Generally speaking tour guides are perhaps the most vilified people in the travel industry. They could be blamed for any trouble encountered by guests in their company while on tour, such as unpredictable weather, vehicle breakdown, and traffic jams just to cite a few examples. Being present in person before a tourist they are expected to solve all problems of tourist within or outside of their control. Failure to do so is deemed as a poor performance. This is unfair as well as challenging. Tour guides therefore become ‘cushions’ between the tourist, the site visited and the hosting tour company.
But why is this so?
Until very recently, in Kenya, there was lack of training opportunities and formal training course for new entrants, which resulted in to variable levels of professionalism, lack of recognition and a poor image of profession. Other challenges include potential problems resulting from unethical industry practices; need for a certification, registration or licensing system; absence of any monitoring of tour guide performance; and more active and visible role to be taken by the local tour guiding association. It is very disheartening to learn Africa’s leading Hospitality and Tourism training institution, Kenya Utalii College, chose to drop Tour Guiding and Administration course! The Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association, an independent non-profit making body and a few other independent commercial colleges are just but a few recognized institutions licensed to provide certification of Safari Driver Guides, Lodge Naturalists and other individuals within the Tourism Sector. The KPSGA’s aim is to provide an effective, inexpensive and voluntary certification process giving awards of Bronze, Silver and Gold standards through an examination process.
There are far more skills and responsibilities to being a tour guide than most people imagine. Good tour guides have to be knowledgeable and resourceful, and they have to know how to communicate efficiently and effectively. They also need to be able to plan and execute logistics in a rapidly changing environment, all the while prepared for medical emergencies and a variety of other problem-solving situations. And in addition to all of this, guides need to have polished social and diplomatic skills. All things considered, few jobs demand the broad spectrum of skills required by a professional guide.
Tour guides must address multiple stake holders simultaneously. Visitors expect that their safety and health will take a high priority, but at the same time expect an enjoyable and rewarding travel experience. Some have special needs and expectations associated with their particular cultural background, their physical and intellectual capabilities, and their passions and interests in particular subject matters.
Employers expect the guide to provide high-quality service to visitors in order to meet these expectations, as well as to manage the group, the itinerary and other logistical aspects of the experience to maximize not only visitor satisfaction but also profit margins.
Tour guides face challenges both from within and from their operating context. Guides may have personal limitations of skills, competences, etc. Externally, they must also subscribe to rules and regulations of their areas of operations, their employers and their clients. The guides are often pressed for time, caught between their obligation to please their employers and the tourists, and subject to strict government regulations.
The role of a tour guide is far more complex than most people think. The spectrum of skills and responsibilities, and the horizon of opportunities, can be a great source of inspiration to the beginning guide if enthusiastically introduced.
One could argue that the single most important aspect of tourism and guiding is knowing your audience. A good, dynamic guide can have knowledge and efficient communication, but if it is not relevant to the audience, the audience is exhausted from rigorous travel or anxious with fears and insecurities, the guiding will be unsuccessful.
Here are a few important elements of an effective guide:
- Prepares in Advance
Part of knowing your audience is knowing what kind of a tour package or tour experience they
have purchased. It is always a good idea for a guide to see the promotional material, so that the
guide is aware of the group’s expectations. Good tour companies make sure that their guides are familiar with the promotional materials and any special interests of their groups, though unfortunately this is not always the case.
- Gets to know the group upon arrival
Many people travel as part of groups that sell tour packages based on specific interests. Some examples of these might be botanical groups, birdwatchers, historical tours, photographers, conservation groups, hikers, and many, many more.
- Immediately provides critical information related to safety, comfort & enjoyment
Introductions and briefings are two types of presentations that give a guide the opportunity to set the tone for a tour or an upcoming activity, and to clearly and confidently anticipate questions and insecurities. This will help a guide to establish confidence and leadership with their group. Prepare good detailed briefings so that you anticipate the important questions that guests might have in preparation for an upcoming tour, excursion or event.
- Speaks loudly and clearly
Guides will develop good posture, good breathing techniques, strong voice projection, and engaging presentation techniques. Guides will show confidence and authority when speaking to groups.
- Learning Names
It is generally in a guide’s interest to learn the names of their guests, especially on a full day or long safari. On a circuit or multi-day tour, it is essential that guides try to learn the names of their guests as quickly as possible. It creates a more personal connection, and it also helps the guide take notice of individual characteristics and needs.
- Communicates knowledge and information
People hire guides for the local knowledge and familiarity that visitors can’t easily access. Guides know the areas, the routes, the inside stories, and much, much more that can save a visitor a lot of time and hassle, and enhance the visitor experience. A knowledgeable and resourceful guide can be a valuable asset for a tour company, and for tourists.
But having the knowledge is only half the story; the ability to effectively communicate that knowledge will ultimately determine the success of the guide. Communication skills are highly valued in many professions. Effective communication can be highly persuasive, demonstrate leadership and organization, and give clarity to complex issues.
- Handling problematic and difficult situations
This is probably the hardest part of a guide’s wide set of responsibilities. From crisis management to inappropriate guest behavior to the delicate presentation of misunderstood issues, a guide is expected to handle the most challenging of situations with unflappable professionalism, confidence and dignity. This calls for good leadership and decision making skills
- First Aid and Emergency Skills
Guides must at least be aware of the ultimate importance of knowing how to respond in an emergency situation. It is probably the most important responsibility that a guide can have. Unfortunately there are very few national tourism associations, private companies, or guide courses that offer certified first aid and emergency response training for tour guides in an organized manner. Training takes time, and usually the guide is expected to get the training and certification on their own from the local Red Cross, and keep their licenses updated.
