Part of running a successful food tour company has nothing to do with business at all, but the people involved. A hugely important aspect of running a business in the tourism sector is having people on your team who will inspire travelers and locals to come back and tell their friends.
Thanks to our fantastic team of tour guides for Chicago Food Planet Food Tours, we’ve been able to do just that. Because it takes the right kind of person to be a tour guide, we’ve made note of some of the qualities that make for a successful guide.
1. Strong Communication Skills
Being a guide is all about having strong communication skills. It’s ok to be a quiet person, but if you have to communicate with new people on a daily basis, you just have to be able to do it well. On a basic level guides should be great at projecting their voices across a group, and be able to do so in a clear and easy to understand way. On an interpersonal level, being great at knowing how to communicate well with people is a huge asset. This leads us to skill #2…
2. Personable & Outgoing
This skill takes communication to the next level. Guides shouldn’t just be able to communicate well, they have to be great conversationalists with outgoing personalities; what we call the “Star of the Show” quality, which isn’t something you can teach. There can be a bit of social awkwardness when a new group of strangers show up, and a guide should be able to break that immediately to help people feel comfortable talking to each other and their guide. This ensures later on they feel open to add comments or add questions along the way.
3. A Memory Like a Steal Trap
Tour guides need to retain a lot of stats and facts when walking people around a city- but they also need to be a great story-teller. Guides simply can’t get the information wrong, spend extra time trying to remember it or spend the whole tour reading from a piece of paper. Their memory should be so good, that it seems as if they’ve just always known these facts when they recite them. But most of all, the story needs to sound like it’s their own.
4. Improvisational Skills
We’re not demanding your guides put on an improv show, but the ability to change things up on the fly and play off the energy of the group is important. Attendees will likely have additional questions or comments along the way. These things shouldn’t throw your guide for a loop, they should be able to adjust their script as needed. Sticking too closely to it, could end up making your guests feel like there’s no room for them to say anything at all.
5. Just Enough Enthusiasm
Just as guides will often play off the energy of the group, your attendees will likely feed off the energy of their guide. Your guide has be enthusiastic about the thing they’re talking about, but not so enthusiastic that they fail to sound genuine.
Just like being outgoing and enthusiastic, humor can be the perfect tool to cut any tensions and as always add an extra layer of entertainment for guests.
Punctuality is a can’t do without quality for tour guides. If your guide isn’t on time to meet arriving attendees at the meet up location there will be confusion, frustration and unhappy tour goers.
8. A Keen Sense of Direction
Outside of the fact that your tour guides should know where they’re going, they should also be able to help direct guests. At least on our tours for Chicago Food Planet Food Tours, we start and end in different locations. Often guides have to be prepared to give some general directions to help people get to where they need to be when the tour is complete.
9. The Knowledge Of A Local
Anyone can memorize and recite facts. Though it’s not a requirement, some of the best guides are locals themselves. What’s great about this quality is that in addition to the planned facts and statistics, they can bring their own knowledge, experience and personal anecdotes to the tour. This can make a tour feel particularly special for guests who are looking for a genuine experience outside the typical tourist attractions.
10. Passion For Their City
Last but certainly not least, true passion and interest can take a tour from typical to outstanding. Anyone can point and recite facts, but those who really love what they do can pass that passion onto tourists and locals to make them feel it too. Plus those with passion for their city, bring their own experience to the tours they give.
When you’re hiring tour guides (or if you’re a tour guide yourself) what are the qualities that stand out to you the most? Are we missing any from the list? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @foodtourpros.