(2 minute read)

As I’ve said before and will continue to remind the Tourism Industry; to be a tour guide is to be so many things.

Tour guides are educators, entertainers, anthropologists, cultural translators, couples counselors (every tour guide has war stories about “the fighting couple” on their tours…), psychologists, social connectors, hosts, etc.

And they’re often ALSO archeologists, historians, art historians, museum docents, safety-certified, and more impressive accreditations.

All this to say, guides are highly skilled, highly niche workers. To set yourself apart, and stand out to potential clients and employers, you’ll want to keep your skills sharp and keep growing as a guide.

In this article, I’ll list out specific skills that you can (& should) actively develop, whether you’re a new guide or have 15+ years under your belt.

A man and women dancing in a Plaza in South America in traditional costumes.

Guide-Specific Skills

  • Expand your knowledge

We all have those areas of history, or our city, or our tour where we don’t know as much. While it’s important to have a niche or a passion and incorporate that into your tours, you can always use more information in your arsenal. In addition, history is constantly being relooked at and re-narrated, so it’s important to keep up to date on the newest research.

  • Dealing with tour distractions

This is one of those guide-skills that comes with experience. List out common distractions (someone externally interrupting your tour, a food-stop that takes forever, transportation that doesn’t come through, unhappy kids, etc) and come up with different solutions for how you can handle that. It seems simple, but practicing those solutions beforehand can make those challenges easier to deal with in the moment.

  • Making a tour interactive

The best tours are engaging, and the best way to do that is to be interactive. Think about different ways to do that on your tours (trivia, teaching guests local vocabulary or slang, help the guests to interact with vendors, etc).

  • Accommodating travelers of all abilities

The Accessible Travelers market is growing, and you’ll be in demand if you can confidently accommodate travelers of all abilities on your tours. How would you need to adjust the current tours you give for someone who uses a wheelchair? Or someone who is visually impaired?

  • Getting reviews

It’s something all tour companies are going to ask you to do, and it DOES make a big difference in terms of future customers, so why not go beyond being ‘comfortable’ asking for reviews, but be really good at all. Talk to other guides who get lots of reviews and ask them for their tricks, experiment on friends & family, and find what feels most comfortable and most authentic to your guiding style.

Tourists inside the Casa Batlló in Barcelona

Other Relevant Skills

There are many more ways to round out your skillset and are usually very easy to find resources for (Ted Talks, podcasts, books, etc). In fact, looking outside of tourism can help you develop skills that you might not have thought of but are super useful to a guide.

  • Foreign-language skills
  • Diction
  • Public speaking
  • Improv
  • Meditation (for keeping focused when you have a lot happening at once)
  • Yoga (for keeping you healthy and relaxed during multiple walking-tours per day)
  • Storytelling
  • Psychology (handling unhappy guests becomes easier when you can analyze their behavior)
  • Leadership


This article first appeared on the TripKinetics blog- May 2020