Tourist Guide

    If you are wondering how to become a tour guide, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of the tourism and travel industry, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Tourist guides show visitors around places of interest, giving detailed descriptions of the area and points of interest. Guided tours may focus on towns and cities, historic buildings, gardens, religious sites or museums and art galleries. Tourist guides escort groups around a site, and give information about aspects such as its history, purpose or architecture.

    As a guide, you could be based in one place (such as a castle or historic house) or accompany groups on day tours to interesting places or sites such as:

    sightseeing tours
    tours for specialist interest groups
    themed walks.
    You could also work as a ‘driver guide’, taking small groups of tourists on guided tours around places of interest in a car or minibus.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good tour or travel guide include:

    an interest in working with people of all ages and backgrounds
    confidence for speaking to groups of people
    excellent communication skills, and a clear voice
    the ability to present information in an interesting way, even when repeating tours many times a day
    a good memory for facts, figures and events
    an interest in the arts, history and other related subjects, such as architecture.

    How to become a tourist guide
    You would not need any set qualifications to train as a tourist guide, but you would need a good standard of general education.

    It would be an advantage if you have experience in jobs that involve dealing with different types of people in different situations, and giving presentations. It would also be useful if you can show that you have an interest in the arts, history and related subjects such as architecture. It could be useful if you speak a foreign language fluently, but this is not usually essential when applying for work.

    You can do courses and take exams, which are accredited by the Institute of Tourist Guiding. Depending on the type of tourist guiding you want to do, you could work towards qualifications such as:

    Level 2: Fixed Route Commentary, Interpretation and Presentation – for paid or voluntary work, guiding visitors round attractions such as galleries, cathedrals or stately homes, or on fixed route tours such as river trips and open top bus trips
    Level 3: Green Badge – Flexible Route Commentary, Heritage Interpretation and Presentation – for work as a guide in areas such as city and town centres, or in visitor attractions, historic buildings or heritage sites
    Level 4: Blue Badge in Tourist Guiding – for all aspects of guiding.
    In some places, such as Westminster Abbey and York Minster, Blue Badge guides are the only guides allowed (apart from in-house staff).

    Courses are run by local and regional tourist bodies, or colleges and other institutions. Visit the Institute of Tourist Guiding website (in Further Information) for details on local accredited courses. See the Guild of Registered Tourist Guides website for details of regional tourist boards.

    Most courses are around 20 weeks long, although some can take up to two years. They are part-time, with evening lectures and practical training at weekends. Blue Badge courses in London run once a year, but in other areas they only run when there is a demand for guides.

    If you work on a site where in-house guides are employed, you may receive training from the owner of the site.

    Training and Development
    As a qualified tourist guide you would be expected to develop your knowledge by taking part in training programmes arranged by professional associations such as the Guild of Registered Tourist Guides (in Further Information).

    As a member of the Institute of Tourist Guiding you will be able to join their programme of continuing professional development (CPD). See the Institute’s website (in Further Information) for details.

    You may be able to work towards NVQ levels 2 and 3 in Travel and Tourism.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Rates of pay vary depending on the employer and the location. Most tourist guides are self-employed and charge fees.

    Job Prospects
    Many tourist guides are self-employed, working for tour operators or coach firms. Other employers include organisations such as the National Trust and English Heritage, and owners of visitor attractions and historic properties.

    In some jobs you will only work during the summer, or work part-time as a guide alongside another career.

    As an experienced guide you could work for a tour operator as a tour manager.

    Useful hospitality, catering and travel industry resources:
    Association of Professional Tourist Guides
    33-37 Moreland Street
    EC1V 8HA
    Tel: 020 7780 4060

    Guild of Registered Tourist Guides
    The Guild House
    52d Borough High Street
    SE1 1XN
    Tel: 020 7403 1115

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