A travel agent is usually an indispensable part of a trip. He is there along with us throughout the trip and helps us in the handling of our traveling plans in the most efficient manner possible. How does he ensure efficiency? He does so by providing assistance and information, which includes interpretations on historical, cultural and contemporary heritage.
Many may not know but there exist standard definitions of a tourist guide, and one such definition has been provided by European Committee for Standardization which says that a tourist guide is a person offering guidance to visitors and interpretation of the natural and cultural heritage of a region. In Europe, the European Federation of Tourist Guide Associations represent tour guides and these associations enforce their mandates quite stringently.
Clearly, tourist guides are not just any other guides you may think of—they have been duly recognized as professionals possessing a thorough knowledge of specific regions and exemplary travel management skills. Due to the relevance of their duties, tourist guides earn significantly and are among the most popular professionals in the freelance community.
The freelance community offers plentiful opportunities to tourist guides; however, there are a few things you should know before starting out as a freelance tourist guide.
1. Job requirements to become a tourist guide
The job requirements differ substantially from one country to another, and therefore, you will have to do a lot of homework in this regard. For the purpose of our discussion, we are going to focus majorly on Indian scenario.
- The Government of India organizes a number of certificate courses for tourist guides. Upon the completion of the certificate courses, the guide receives certification and is authorized to carry out duties as a tourist guide. Many states in the country require mandatory registration of tourist guides.
- Ministry of Tourism is primarily responsible for the issuance of licenses and undertakes the organization of Regional Level Guide Training Programme. These programmes are organized through the famous Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management and other recognized institutions.
- The courses organized cover fundamental aspects of tourism and travel management such as tourist aspects of the states, inculcation of knowledge of political, economic and social policies, procedures involved in tour guiding and directing as well as various techniques involved in group management, the creation of intriguing and informative narration, etc.
- Fluency in English is mandatory for becoming a part of the aforesaid courses. Graduates belonging to any field can apply to the courses provided they are fluent in English. In case you are not fluent in English, there are a lot of short-term and long-term English learning courses organized in both classroom and online platform across the country.
- Although fluency in English is enough, employers prefer individuals who are well-acquainted with a third language such as French or German.
- More formal education will not suffice unless you have experience. In order to gather experience, you will have to undertake internships or take up part-time or full-time jobs as tourist guides. You can seek internships at various travel agencies operating in the country.
2. Skills necessary to become a freelance tourist guide
There are certain skills which are actively involved in the making of a top-notch tourist guide, and those skills have been mentioned below:
- Communication skills: This goes without saying that communication skills are fundamental to a tourist guide and are most emphasized upon in job requirements. A tourist guide must be legible, interesting and informative. He should know how to communicate with varying groups of tourists. A good tourist guide will be able to maintain the attention of the people and convey whatever that is to be conveyed to them effectively.
- Storytelling and memory: When you are responsible for the management of a tour, you will have to sell history, knowledge and sometimes, a story. You will have to make everything you tell sound interesting and truthful. One must do the storytelling with articulation and conviction.
- Flexibility: You must exhibit flexibility, and how do you do that? You should be amenable to queries and offer answers adequately. Sometimes, there may be a change of plans, but you should be prepared for such changes. A very stringent travel plan may be highly restrictive and may cause annoyance to visitors.
- Punctuality: Lack of punctuality is a problem usually faced by travelers. It often happens that they have booked a tour guide and asked him to meet them at a certain place and on a certain time, but he fails to show up on time. This lack of punctuality is a burden on resources and finances and leaves a bad impression on travelers.
The tour guide must stick to the schedule customized by the traveler and avoid causing any nuisance to him.
- Sensitivity: You can expect guests to come from different parts of the world and from all kinds of cultures. This requires from you sensitivity towards their cultural and societal beliefs, and you must show respect to them.
3. Work opportunities for freelance tourist guide
There are a number of freelance websites that offer a channel of communication between freelancers and employers from across the world. These websites require the creation of a profile account, drafting of a portfolio of skills or resume and submission of duly drafted application. Once these formalities are done, the website will provide you with regular job notifications, and all you need to do it to apply for them.
With the help of these websites, freelance tourist guides can keep a track on the job availability in travel agencies. They will also be updated about those individuals who seek the assistance of independent tourist guides.
4. Pay scale of a freelance tourist guide
The pay scale is determined on the basis of a number of factors such as the qualifications and experience of the tourist guide, association with a travel agency, the status of the travel agency, the travel plan and whatnot.
Typically, freelance tourist guides earn around Rs. 17,000 per month, though the amount increases with the experience of the guide. Well-established and experienced freelance tourist guides are known to make around Rs. 50,000 per month and above.