- Exhibit Excellent Working Relationship
As groups of guests come and go, the consistent relationships that a guide develops are often the working relationships that they share with the service-providers at hotels, restaurants, and visitor sites. These are people that guides see repeatedly, and with who they share common goals and problem-solving experiences. Developing and maintaining strong working relationships will lead to more support in times of difficulty, a better atmosphere and environment for tourists, and more personal satisfaction as a guide.
- Reference Books
Due to our ethnic background and dialect sometimes pronunciation of words and names may not be clear and audible. Also a guide may no be in a position to remember practically every aspect and finer detail on the flora and fauna of nature, plus wildlife and their behavior. Therefore to clear any doubts and myths plus offer good factual information, reference books on the relevant subjects is a must.
At INCLUSIVE HOLIDAYS AFRICA we do recognize the importance of the above named tour guide aspects. We therefore endeavor to hand pick and engage the best available professional guides in the job market to deliver guest expectations in all the countries we represent. Be it a local guide, specialist guide, adventure Guide, interpretive guide, nature guide or tour escort you can rest assured Inclusive Holidays Africa to provide the most reliable, honest, ethical, patient, friendly, respectful, proactive and a good communicator able to focus on areas relevant to the guests needs. Here are some of our Guides resume for your perusal
- Vincent Macharia – Spanish Speaking Guide
Vincent is an excellent guide with good people skills, a sense of humor and a deep knowledge of the bush, the wildlife, the culture and the different Eco-systems. He is very patient and accommodating, an ideal host for senior guests who wish to take it slow and easy. With over 25 years hands-on experience and a fluent in Spanish, guide Vincent clearly understands the challenges, anxieties, uncertainties, and desires of his audiences. Vincent has a certificate in Tour Guiding and Administration from Utalii College and is a bronze level member of Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association (KPSGA).
- Nasoor Ali – Multi Lingual Guide
Ali is a very patient and ethical guide with special eye for details. He is ever punctual and his willingness to get up in time for dawn-shoots and commitment to driving tirelessly all day in search of the perfect settings makes him an excellent guide for professional photographic safari lovers. His coastal Kenya upbringing and ability to fluently communicate in Spanish, French, Italian and English makes him an extremely accomplished safari guide. Ali has a certificate in Travel and Tourism from Utalii College and is a bronze level member of Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association (KPSGA).
- John Gichohi
John is an engaging and sympathetic guide who enjoys the variety of clients that he accompanies on trips throughout Kenya. Having worked for some time in USA, John is open-minded, organized, eloquent and articulate. He is a darling to all the guests he has hosted.
- Moses Mwachia
Not only is Moses a knowledgeable and great guide, he is a wonderful person full of life and kindness. He is very enthusiastic, flexible and versatile and ideal guide for outdoor safari activities like accompanying guest while hiking, bicycle riding in the park just to mention a few. He has on several occasions led Christian groups on missions where he also doubles up as translator for the locals. Moses has a certificate in Tour Guiding and Administration from Utalii College and is a bronze level member of Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association (KPSGA).
- David Mwandawiro
After 18 years of professional hands-on guiding in Kenya, his remarkable ‘spotting’ abilities always add an exciting dimension to game viewing. When he conducts Village visits amongst his own community in Taita, he brings a very special touch and remarkable insights to this unique experience. With David on steering wheel of his jeep there’s certainly never a dull moment. He is a cheerful guy who oozes enthusiasm and is always thinking out of the box discovering unique sites for sundowner with the African sunset at the background. David has a certificate in Tour Guiding and Administration from Utalii College and is a bronze level member of Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association (KPSGA).
- Joshua Njoroge – Spanish Speaking Guide
Joshua is very passionate about tourism, well-groomed and a multi-lingual guide who loves Kenya. His social and networking skills, as well as his resourcefulness and perpetual motion, has given him extraordinary exposure to many different people and interests and has resulted into many opportunities. Joshua enjoys guest interaction, and feels that he also learns so much from everyone he meets. His incredible knowledge of the flora and fauna of nature, and diverse facts on various subjects makes him a unique "host" and entertainer. Joshua has a certificate in Travel and Tourism from Utalii College and is a bronze level member of Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association (KPSGA).
- Joseph Muthui – Mountain Guide
Due to Joseph's superior mountaineering skills, coupled with his team of experienced professional guides, INCLUSIVE HOLIDAYS AFRICA has quickly become one of the premier companies offering mountaineering adventures in Africa. Joseph's professionalism and skills have been recognized by various travel books including The Rough Guide To Kenya (2003, page 141) and The Lonely Planet's East Africa Trekking Guide (2003, page 142) which recommends him as a leading guide. Joseph's has achieved further accolades through being selected as renowned mountaineer Tim McCartney Snape's choice for providing contracted services for his trekking climbs to both Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya every year.
- Dennis Nyakundi – Russian Guide
Dennis is a graduate of Moscow State University and speaks fluent Russian. He is friendly, flexible and proactive. He has good verbal communication skills and able to impart excellent knowledge about points of interest of specific sites, the flora and fauna of nature and wildlife.
To enjoy the services of some of our expert guides and enjoy affordable migration safari you can book our Migrate with the Migration Tour.
For any inquiries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Mwasio is a Tourism Consultant and CEO for Inclusive Holidays Africa – Twitter @inclusiveafrica