What qualities make for a great tour director?
Patience, persistence, flexibility, friendliness, problem-solving ability, calmness in times of stress, detail-orientation, courtesy, creativity, leadership, stamina, comfort with public speaking, sense of humor, knowledge of procedures, enthusiasm.
That's a lot to ask for, but then, there's a big payoff, considering the upside of being a TD. Travel, locally, nationally, internationally, paid. Of course you are not on holiday yourself, you are working, sometimes literally on holidays, oftentimes 15 hours a day, whatever it takes.
But if you are going to be stressed out from your job, wouldn't you rather be looking at the Eiffel Tower while you're feeling stressed?
Do I need special training?
Can't hurt, and will distinguish you from the other candidates for a TD position. Some colleges and universities offer TD training, as do private businesses, such as the International Tour Management Institute in San Francisco, and the International Guides Academy / International Tour Managers Academy in Denver. Any kind of credential you can produce that demonstrates your commitment to excellence, and a willingness to spend money and effort to be good at this job, will go far in impressing prospective tour operators.
What does it take to be hired as a tour director?
More than the standard answer many wannabees provide to describe their interest in the field: "I love to travel and I love being with people." That's true of everyone in the field. You have to offer more than that. You have to let prospective tour operators know that what you have to offer will solve their problem of hiring a wonderful TD who is so good that guests will want to take more tours with that same company. You have to convince a prospective employer that you have the confidence and competence to make them look good.
Can I work year round or just the summer season?
Consider, for a moment, Australia. When it is summer north of the equator, that is, in North America and Europe, for example, it is winter south of the equator. But then comes their summer as the tourist season winds down in northerly latitudes. If you want to work just summers in the US or Europe, you can do that. If you want to work year-round, you have to be creative, combining northern latitude tours and cruises in season, southern latitude tours and cruises in season, and local work in between. Student tours begin before the regular over-the-road bus season begins, so adding them to your calendar provides more assignments, as well.
How do I get an overseas assignment?
For those hoping to work outside the continental United States, the best opportunities exist in Alaska, Hawaii, or Canada. Other options include Europe, Africa, East Asia, or the South Pacific. These jobs are best obtained through companies that cater to residents of North America. Numerous American companies have tours that go all over the world. These companies hire predominantly North American residents to take their North American clientele abroad. A foreign company that operates tours in its own country most often hires residents of that country. In some countries it is the requirement that local guides be used on tours. Some US tour operators promise their clients that their TDs live in the countries where the tour travels, and thus US residents are not hired to handle those overseas tours. As fluency in English spreads worldwide, the need for English-only North American guides conducting tours internationally becomes less.
How can I find a tour/adventure travel guide job?
We have put together resources available for finding a tour/adventure travel guide job. In the Members Section of CruiseJobFinder you will find detailed information on working as a guide and strategies for finding a good job. We also profile the employers and provide information on how to apply for your job.