There’s more to being a tour guide than carrying a flag and leading groups of people through a historic site. More, even, than choosing between a giant fabric sunflower and a flag with which to lead your group.
Technology is changing how we travel the world. Travellers plan and book holidays from smart phones and tablets, increasing the need for tablet compatible websites and apps that meet consumer demand.
With tourism numbers climbing ever higher, tour guides and tour companies are turning to a number of increasingly sophisticated solutions to provide a world class service for their guests and to stay ahead of the competition.
One such technological advance used by group tour providers is headsets. Tour guides often work in locations that are not acoustically suited to presentations, be it on a noisy crowded street or in a cavernous church with strict noise rules. Wireless communication sets, where a tour guide’s microphone is transmitted to headphones worn by the tour group, allow a guide to speak in a normal tone of voice to a group scattered over a large space. These headsets are fast becoming a common sight in busy tourist areas.
New websites makes it easier than ever for independent guides to find custom and plan trips with clients. The rise of independent tour guides has been matched only by the rise of websites such as viator and tourHQ, which list local tour guides in a browsing friendly format. The ease with which travellers can use these sites is one reason for their growth in popularity.
Smart phone apps are another tool utilised by tour guides. WhatsApp, Viber, and Facebook Messenger are just some of the communication apps used by tour guides to contact clients before a tour. The ease with which they can interact with clients before a tour takes place means they can personalise a tour to their client’s requirements, before ever meeting face to face.
More than pointing out historic monuments and the sites of famous events, tour guides often act as unofficial ambassadors for their city. Travellers will ask for recommendations on where to eat, what to visit next, where to find a reliable cash exchange agency and other travel information. A guide’s best friend here is a smart phone with strong network coverage and a range of apps for maps, weather forecasts, exchange rates and local city guides.
Large screen phones and tablets are replacing old-fashioned folders of photos. These are often used by tour guides to show their group the attractions visited on the tour, historical photos of the city or other parts of the city or country. With tablets, guides can also include audio or video of traditional songs or dances and historic footage, adding an extra element to the tour.
Tour guide also make use of other social media, including Facebook, Instagram and blogs. An increased online presence increases the credibility of a guide and is valued by the travellers on their tour, many of whom update their own social media sites as they travel. The importance of social media among travellers should not be underestimated, they will tag companies and use well established hashtags to share and promote their own photos and social media profiles.
Tour guide and companies are also utilising back-end technology developments, such as websites and apps offering booking and reservation assistance, for making bookings and payments online and over the phone. This allows tour guides to accept payment from credit cards, smart phones and PayPal, which is bringing more professionalism to the industry.
Tour guide benefit from matching the pace with which travellers are turning to online and mobile travel solutions. However, the rise of technology has made the human element and personalised touch provided by a tour guide more important than ever. More than reciting a list of facts, which can easily be found online, tour guides must engage personally with people on their tour, to tell stories about their city and engage travellers in their culture.