needs of each tour.

3. Immersive experiences and spatial computing

Spatial computing technology uses 3D objects, visuals and audio to create a simulated environment, allowing users to virtually explore and interact with it in a virtual setting. Many travel brands are now using this technology to allow travelers to experience a destination or activity before even booking their trip.

This can not only make your company stand out from your competitors but also increase your credibility with new customers. Before booking a tour, guests can now get a sneak peak of the experience, adding a new layer of information to their tour selection process. 

4. Predictive analytics

AI technology is appearing in the travel industry in many forms, including predictive algorithms that analyze user data, past travel behavior, and preferences to anticipate future travel choices.

This helps operators provide personalized assistance, such as helping customers discover activities that align with their interests.

Understanding customer behavior also helps build stronger relationships. Predictive analytics identifies trends that might indicate potential issues, allowing you to proactively address them before they impact your customer experience.

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A tour is only as good as its tour guide. Use this guide to understand how to set your tours and experiences apart from your competitors — starting with hiring the best guides for the job.

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Writer Carla Vianna

Carla Vianna

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