Career Development

What Does a Tour Guide Do?

Find out what a tour guide does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a tour guide.

Tour guides are responsible for leading groups through various locations, attractions, and events. They provide an informative narrative about the sights they see along the way, often adding historical or cultural context to help visitors better appreciate their experience.

Tour guides must be well versed in the subject matter they’re presenting. They need to know everything there is to know about the places they’re showing people—from basic facts about location and history to interesting tidbits that will pique visitor interest.

Tour Guide Job Duties

A tour guide typically has a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Providing information about the history of specific landmarks or locations so that visitors can gain a better understanding of the site’s significance
  • Helping customers plan their itineraries and deciding which activities would be most interesting to them
  • Conducting historical research in order to provide accurate information about sites, buildings, and monuments
  • Reviewing historical documents such as letters, journals, photos, or maps in order to provide information about historical events that occurred at the site
  • Providing visitors with an understanding of the significance of each site they visit
  • Coordinating group tours to ensure that everyone is together at all times
  • Explaining the significance of historical sites and artifacts
  • Offering suggestions for additional activities in the area, such as shopping or dining out, that will increase customer satisfaction
  • Accommodating special needs of visitors such as physical disabilities, language barriers, etc.

Tour Guide Salary & Outlook

Tour guides’ salaries vary depending on their level of experience, the company size and the type of tour being conducted. They may also earn additional compensation in the form of tips.

  • Median Annual Salary: $38,000 ($18.27/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $64,500 ($31.01/hour)

The employment of tour guides is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

Tourism is a large industry that supports many other industries, such as hotels and restaurants. As the economy grows, more people will travel domestically and internationally, which will lead to greater demand for tour guides.

Related: Tour Guide Interview Questions and Answers

Tour Guide Job Requirements

A tour guide typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Tour guides are typically required to have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Many tour guides choose to pursue a college degree in a related field, such as history or hospitality. Some tour guides choose to earn a bachelor’s degree in tour guiding, which takes about four years to complete.

Training & Experience: Tour guides typically receive on-the-job training. This training may include shadowing a current tour guide, learning about the history of the area and practicing giving tours. Tour guides may also receive training in public speaking and customer service.

Certifications & Licenses: Some employers may require tour guides to pass an industry-specific certification to show their general knowledge of the field.

Tour Guide Skills

Tour guides need the following skills in order to be successful:

Public speaking: Public speaking is the ability to convey information to an audience. Tour guides often speak to groups of people, so this is an important skill for them to have. Public speaking can also include the ability to answer questions from an audience, so this is another aspect of public speaking that tour guides need.

Communication: Tour guides must be able to communicate effectively with their audience. They should be able to speak clearly and loudly enough for everyone to hear them. They should also be able to answer questions from their audience and explain complex topics in an easy-to-understand way.

Knowledge of subject matter: Tour guides often have a background in the subject matter they’re presenting. This can include a degree in history, art or another subject area. It’s important to know the subject matter you’re presenting so you can answer questions and provide detailed information. You can also use your subject matter knowledge to create a unique tour that appeals to your audience.

Organization: Tour guides should be able to organize their tours to ensure they’re providing their groups with the most informative and entertaining experience possible. This can include planning the order of stops, creating a schedule for the day and making sure all of the group’s needs are met.

Leadership: Leadership skills can help you become a more effective tour guide. You can use your leadership skills to motivate your group to follow your directions, stay together and observe the rules of the museum or attraction you’re visiting.

Tour Guide Work Environment

Tour guides typically work in the tourism industry, leading groups of visitors on tours of historic sites, natural wonders, museums, and other places of interest. They may work for tour companies, hotels, or other organizations that offer tours. Some tour guides are self-employed. Most tour guides work full time, and many work more than 40 hours per week. Many tour guides are required to work on weekends and holidays, when most tourists visit the sites. Some tour guides may have to work in all weather conditions, indoors and outdoors. The work can be physically demanding, and tour guides may have to walk long distances and stand for long periods of time.

