Kelsey Tonner from the Be a Better Guide Project shares his tips and insights on developing great tour guides and leaders.

I am an amazing tour guide. And though you may not believe me, I am actually quite modest about it.

I’ve worked for over a dozen different tour companies, I’ve been in the industry for over 10 years and I founded the Be a Better Guide Project – an online hub for free tour guide training. With all of this experience, it would be a bit shocking if I was not at least a pretty good guide.

But here is the challenge that you face as a tour company: You know that your business relies on hiring and training amazing tour leaders – but how do you find, recruit and train people like me? Or perhaps the even bigger challenge: How can you transform your existing guide staff into outstanding tour leaders?

It can be done. I was not always an amazing guide – far from it. But here – in my humble opinion – are five important things you need to do.

1. Create a Killer Job Description on your Website

As we previously covered in the tour operator’s guide to hiring the best guides and staff, your Jobs or Careers area is a section of your site that is aimed at potential tour leaders, and it should stay online permanently. You will not be hiring permanently, but potential prospects will be visiting your site year-round and wanting to know what it is like to work for your company.

Spend some time creating a description and profile that excites and inspires potential employees! Is there a way you can show how fun it is to work for you? Perhaps a video on your company culture, or a fun staff event you throw every year?

Now get specific and answer these questions for potential candidates:

  • What are the responsibilities of the job?
  • How are staff paid?
  • What are the hours of a typical work week?
  • What interests/passions should a person have if they are considering applying?
  • How does the application process work and what do they need to do to apply?

Build and develop an FAQ section for potential candidates and add the most common questions you are asked (e.g. Do I need a second language to apply? How does scheduling work? How much work can I expect and will the job be seasonal? What are the top skills of a tour guide within this business? etc.)

Remember, this section of your website will stay online and be your main recruiting tool. Be sure to indicate your hiring cycle and update the page when you are accepting applications. Want to be a real pro? Insert a field where interested people can leave their contact info, then inform them by e-mail when your next round of hiring begins!

When it comes to identifying the right people and essential attributes for the job, check out these 5 qualities to look for when hiring the best tour guides. And be sure to look out for relevant, positive references that will point you to your future tour superstars – after all, if they’ve left a great impression on previous employers, chances are they’ll leave a great impression on your guests!

2. Inspire, Train and Coach

Now that you have found some people with potential, take the time to properly set them up for success. Here’s great news if you’re wondering how to train your tour guides without days or weeks of dedicated formal training courses; mentoring and modelling are two of the most powerful ways you can inspire your tour leaders. Here’s how:

  • Observing the pros at work
    Job shadowing is a great way to transfer expertise and skills in an intuitive way. Do you personally lead the best tours in your company and have in-depth knowledge of the tour area? Bring new recruits on a few tours delivered just the way you expect. Afterwards sit down and really get into the details of what you did, and why you did it. If things are overlooked, bring them up and discuss them. e.g. ‘Did anyone notice how I personally went over and welcomed everyone to the tour before we got started? Why do you think that’s important?’
  • Supervising their first tours
    As new recruits become confident enough to lead their own tours, it’s time to put this new knowledge into practice. Use your more experienced leaders as mentors and have them observe newer guides as they’re leading tours to provide coaching and specific feedback. Tour guides at all experience levels can benefit from accompanied tours, to ensure your whole team is providing a consistently great experience in line with your business values and brand.

Want my favorite, one-page template for mentoring new tour guides? Grab it here and I’ll drop it right in your inbox! It is the perfect way to do periodic evaluations of your guides. It helps summarize their accomplishments and improvements, while highlighting where they can develop their skills. Give it a try! It’s quick, simple and effective.

3. Take Advantage of Online Training Resources

The best tour guides are the ones that are always improving. Ongoing training and growth should be a big part of your curriculum. Use sites like to share free training videos with members of your team. You can sign up here to get free training videos delivered to your inbox every week. Furthermore, you can also take advantage of job simulations to further train and assess your team on a periodical basis.

The web is full of amazing websites and blogs that cover all kinds of important subjects. If you find an inspiring article, share it with your team of leaders! Articles on customer service, dealing with angry guests, or how to go ‘above and beyond’ can help inspire new growth and development.

Want to know one of the more amazing blogs out there for tour companies and operators? You’re already on it! The Rezdy Blog has a HUGE back catalogue with all kinds of great tips and advice!

4. Always, Always, Always get Feedback from your Guests

As you’ll know, TripAdvisor is not the ideal place to get ‘constructive feedback’ on your guides. To prevent this from happening, ask for direct feedback right after the tour is finished: ideally before guests have time to rate you on TripAdvisor. This can be done by e-mail, a quick paper survey, an app on an iPad or simply by having one on one conversations with guests after the tour.

I highly recommend using an e-mail survey, either created using customer management software OR linking to a questionnaire created on Google Forms / SurveyMonkey. Ask guests to give their guide a numerical score of their overall performance, and then a separate score for their overall tour. This will allow you to help your guides improve, while still getting important feedback on your tour. Be sure to leave a space for comments under both guide and tour ranking.

To encourage more feedback, use these questions widely accepted in the service industry to solicit specific feedback:

  • How would you rate your overall tour experience?
  • How would you rate the overall performance of your leader?
  • Would you recommend XYZ Company to a friend?
  • How likely are you to take another tour with XYZ Company?
  • What was your favorite part of the tour?
  • What was your least favorite part of the tour?
  • How could we have done better?
  • Any additional comments?

Compile this data – but most importantly – share it with individual guides to help create a sense of ownership. Meet regularly to discuss low scores or areas for potential growth.

5. Get Feedback from your Guides

Now that you have found good people, coached them into amazing guides and have established an ongoing feedback loop – you need to keep these amazing leaders working for you! What is the best way to do that? Check in with them regularly and solicit specific feedback on you as their employer.

Much in the way that your tours should always be improving – you need to be improving as an employer as well. What are the biggest concerns of your guides? What do they complain about the most? What do they think is unfair? Where are they being frustrated or under-supported? Use surveys to draw out specific feedback and allow them to be submitted anonymously if your employees would prefer.

Summarize the constructive feedback and be appreciative. Improve and adapt your company wherever you can, and if you cannot, try and clearly explain why that is the case. It is important to empathize with your employees during this process, and really try and find a solution, or at least a compromise that will help solve their frustrations.

Supporting professional development

Everyone has goals for the future, and it’s worth speaking with your amazing tour leaders regularly to see whether they have professional objectives in mind. Perhaps they’d love to work up to a full-time position within your business, or perhaps they have ideas to shape new tours based on their special expertise. Supporting each individual’s professional development can keep that person engaged and passionate within your business, minimize your staff turnover and lead to rewarding results – it’s really a win-win.


Amazing tours have amazing guides.

That’s the bottom line. Recruiting, mentoring, evaluating, inspiring and supporting are all important elements of training a tour guide and building an outstanding team. But remember, you are not alone in all of this. Check out the Be a Better Guide Community to get in touch with other tour operators, tour companies and tour businesses, and access online training courses and resources on how to train your tour guides. We are constantly coming together to share best practices, and ultimately raising the bar on what it means to give an unforgettable tour!

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