How would you like to work outdoors, share your passion and knowledge about your hometown, and meet new people every day? If that sounds appealing, then maybe you should consider becoming a local tour guide.
The first are locals, or people who know the place well enough to show tourists around. The latter are people who have a relevant degree, usually in history or archaeology. Both can conduct private or semi-private tours on foot or by car.
Become a local tour guide in 5 steps
Becoming a local tour guide is quite simple. Here are five steps to get started.
Determine your qualifications.
Factor in place and competition.
Set up partnerships.
Promote your work.
Ready to get started? Then keep reading.
1. Determine your qualifications
Do you have a degree in history, archaeology, or something similar? If so, you can become a licensed tour guide. If not, you can start working as a local tour guide right away. You don’t need a degree to do that. As long as you know the place and its history, you can easily launch your business. To do that, check the local competition first. That brings us to step No. 2.
2. Factor in place and competition
Do your research on the place you want to work as a local tour guide. First, check the country’s legislation. In most countries, you need a license to operate any travel-related services.
Anyone can be a local tour guide and show people around. However, if you plan on providing tours inside museums and archaeological sites, you need to be a licensed guide.
In most European countries, only licensed guides are allowed in museums.
Check sites like TripAdvisor and Viator for competitors and potential partners. See what they are offering and what you can offer. You can do some freelance work before you set up your own company. This way you will learn the job, the market, and the competition.
3. Set up partnerships
Reach out to tour providers and travel agencies to see if you can work with them. Most travel agencies have cars and drivers and are looking to hire local tour guides. You can choose the type of tours you want to do: larger groups and/or private tours.
4. Promote your work
It is fairly easy now, even if you are not tech-savvy, to set up a basic website to advertise your services. There are many platforms that have ready-made templates, and you just put in the information and pay the annual fee and that includes hosting. You’ll also want a domain name and an email account. For a real-world example, check out my site.
People want to have choices. Design packages based on what you can offer. If you are good in history, offer a history tour. If you are a wine lover, do a wine tour. If you don’t have a car, you can start with walking tours showing the highlights of a certain place. You can meet your guests in a designated, easy-to-find spot, then show them around. This is a good starting point to build up your business.
Having a blog on your website helps, as it shows people you actually know the place.
Social media also can help, but I would advise not to spend too much time on it, as conversion rates can be low. Focusing on SEO will likely bring more traffic to your website.
There are other websites you can sign up for, such as Viator, ToursByLocals and Get Your Guide. Even Airbnb is starting to host experiences. You can easily sign up for one of these platforms to attract more customers.
5. Get feedback
Feedback is essential, especially when you are just starting as a local tour guide. It will help you improve and grow your business. Don’t be afraid to ask your guests if they enjoyed the tour. They will be honest about it, and most of the time their feedback will help you realize what you need to change.
Make sure to ask your guests to review you on TripAdvisor. You can print cards to hand out after each tour and send a follow up email after to kindly ask guests to review their experience.
Do keep in mind that if you are working for another company, sometimes the reviews will go up on their TripAdvisor page, not yours.
Also keep in mind that people do a lot of activities when they go on holidays. If you wait two months before reaching out, there’s a good chance they won’t remember all the details about their tour with you.
Tips and advice for beginners
Here are some important things I’ve learned after working as a tour guide for four years:
Language is the most essential part of the job
If you plan on becoming a local tour guide in a country other than your own, the more languages you speak the better. Guides who speak Chinese, German and Russian are harder to find, so they get better pay. Whatever language you will be using for tours, make sure you know it well enough to convey the information in a way that people can understand.
Do your homework
Even if it is your hometown, people are paying you to tell them interesting things about the place, not just general information. Most tourists might only ask basic questions, but there will always be those who want to know everything about the history and culture.
If someone asks you something you don’t know, be honest and say you don’t know. There is no need to make things up. Write it down and look it up. In this line of work, you keep learning.
Pro tip: Make sure you know some cool facts, too. People appreciate them.
People are looking for an experience, not just a history lesson and a rundown of what happened to the city. Try to share your culture with them, let them in, and tell them about local customs and unique traditions.
You can be a local tour guide in places other than your hometown
If there is place you know well enough, say you have been many times and you would love to work there for the summer, you can become a local tour guide there.
I have been on tours as a guest with tour guides who acted bored. The information was super interesting, but the delivery was not. That ruins the tour. Remember, these people are likely on vacation, and they are on your tour to have a good time.
Talk and listen
Make sure you don’t sound like a broken record. Of course, you will have a few facts to share. Do share them, but also make conversation with your guests when you get a chance. You know those audio guides people can get for a price? You are not that! The difference is you can also listen, not just talk.
Not all of your guests will be nice, but you still must be polite to everyone. A smile can go a long way.
Learn to adjust
Every tour is different because it’s filled with different people. Don’t be afraid to adjust to it. Experience will help you with that. But, for example, if you see your group is fascinated by history, tell them more about history. If they don’t care about history, and they are foodies, tell them about the local food scene. If they love wine, highlight local vineyards.
Word of mouth is essential
It might take a while to establish a new business, but word of mouth could be stronger than any social media platform or Google Adwords campaign. The guests who have been on a tour with you and enjoyed it will definitely recommend you to their friends, and this way your local tour guide business will grow.
Instead of a P.S.
One of the main things I love about being a local tour guide is that it gives you the chance to meet so many cool people from around the world. You make new friends every day, and it is up to you to show them your town. You are part of their holiday, and it is such a pleasure to help make their experience better.
Sure, there will be some guests who are more difficult than others. But on the good days, it feels more like hanging out with friends than working. And not many people can say that about their job!