Your bookings are increasing. Your business is growing. It’s time to hire a new tour guide.
While this is good news, hiring a new employee can be scary — especially someone like a tour guide, who will be at the front lines with your customers.
As a tour operator, you’re tasked with finding tour guides with the right qualities to lead your tours or activities. Yet you’re also responsible for training your guides to offer your guests the best service possible.
Much of this happens during the onboarding process — which you’ll learn more about in this post. Here are several tips on how to onboard a tour guide successfully so that they’re ready to hit the ground running
- Give them a tour of your space
- Train them on reservationist tasks
- Have them shadow an experienced guide
- Supervise their first tours
- Familiarize them with your company values
- Train them on your equipment
- Walk them through your booking software
- Recommend additional training
Why does a tour guide need training?
Most tour guides didn’t study “tour guiding” in school. It’s a career that typically arises from a passion for travel or a specific hobby and one that evolves through on-the-ground experience.
You likely already know whether or not your guides need to be licensed to lead tours in your city. If you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to check in with your local government before making a hire.
Legal requirements aside, every staff member you hire still needs to be trained on the day-to-day operations of your business.
Your new guides need to understand how your company greets, leads, and interacts with guests so that they can provide the best service possible. That being said, one of the first steps in onboarding a new guide is to introduce them to your company values and standards.
Your company has a reputation to keep up, and your tour guides play an important role in that.
Guides should also be trained on the technical aspects of leading your tours or activities. Some companies might require more training than others. If you’re a zip line tour operator, for example, your guides should be trained on all your zip line courses before they begin working them.
Safety procedures are another big training item. Guides should be aware of the procedures around guest emergencies, including injuries. Adventure tour operators, for example, might consider investing in a first aid course, depending on the risk factor associated with their activity or tour.
How many hours should a tour guide work?
Tour guides typically have flexible schedules that depend on the tour or activity they’re leading.
For example, a city tour guide might run three walking tours per day, each lasting about two hours. Someone leading a multi-day hike, on the other hand, might work for three days at a time and get a couple of days off in between.
You might also hire freelance guides who pick up tours whenever you need them to.
Hours can also fluctuate with the seasons. For example, a tour guide might work longer hours during the holidays, when more people are visiting your city.
Tour guides typically made about $18 per hour in the U.S., according to Indeed. This doesn’t include tips, which average about $75 per day.
If you’re unsure how much to pay your guides, you can take a look at the average wages in your area. Then factor in your candidate’s experience and professional training to arrive at a final number.
8 tips to onboard new tour guides
Ready to onboard a new tour guide? You can use these tips to make sure your guides are prepared to offer your customers the best service possible.
1. Give them a tour of your space
If your company operates from an office or activity center, start with a full tour of the space. Show your new guide the spaces relevant to their jobs, such as the check-in counter and the activity area. Point out other relevant locations like restrooms and kitchen if you have one.
2. Train them on reservationist tasks
Your tour guides should be familiar with all of the reservationist tasks like answering the phone and handling walk-ups. Even if you don’t have a physical front desk, you can train your guides on scheduling tours and answering guest questions online.
3. Have them shadow an experienced guide
Allow your new tour guides to shadow an experienced guide until they’re ready to tackle the tour themselves. It’s a great way for new guides to learn your company’s best practices and the kind of service your guests are accustomed to.
4. Supervise their first tours
Once your new guides are ready to lead their first tour, you join them for the first few. Supervising their tours will allow you to pinpoint areas for improvement and be there to answer any questions that arise.
5. Familiarize them with your company values
Your company values are an important factor in your customer service. Guides will perform better when they understand the kind of service your company strives to offer to your guests. You can talk the guide through your best practices or give them a handbook to learn more about what matters most to your company.
6. Train them on your equipment
Your guides need to be trained on whatever equipment your company uses for tours. For example, a zip line operator should train a new guide on how to operate the zip lines. Have them try the activity or tour themselves, run a few tests with other employees, and shadow more experienced guides.
7. Walk them through your booking software
Then there’s the technology you use to run your company, such as your booking system. You should train your guide to understand your booking software so that they can handle customer scheduling, calls, and questions if need be.
8. Recommend additional training
Many tour guides build successful travel careers with little to no formal training. If there’s additional training you believe would benefit your guides as they start working for you, now is the time to recommend it. This might be an online course specific to your niche or a safety class, such as a first aid course.
As a tour operator, it’s your responsibility to train your guides to do the best job possible.
Every tour company is unique. No matter how experienced your new hire might be, it’s important to show them your company’s way of doing things.
You should introduce your new employees to your company values, give them a tour around your space, and let them shadow more experienced guides before they tackle it on their own.
This way, your guides will feel confident enough to lead your tour or activity right off the bat.