Tour Guide Trends

Here are three trends influencing how tour guides work. Tour guides will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

More Tours for Corporate Events

As businesses look for new and innovative ways to entertain their employees, tours are becoming a popular choice. This is because tours can provide a unique and memorable experience that is both educational and fun.

Tour guides who are able to create tours that are specifically designed for corporate events will be in high demand, as they will be able to provide a unique experience that meets the needs of each individual company. In addition, tour guides should be prepared to work with a variety of different types of groups, including teams, families, and individuals.

More Immersive Experiences

As technology advances, tourists are looking for more immersive experiences. This means that tour guides need to be prepared to provide more than just historical facts about the places they are visiting.

Tour guides can capitalize on this trend by developing skills in areas such as photography, videography, and graphic design. They can also focus on creating experiences that connect visitors with the local culture and make them feel like they are a part of the community.

The Growth of Cultural Tourism

Cultural tourism is growing rapidly as more and more people are interested in learning about other cultures. This trend is having a significant impact on the tour guide profession, as cultural tours are becoming increasingly popular.

Tour guides who are familiar with the customs and traditions of different cultures will be in high demand, as they will be able to provide guests with an authentic experience. Additionally, tour guides who are able to speak multiple languages will be even more valuable, as they will be able to communicate with guests from around the world.

How to Become a Tour Guide

A tour guide career can be a great way to see the world and meet new people. It’s also a profession that offers many opportunities for growth. As you gain experience, you may want to specialize in a particular area, such as history or art. You could also become a lead tour guide, which means you would manage a team of guides.

No matter what stage of your career you’re at, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest travel trends and destinations. Read travel blogs and magazines, watch travel videos online, and subscribe to newsletters about the best places to visit. Also, keep track of the latest developments in technology that can help you provide better tours.

Advancement Prospects

There are several ways to advance in this career. One is to become a lead tour guide, responsible for training and supervising other guides. With experience, one could become a tour manager, overseeing all aspects of a tour operation. Another possibility is to open one’s own tour company.

Some tour guides move into related occupations. For example, those with an interest in history might become museum curators or archivists. Those interested in the business side of the tour industry might become travel agents or travel writers.

Tour Guide Job Description Example

Are you passionate about your city and love sharing your knowledge with others? Do you have a knack for customer service and enjoy working in a fast-paced environment? If so, we’d love to hear from you!

We’re looking for an outgoing, professional, and detail-oriented tour guide to join our team. As a tour guide, you’ll be responsible for leading groups of up to 30 people on walking tours of the city. You’ll need to be able to think on your feet and improvise when necessary, as well as be comfortable speaking in front of a group. Prior experience leading tours is preferred but not required.

If you’re interested in joining our team and sharing your love of the city with others, please submit your resume and a brief cover letter. We look forward to hearing from you!

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Serve as an ambassador of the company, providing a high level of customer service to all guests
  • Arrive on time and in uniform for each tour, maintaining a professional appearance at all times
  • Learn and be able to articulate detailed information about the history, culture, and attractions related to the tour route
  • Engage with guests throughout the tour, encouraging questions and interaction
  • Manage groups effectively, keeping them together and on schedule while remaining flexible to accommodate individual needs
  • Handle any guest concerns or complaints in a calm and professional manner, escalating to a supervisor when necessary
  • Adhere to all safety protocols and procedures, including emergency evacuation procedures
  • Complete daily paperwork accurately and submit to the office in a timely manner
  • Help maintain the cleanliness of the tour vehicle and equipment
  • Assist with set-up and break-down of tour materials as needed
  • Participate in ongoing training and development opportunities to keep knowledge up-to-date
  • Perform other duties as assigned

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Ability to pass a background check
  • Excellent communication, customer service, and time-management skills
  • Strong organizational skills and attention to detail
  • Knowledge of local history and culture

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in related field
  • Tour guide certification
  • Fluency in more than one language
  • Experience leading tours


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