16 open questions about the job of (site) tour guide
…and 16 honest answers
Working where others go on vacation. For many, tour guiding is an absolute dream job. Maybe you have thought about doing a season and don’t really know what to expect. This interview should give you a little insight. Our interview partner has worked for 10 years as a tour guide in various destinations and does not regret a minute of it – even if it is not always a dream job.
Vacation or work. How exhausting is the job really?
It really depends on the destination. In some seasons I worked up to 14 hours a day, in others I finished work shortly after noon. As a rule, due to the number of guests on short and medium-haul routes, you have much more to do than on long-haul routes. The basic working hours are between 09:00 – 13:00 and 16:00 – 19:00, depending on the hotel package. Sometimes you will also assist the airport team with arrivals or help out in the office.
When will I know which country I will be working in? Can I choose?
For your first destination, you can’t be very picky. You will be assigned a destination by the HR department. Even though it may not be your dream destination, you will definitely have a good time and gain many great experiences. After only a few months on the job, you will receive your “wish list”. This list contains all destinations where tour guide jobs are available. From this list you choose 3-5 destinations and rank them from place 1 to 5. You don’t choose the country (e.g.: Greece or Turkey), but directly the vacation region (e.g.: Rhodes, Kefalonia, Antalya, Bodrum etc.).
Once all requests have been submitted, the HR department plans the destination allocation. The assignment of destinations is based on your wishes – but also on experience, age, your performance rating and your language skills. There are destinations that are on the wish lists of almost all tour guides every year (e.g.: Bali). Of course, the chances for an assignment there are not as good as for destinations where many tour guides are needed. (e.g.: Greece). You will normally receive the assignment in September for the winter or the next summer season.
How many hotels do you usually look after and how do you actually get from hotel to hotel?
In the larger destinations such as Turkey and Greece, it may be that you are only in charge of one hotel. These are hotels very many arrivals, where it is necessary that a tour guide several hours a day to speak personally. This has the advantage that you can concentrate on one hotel and have no time pressure. But it can also be that you are in charge of up to 20 hotels and you are jetting from one hotel to the next all day long. This has the advantage that you can get to know many hotels and very likely get a company car. However, you will of course have more time pressure. For short distances between the hotels you get a scooter or you visit the hotels by bike or on foot.
As a tour guide, do I ever have the opportunity to go to the beach and go on excursions?
Yes, definitely. At the beginning of the season, the organizer sends you on as many excursions as possible in the first two weeks, so that you get to know the products and can sell them well. You will have one day off during the week, and in most destinations you will also have an additional half day. You can go to the beach, if time allows, during lunch break or if you like to get up early for sunrise. And of course on your day off.
How good is the salary? Is the stress also worth it financially?
Of course, I am not allowed to give any information about the exact salary. You get a basic monthly salary transferred to your account and can earn extra money by selling excursions. The commission depends on your hotel package, the destination and your sales skills.
Where do I stay as a tour guide? Can I choose my accommodation?
Accommodation is provided by the organizer. I have already lived in a hotel room, in a staff room, alone in an apartment on the fifth floor, with a colleague in a large apartment, in a remote bungalow and in a small cottage within a hotel complex. Where you live and whether you share the apartment with a colleague, you usually only find out when you enter the destination. If you do not like the accommodation, you can also look for an alternative accommodation on site. You will then receive a small financial contribution from your employer for the rent, and pay the rest yourself.
Did you prefer to stay in a hotel or in an apartment?
Personally, I would always prefer an apartment to a hotel.
Of course, staying in a hotel has the advantage that you don’t have to worry about anything. Usually the laundry is washed, you eat daily in the restaurant and can help yourself from the buffet. Most of the time, even your room will be cleaned and you can use the sports facilities and the pool in the hotel. In addition, you live alone in a room in the hotel. For the first season this is quite cool.
The big disadvantage is the lack of privacy and that you hardly have the opportunity to invite friends, for example, to make a nice barbecue. Most hotels do not allow visitors.
In an apartment you are freer and not bound to meal times. But of course you have more responsibility and ultimately more work with cleaning, buying food, etc.. And, of course, it can happen that you share the apartment with a colleague with whom you don’t get along very well in the worst case.
