The local tour guide job isn’t for everyone.
Tour guides are not the same as travel agents, whose jobs are to arrange travel plans and communicate with clients from the comforts of their own homes.
Local tour guides come face-to-face with tourists. They know all head-turning destinations to the cringe-worthy spots around town (and still find something to love about them).
They are up-to-date with new places to see, things to do, food to eat, and adventures to face, so that they can create unique experiences for tourists from all walks of life.
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The job is for people who love their community, and passionate enough to give guests the same magic he/she sees from his/her own town.
Do you think you’re cut out to be a tour guide?
Local Tour Guide Job
A local tour guide isn’t a formal job – there’s no educational requirements to land this job.
(There are some good training materials out there though.)
There is an exception to this though: government, non-profit environmental organizations, and private companies with any nature-based industry usually require tour guides to have some college credits taken.
The main requirement is that your heart is in the right place, and you’re 100% in love with traveling and spreading the love of travel.
You should also:
- Be Responsible – You are practically leading people to different destinations, so these tourists will be under your care
- Knowledgeable about different cultures – It doesn’t matter if you’re only touring locally. People with different cultures may be part of your tour, so it’s ideal to know as many as you can about.,
- Have Superb communication skills – Ultimately, leading local tours mean you’re going to be talking to people every day. Having the skills to do so will make the job a lot easier.
- Have Extraordinary storytelling capabilities – You’ll need to catch the attention of your group while discussing a destination’s history, facts, myths, and so on.
- Have Problem-solving skills – You should be able to think logically and quickly, especially when faced with emergencies
Understand that a local tour guide job is a physical one.
You should be able to withstand long walks, running, and other physical activities.
If you’re going to be working for other companies, you may be required to know CPR and other life-saving First Aid techniques.
Steps to Becoming a Local Tour Guide
Here are some guidelines how you can become a local tour guide:
• Know how to teach a new skill
Consider what kind of information that visitors to your town or city would be happy to learn and which isn’t readily available.
For example, if you live by a body of water, you could create a tour that teaches visitors where to fish for a certain type of fish.
If you live by a state park or preserve, you might offer tours that teach people how to spot and pick edible wild mushrooms. If you’re into archery, offer several hours of bow and arrow instruction at local ranges.
• Focus on your hobbies
Instead of imitating other tour companies, focus on your own hobbies and pursuits.
If you’re an avid kayaker, create a tour that takes people from point A to B in kayaks across a lake or stream.
If you like camping, create a ready-made experience for potential area campers that includes a tent, sleeping bags, and anything else that they would need to take a 3-4 day camping trip.
• Generate an itinerary
You’ll see far more interest in your tour if you provide potential clients with an itinerary of planned stops, lessons and/or demonstrations.
You might also provide different itinerary options, with portions that swap out for others in case the client wishes to create his own customized experience.
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Team up with area businesses.
It may also be a good idea to team up with some local businesses, where you might grab a discount or incentive in exchange for bringing in tourists.
These businesses can also advertise your tours to their own clients, thus expanding your reach.
How much do Tour Guides make?
If you offer a tour that is a good value for the tourist and takes her places where traditional tours don’t go, you can easily charge $200 for 2 hours. Add in a few incentives like a guide book or complimentary appetizers and drinks, and you can charge even more.
When it comes to tours, you’re better off creating a quality tour that costs more money than a “value priced” one that just about anyone can complete on his own.
You can easily earn more money, if you are fluent in languages other than English (Spanish, Japanese, French, Mandarin, Korean and Italian are the top in-demand languages).
Tourists have dispensable income and are looking more for an incredible experience that they can brag about back home than for a way to save money. So, create some amazing experiences and don’t be afraid to charge premium prices.
If you already have a touring business setup and you’re looking to make more money from it Matthew Newton’s Sell More Tours is a must-read.
Start your own or join a tour guide company?
Those who are hoping to become a local tour guide can do this as part of a team, or as their own bosses.
You can land a local tour guide position, tour manager, itinerary maker, tour guide supervisor, and so on with traditional travel agencies. These jobs are also available at theme parks, museums, cultural centers, and other similar facilities.
Do note that except for managerial positions, most tour guides are only hired during certain seasons.
The main benefit of being employed to a company is that you won’t have to worry about your schedules, finding clients, and marketing your services.
If you start your own practice, you will be in total control of everything, from the packages and itineraries, themes and gimmicks, etc.
All of the income will be yours as well. However, you’re going to be wearing more hats as an owner and local tour guide, since you’d have to continuously network and market your business to fill in your calendar.
I recommend you begin as a contractor or employee for another company to dip your toes into the industry, then launch your own practice on when you’re experienced enough to tackle all facets.
5 Companies Hiring Local Tour Guides
The following companies will help you kick-start your local tour guide gig, whether you plan to do this on the side, or set-up a full-scale tour guide business:
This website describes itself as “a community of people who love to travel and be in touch with different cultures.” You’ll need to send an application to join, but once you’re in, you’re automatically known as a “local friend.” Fill in your profile completely.
For $100/year membership fee, this company provides you with a personal web page and marketing help in exchange for signing up.
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As a local friend, you can accept or reject a request from a client. If you do accept the gig, the clients pay Rent a Local Friend 30% of your fee, then receive the rest after successfully completing the scheduled tour.
To join ToursByLocals, you’ll need to pass two phone interviews, pass a background check and provide local legal requirements.
Once you’ve been accepted, you can create your services page and begin marketing your business.
This company doesn’t require upfront fees to join, even if they provide free training, marketing, payment processing, and a $3 million in liability insurance.
However, you will need to share 20% of your fee with them every time you complete a successful gig.
Vayable boasts its tour guides as “independent people who create unique experiences to share with others.”
This means Vayable isn’t just after traditional tour guides, the company looks for people with different sets of expertise and interests.
The tour guides, known as Vayable Insiders, come from a wide range of backgrounds from teachers to farmers, dancers to chefs, and so on. Insiders offer cultural, educational and recreational experiences to travelers.
If you’re a chef and know your way around local cuisine, you can create a city tour with must-eat restaurants, street food to die for, and other goodies tourists could buy while visiting.
When a client hires you for one of these tours, Vayable notifies you and you can then accept or reject the gig. Vayable takes the client’s payment, deducts 15% as commission, and deposits your income to your bank or other account.
Withlocals works with individual freelancers who want to show their city and share their passions.
This Netherlands-based company follows the same process as Vayable and ToursByLocals – you post an “experience” or customized tour, wait for clients, do the job, and then wait for your income.
Withlocals deduct their 10 to 20% fee from you every time you complete a job.
Shiroube (pronounced shi-ru-bé) is an international company boasting 5,000+ tour guides in over 3,000 cities.
This is a bit different than other companies.
Shiroube does not charge upfront fees, nor does it collect commissions for every job. Shiroube also doesn’t charge travelers any fees.
So how does Shiroube earn money? Apparently, the company worked out sponsorship plans with corporations to avoid charging people fees.
Everyone gets a free account by default. With this free account, you can create 3 ads to promote your local tour guide services.
The Bottom Line
Becoming a local tour guide is easy as long as you have the heart and right skills to do the job. However, like many freelancing gigs, the challenging part is marketing your service to your target audience.
With these 5 companies hiring local tour guides, you’ll receive free training on how to network, market and expand your business.
And when you’re ready to scale up, I’d recommend you build your own website, so you’ll have your own, safe online space if any of these 5 decide to close shop in the future.