The job of a tour guide is dependent on an ability to interface with the public and provide accurate information concerning specialised interests. This position contains aspects of customer service, information dissemination, and continuing education in the venue or medium in which the tour guide is employed. Museums, theme parks and nature attractions are just a few of the venues that require a tour guide.
General Aspects of the Job
A tour guide leads visitors through points of interest and provides useful and interesting information in a narrative format. This is done by leading a walking tour, driving a vehicle, or accompanying a group on a motorised conveyance system such as a park shuttle or monorail system. The information divulged must keep the guests focused on the topic of interest while highlighting the visual artefacts and other venue offerings. The tour guide also acts as an educator by providing unique and important facts to inform the visitor's curiosity.
The tour guide in a historical venue will be required to have specialised knowledge of the tour subject, whether it is a historic structure or a person of interest. This aspect of the job necessitates some relevant experience with the subject in most cases, such as familiarity with personal belongings and other material points of interest. A museum docent, for example, should become intimately familiar with the person or building on display and be able to relate pertinent facts about the subject, such as important events and a timeline of the subject's lifespan or existence.
Natural attractions are one of the larger employers of tour guides across the globe. This is another specialised interest, and the guide needs to be acquainted with the environment and general surroundings of the venue. A tour of the area known as Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, for example, will include a trip around the islands and visits to local sites, such as a tea plantation and the ruins of a distillery. The tour will include a rundown of the local animal and plant life unique to this area of the world as well as a well-planned overview of the natural beauty particular to the tour subject.
The academic background required for a position as a tour guide varies according to the subject, but there are accepted minimum requirements that an employer will have. Although a college degree is not always required, it may be relevant if the topic is a person of great interest or is otherwise important in a historical sense. There are tourism training schools that offer certification credentials, and community colleges also offer courses in tour and travel-related occupations.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data from May of 2008 reveals that median wages for tour guides range from £6 per hour to £11 per hour. States with the highest level of available positions at that time were Hawaii, Wyoming, Alaska, Idaho, and South Dakota. States that offered the top pay in the field were California, Arizona, Alaska, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia. The highest concentration of these jobs by city were Fairbanks, Alaska; Honolulu, Hawaii; Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Flagstaff, Arizona; and Savannah, Georgia.
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