1. Know thy guests.
Whenever I get a call or a briefing from a client or a tour operator, I make it a point to ask the guests’ profile, schedule, age group, country of origin, dietary requirements and other important details.
Advance information is helpful to your tour. From it, you would be able to gauge the guests’ interests, and plan your commentaries and the pace of your tour to keep them engaged. Knowledge is important but the overall objective is to ensure your guests’ welfare and comfort.
2. Victory loves beautiful preparation.
Armed with enough information about your guests, you can now proceed to call the sites stated in the itinerary. Coordinate closely with the tour operator. If there is time, do drop by and check the premises.
See where you can stand to better deliver your commentaries. In which part of Fort Santiago can they stay to avoid the scorching sun? Most important of all, where’s the nearest comfort room?
Check the weather, the route to the destination, travel time, operating hours of the museum or the sites stated in the itinerary.
These are simple yet practical information that will be useful for your tour. Remember, it’s useless to talk about the origin of the Katipunan if your guests need to pee. Their comfort goes first before your talk.
3. Brief them and brief them well.
At the start of a tour or trek, I usually give an overall briefing to give the group an idea of the activity and to manage their expectations. What’s ahead? How long is the walk or trail? Which way? What do I need to bring? Do we have an alternative route in case it rains? You already have answers because of Item No. 2.
4. If you don’t know, admit it and get back to them soon.
You are the guide; therefore, it’s assumed that you have in-depth knowledge. Aside from directing the group to the nearest restroom, you have the important task of sharing accurate information.
One thing’s obvious, you are not God. If asked about the birthdate of Dr. José Rizal and you are not sure of it, it’s better to acknowledge that you don’t know than to give a bogus answer. Immediately tell them that you’ll get back to them soon either during the tour (you might remember as you go along) or through email.
As a guide, you are given a unique opportunity to speak for the jeepneys, the balut, the artifacts, the paintings, the traffic and other things that may interest your guest about your culture. Your answers will help in spreading the word about your country. They will take all of what you say with them when they go home. Accurate information with good delivery is the key to keep them engaged.
5. There will be good days and there will be shitty days. Keep walking and keep talking.
- The guests are late.
- They’re clearly not interested in your commentaries.
- It seems like they’re made to take your tour because a relative or a company arranged it.
- They’re too lazy to walk.
- They tried to haggle with your payment.
- They don’t even ask questions!
The description above is not a good tour and it’s not a terrible one either (what qualifies for a terrible assignment is when someone from the group gets injured or worse, dies!).
There will be days when guests would be very happy with your tour. They have nothing to say but generous words or if you’re lucky, hand you a good tip.
There will also be days that would make you ask yourself, “Did I really do a good job?”
It’s normal to feel that way and it really happens. Just keep walking and keep talking. It would help if you have them fill out a feedback form so that you can spot parts of your tour that you can improve on. The truth hurts sometimes, but constructive criticism and suggestions are there to help you be a better guide.