Tour guide, escorted tour and land tour positions can usually be grouped into the same general category of employment. These jobs for the most part are similar and these job titles are often used interchangeably. This is especially true with the job classifications land tour and escorted tour. The job title Tour Guide can also encompass a broader range of potential jobs including city tours, museum tours, building tours, etc. For the most part, CruiseJobFinder focuses on the longer term tours that generally last for at least 24 hours and some last as long as three or four weeks.
We also cover the area of adventure travel jobs. As the name implies, these jobs are with companies that offer adventure tour trips. These trips can range from biking through the wine country of France, to white water rafting in Costa Rica. If you enjoy these types of outdoor activities, one of these jobs could truly be your dream job.
An escorted tour is one for which the passengers have paid extra money for the convenience of having somebody along who knows a specific geographical area and who is familiar with the many details of group travel. Handling the logistics of a weeklong group tour involves quite a bit of work, but the benefits can be great. Guides meet people from all over the world, serve as cultural ambassadors to their customers and to local residents, and often act as unofficial spokespersons for the area in which they work. In addition, tour guides act as educators and all-around experts in the history, geography, and culture of the areas they visit.
As you might imagine, escorting tours is not all travel and glamour. Being an escort means leading a group of about forty people from site to site, caring for their every need, answering their questions, and dealing with every emergency. An escort working for a tour company actually travels as a member of the group. According to most tour escorts, you really have to get along well with the passengers, because you spend most of your time with them:
"Virtually all of your time is spent with people, your customers. As their guide, you ride on the planes and busses with them, you eat with them, and tour with them all day long."
Of course your duties as escort don't stop here. In addition to being a travel companion, the escort must be responsible for all aspects of tour coordination, including checking the group into and out of hotels, coordinating sightseeing and transportation, and providing informational narrative about the many sights visited. The escort is usually described as being part entertainer, part troubleshooter, and always a representative of the company. Being in charge of the tour also means you have to deal with myriad emergencies and surprises that occur all too often:
"Aside from the usual challenging passengers, you also run into things like hurricanes and floods which force you to rearrange an entire tour instantly. Sometimes hotels lose dinner reservations, passengers get sick, and customers fail to show up for the bus. You really have to be able to think on your feet."
Although types of tours vary considerably, the typical tour guide or escort joins his group at the departure point, usually the airport near the tour company's home city. The group then flies to their destination and boards a bus (usually called the coach), and takes a three- to ten-day tour of the destination area. If the area is unique, such as Washington, DC, or certain national parks, a local tour guide, called a step-on guide, will provide the narration for the area. Some companies, however, will arrange tours so that the same guide handles the same tour all season. This eliminates the need for a step-on guide, since the tour guide will have time to research the area thoroughly and the experience to competently narrate it. Most guides report that giving lectures, while difficult, can be one of the more entertaining duties:
"At first, speaking in front of large groups was kind of nerve-wracking, but once I got into a routine, it was pretty easy and I learned to improvise. You're generally not expected to give very technical talks, but most guides at our company would do some independent research and come up with new facts of their own. Most tour guides seem to really take pride in their destinations-it's almost like they're talking about their home towns sometimes."
The most common jobs involve travel by bus with passengers who usually range in age from 50 and up. Tour sizes will vary but a bus tour usually aims to fill its coaches with thirty to fifty people. If a tour is not traveling by bus, it may very well travel by train, cruise ship, and plane. Imagine being paid to travel with people aboard a luxury cruise ship, dining on the finest food, and enjoying all the great amenities of cruising! Your duty? To make sure that your tour group is being taken care of and to handle any problems that might arise.