As a company that offers guided bike tours in multiple languages, we have worked with a lot of guides. We have worked with locals as well as Erasmus students trying to earn a bit extra. Over the years we have seen what works and what doesn’t work. Although a lot comes down to intuition and so called fingerspitzengefühl, the guides do have to meet a certain requirement.
Here’s a list to help you filter out bad guides when you are hiring a new one.
Imagine this: you are going to an exotic new place. Everything is new and exciting. You want to learn more about the city. Just to know what the city has to offer. You sign up for a guided bike tour. Yet your guide doesn’t seem to share your excitement. That’s a total buzzkill. Nobody likes to have Debby Downer as a guide.
That’s why you should look for talkative people. These people know how to tell a story, which is something Wikipedia can’t tell people. Yes, when they are experienced and have more stories, you run the risk of going overtime. It is worth it because most customers don’t mind that much on holiday. Some say the experience is worth the extra minutes.
This might be the most basic requirement of a new guide: they must have a thing for history. 90% of their job will be talking to people about historic buildings and monuments. If they don’t like to learn about the cultural history of your city, why hire them?
Customer is king. That old saying goes for the guided tours. Our service is only as good as the customer experience. Having a guide who’s funny is a simple way to improve the experience. It brings people in a good mood, which makes them likelier to tip. It also makes for better reviews. Better reviews mean improved SEO on your website and thus more customers.
One thing to take in account: humour is a subjective thing. Clients might have a different taste in comedy than you do. You might find a joke hilarious while your customer might find it stupid. That’s why we make sure that our pool of guides are varied on the comedic front.
Once you have been working in the guided tour business, you start to overlook certain aspects of the job. They have become self-evident. Still, there is a reason why you don’t see a guide in a wheelchair in a tour in Andorra, in the Pyrenees mountains. For instance, Andalucia Tours and Discovery is a guided bike tour company in Seville. It would make sense that potential guides can ride bicycles. Every year there are a handful who apply but can’t ride a bike.
As said earlier, customer (experience) is king. This does not mean that guides don’t have to be punctual. Especially, in Spain, where there’s a more relaxed culture. The most important times for a tour guide are the moment he/she has to arrive at the office to welcome the group and start the tour and the time they have to be back at the office.
This implies a certain knowledge of machines like watches and how to operate them. The kind of watch (analogue or digital) is up to personal preference. The important part is that the guide doesn’t have to reach for his smartphone to check the time.
Checking the time is a good indicator on how long you can stop with your group at a certain location. Sometimes you just don’t have the time to go into every single detail.
Nobody expects a guide to be dressed to the nines, but nobody wants to be guided by a smelly tramp. What you mean by well-groomed is up to you. In our experience is giving your guides the freedom to dress the way they feel most comfortable. Most of them will rise up to the responsibility by putting a little bit more effort in their appearance.
The better the guide dresses, the more better the chance he, or she, will receive a tip afterwards. Again, as an organisation, you could only concern yourself with the basics. Go for clean.
We offer our guides a place where they can relax before and after they’ve done a tour. There are a couple of reasons why we did this. First, we want our guides to feel safe enough to express themselves in front of a group. Giving them the social structure to do so keeps them motivated and excited. Second, most people like to vent. It’s better to give a person a place to vent before they start to do it in front of a group. Generally people don’t really care about the guide’s love life while standing in front of Plaza de España.
Thirdly, we want our guides to be in a social mood. They have to interact with people. Getting our guides in a social headspace is a small thing we can do to insure the quality of our tours.