3 min read.
Prefer to listen & watch? See the video version of this article here.
Tours are really important.
Beyond merely a way for tour operators to make money, or a fun thing to do on a vacation, a tour is a vehicle for local guides to interact with and educate travelers. If you think about it, tour guides are actually very important ambassadors.
There’s a good chance that Walking Tour or Food Tour will be the ONLY time a traveler meaningfully interacts with a local. That means whatever impression they get from that guide will be their impression of an entire city, or an entire country, or an entire region (!!). Maybe not accurate but something that happens often meaning, Tour Guiding is important work.
With that said, why wouldn’t we want to put our best foot forward, as a guide, as a company, as a city… Done right, a tour can be the entire highlight of a trip, inspiring the traveler’s friends & family to visit the destination one day. Too often, tours are created and rarely refreshed moving forward, relying on guides to keep information and stories relevant. Yet overworked guides often have to turn to the busy-season-survival-technique of muscle memory. This cycle perpetuates tired guides & tours that have lost their mojo.
In this article, I’ll give a defense of the importance of Constant Evolution, both for your guides and for your bottom line, and share some tips on how to start the spark.
Why Constant Evolution?
Creating the spark of Constant Evolution benefits your business in so many ways.
Benefit for the company; Marketing & Sales come with a great tour.
Tours that are relevant, innovative, and fresh are a step above the rest. Most tours are ‘average’. Not meaning that they’re bad, but that they meet guest expectations. However, meeting expectations doesn’t translate into a memorable experience. An amazing tour that goes above and beyond expectations is one that will be remembered.
Instead of a guest going home & telling family about their “amazing food tour”, you want them to go home and tell their family about the amazing tour company they traveled with. Word of mouth marketing and referral sales only come with guests who remember your brand (*possible to achieve even if they booked through an OTA*).
Benefit for the guides; Guides stay longer and are more engaged when they don’t have to do the same thing over and over.
Tour Guides are often seen as transient due to their free-lance nature. However a great guide is invaluable, and having a great guide that is also a brand ambassador makes the difference with guests remembering your brand.
Guides are used to giving the same tour over and over and have many coping mechanisms to help them get through busy-season. Yet by giving guides tours that are being updated on a regular basis (or even BETTER, empowering guides to improve those tours themselves, a great way to engage them more), you have guides who are excited to give a tour. Meaning they don’t have to fake it. It makes all the difference.
How to spark Constant Evolution?
Regularly improving and updating your tours doesn’t need to take a huge amount of time and resources. Here are a few ways to spark Constant Evolution by engaging guides and keeping tours fresh.
Go through all your tours during the slow-season and update with any fresh information or stories that might have been discovered during the past season
This might include a practical audit of tour logistics like vendors that are no longer available (or that give guides a hard time), or routes that no longer make sense due to a more interesting one opening up. This is an easy way to find small improvements to boost the overall experience.
Have guides share their stories with one another
Guides are often proud to do this and new material is very refreshing for other guides (or at least, can inspire them to find new material themselves). There’s no rule that says guides can’t give the same stories.
Trim any ‘additions’ that have been organically added to tours
Tours evolve on their own. Guides might develop one theme of the tour more than another resulting in inconsistency depending on who gives the tour. Inconsistency makes it harder for your brand to be memorable. Make sure all of your guides are on the same page in terms of the tour themes and brand values.
Engage your guides in your tour updates
One of my favorite ‘team meetings’ is to have guides give tours they lead a score based on company values, or other elements. Guides can then evaluate the scores together, and brainstorm how to improve the lower scores. Spoiler- there’s usually a discrepancy in the scores guides give to the same tour which leads to really interesting conversations.
This article first appeared on the TripKinetics blog- May 2020