What about overtime?
You will finish earlier on some days (especially in the off-season) and work longer on other days in the peak season. Overtime is not compensated. You are done with work when you are done.
What further training opportunities are available? Will my performance be evaluated?
As a rule, you will receive various training sessions during the season. In high sales destinations, there may be weekly sales training. Normally, your supervisor will attend your welcome meeting three times a season and give you weekly feedback. Three times per season you will get an evaluation from your supervisor, which is mainly based on guest satisfaction and your sales. There are several opportunities for promotion. However, the best way to find out more about this is to contact the respective tour operator.
Now let’s be honest: Do people really complain that much on vacation?
Unfortunately, yes… But most complaints are solved relatively quickly by a room change, an additional room cleaning or a small “goodie” to the room. Of course, there are also complaints where the guests drive you to the brink of despair. These special cases are, thank God, relatively rare. Unfortunately, however, it is precisely these guests who remain in your memory for a long time afterwards. I always had 1-3 nightmare guests per season whose names I still know *laughs* The bottom line is that there are people who you just can’t please even if you upgrade them to the presidential suite with private butler for free.
Do you actually manage to stay calm at all times?
Of course, sometimes you have to pull yourself together so that you don’t lose your face or start laughing when you make a complaint. It is very important that no matter how ridiculous the complaint seems, a suitable solution is found for the customer. Everyone has a different way of looking at things. Things that are only trifles for me disturb other people so massively that they let it spoil their vacation.
What I have a hard time with is when people are ignorant of the country they are a guest in. We once had a very bad storm in the Maldives and had to accommodate guests for one night in the capital because all seaplanes were down and they could not fly to their vacation island. Customers complained that you had to travel in the same boat with locals and breathe in the exhaust fumes from the capital. Other people have complained that locals live in mud huts in front of your luxury hotel in Zanzibar. This disturbs their vacation enjoyment. I would love to ban such people from traveling for life.
Now something private: What about love? Is a steady relationship even possible in this job?
Rather difficult. I don’t know any tour guides who do this job and have a steady relationship at home. You’re simply on the road too much and for too long. But there are exceptions: A couple of tour guide friends met during the season and have been traveling the world together in the job ever since. Other colleagues fell in love with a local and got married. So there are possibilities, but if you’ve changed destinations every season like I have, you don’t stand much of a chance of a working relationship.
Are there many emergencies in the vacation destination? Do I have to take care of this as a tour guide?
Again, this depends on the destination. In small destinations you are expected to take care of emergencies, e.g.: Accompany clients to the doctor, provide translation assistance, and visit clients in the hospital. In larger destinations there is a person or an emergency team that takes care of such cases.
What was the worst moment in your time as a tour guide?
In my last season, I had to identify a woman who had died of a heart attack. Her husband was over 70 years old and did not speak a word of English. So I assisted him with the identification. This is not one of the tasks of a tour guide, but since I was the only German-speaking RL at that time, it was unfortunately up to me. I felt so sorry for the man, but was very grateful that I was there.
To lighten the mood again. What was your best moment?
Tough call, there were a few. During my season in Italy, I took a walk along the rocky coast of Capri. The view of the Faraglioni rocks, the sparkling sea and this gorgeous island was so incredibly beautiful it made me cry *laughs*. In retrospect, quite embarrassing. In Turkey I went skydiving, that was incredible. In the Maldives I was surprised by 6 manta rays while diving. These animals are so insanely fascinating, like spaceships from another world.
One last question in conclusion. What qualities do you need for this job?
If you are looking for a season with 24/7 beach, boozing and partying, you are wrong in this job. You are not doing anything good for yourself, your employer or the guests you look after (some of whom are saving up for their dream vacation for many months/years). I recommend this job to anyone who is open-minded, loves to travel and is not afraid to be away from family and friends for several months. You should have no inhibitions about approaching people and enjoy speaking in front of small or large groups. You have to be both service and sales oriented and be able to handle stress well. A sense of adventure, enjoyment of foreign cultures and flexibility are a must.
You learn so much about other people and yourself with this job and are prepared for all the bad and good that life has in store for you.
Do you have any questions about the tour guide job? Write it in the comments.