7 Skills That All Great Tour Guides Possess

Carla Vianna
Carla Vianna
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7 Skills That All Great Tour Guides Possess

When your business is growing, the thought of hiring, vetting, and managing tour guides can be daunting.

In an earlier post, we wrote about the key qualities that exceptional tour guides possess.

Having a defined system for what to look for can make the process of hiring tour guides a lot smoother.

In this post, we’re sharing the key skills you should look for when hiring and vetting tour guides, including:

1. Strong communication skills 

People book tours to have a fun and hopefully unforgettable experience. A successful tour guide knows how to balance providing quality information with listening to the group. 

Tour guides must be able to provide information in a way that everyone in the group can understand. They need to project their voices, speak clearly, and be willing to repeat information as needed.

After all, they’re the ones providing direct customer service to your clients on a daily basis. Effective communication skills are key to providing the kind of customer service that turn one-time guests into repeat customers.

If your guide isn’t great at communication with others, your guests will feel lost and disconnected from the tour.

When you’re interviewing a guide, pay close attention to the way they carry themselves in a conversation. Do they have great public speaking skills? What about their presentation skills? Does the conversation flow naturally? These are great indicators that a guide will keep your guests engaged and provide them with excellent customer service.

2. Empathy

Excellent tour guides know how to engage with different personality types and navigate group dynamics. Having exceptional people skills is essential and often underrated. 

A quality tour guide can practice active listening, read the group’s dynamics, and find ways to connect them, so everyone has a great experience. Sightseeing tours, for instance, will attract a wide variety of customers, from families to couples to young groups of friends.

Guides should understand how to ensure that everyone in the group feels heard without one person or subgroup dominating the experience or the tour guide’s attention.

3. Fast learners

Guests want quality information on the tour’s subject matter, including details that they can’t easily find on a 30-second Google search or through 101-level online courses. While guides shouldn’t come across as robotic or stuff, they should be passionate and have extensive knowledge about the subject. The most effective tour guides learn interesting details about a place, landmark, or activity beyond the basic facts.

And they do so quickly. They’re fast learners and are always staying on top of the latest trends, especially if it means they can wow their guests with new and exciting information.

Better yet – experienced guides know how to share these facts through engaging stories that offer insights and draw people in, bringing the content to life.

4. Quick on their feet 

Tour guides that can quickly assess the group’s interests and needs and tailor the tour to meet those expectations will be more successful than those who stick to a script.

This is why improvisational skills are a big plus for a guide. They should be able to improvise when needed and respond readily to unexpected questions and situations no matter what happens.

When you’re interviewing a guide for the first time, present them with a theoretical scenario to see how they would respond. Their answer will give you a good idea of how that person may react under pressure.

5. Professional 

Your guide can be great at public speaking and know about every historical event that has happened in your city — but if they’re unprofessional, your guests aren’t going to be impressed.

Are they punctual and reliable? Will they represent your company in a good light? Do they act with integrity? These are the questions you should ask yourself before making a hire.

A tour guide isn’t just leading a group. They are also on the front lines of your company, and what they say and do are a direct representation of your brand.

For example, if they show up to work 20 minutes late. This makes your brand look bad, especially if it forces someone else to do the guide’s job. or if guests are left waiting around. The same goes for how they manage their schedule with guests. Does the experience they lead feel organized but not rushed? Can they improvise when needed?

6. Problem solvers  

Things happen. Can the tour guide not only stay calm and think on their feet but do they take the initiative for solving the problem at hand?

After all, they may not have the luxury to call a manager or consult a fellow guide at that moment. They need to address and solve unexpected issues independently while maintaining the trust and safety of the group.

7. A positive attitude 

You can teach a tour guide some interesting facts or have them memorize key talking points.

However, teaching someone to have a great attitude or to take pride in their work is nearly impossible.

If a campus tour guide has no connection to the university where they’re leading tours, they’re probably not going to be as passionate about it as one who studies there.

You want someone who will take initiative to do more than the bare minimum as well as go above and beyond for guests.

In sum, great tour guides create memorable experiences for everyone on the tour or experience. They are knowledgeable, engaging, have a can-do attitude, and someone that others enjoy being around.


Great tour guides enjoy what they are doing and are passionate about the topics they discuss.

There are a lot of subpar guides in the travel industry — but if you know what to look for when you’re interviewing them, you’re guaranteed to make a great hire every time.

Pro Tip: Not a customer but interested in checking out Xola? Explore all of the features including guide management here.

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Writer Carla Vianna

Carla Vianna

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