How Tour Directors Keep Clients Occupied

One aspect of the role of tour director that often is under-appreciated is that of Entertainer. A Tour Director (TD) on top of their game will be prepared for this. The only surprise is that you don’t know when you will be called upon to provide entertainment, not if you will.

There are a number of reasons a TD may have to entertain the group. Construction road delays are almost certain to happen in national parks, where summer tourist season is also road repair season. Weather-related phenomena such as rockslides and rainstorms cause delays and detours, and can occur most anywhere. It may also be that that day’s journey is lengthy with little variety to see out the window. Or a TD may decide that playing a game is a good way to orient guests to what they are about to see.

Just know that playing games on a tour bus can be a minefield. Some people love to play games, some abhor games, and they are all on the same bus. A game which does not last too long, which is somehow related to what folks are seeing or are going to see, which does provides everyone with an equal chance to win, is a game that most folks will at least tolerate even if they do not choose to participate. And choice is important. People forced to participate in games, especially those which require brain cells and might embarrass someone, often are resentful rather than appreciative. Perhaps it reminds people of days long ago at summer camp, and they interpret game-playing as being treated like a child. Do you get the idea that this has to be handled thoughtfully? It does.

What kinds of games to play? If they require pen and paper, the TD had best have a supply to send around the bus. If they pit one side of the bus against the other, there needs to be an opt-out option so everyone participating actually chooses to do so. If the game involves verbal responses, they need to be relayed to the group so everyone can hear. Beyond the logistics, games that somehow related to the tour experience, like listing different kinds of animals seen while driving through a national park, usually are well received. Is the weather outside the bus dreadful? Then a weather-related game would be appropriate. Is the tour about seeing monuments or memorials on the Mall in Washington, DC? Then which side of the bus sees a particular one first? Games that engage guests in what the tour is doing are best-received.

And what about the winners? Prizes need not be expensive, and often are better-received if they are not so the "losers" don’t actually feel bad about losing. A prize for a weather-related game could be an inexpensive rain poncho, for a geography-related game, could be a pocket compass. The possibilities are endless.

As enjoyable as games are, remember that they are not necessary, just an added feature from some TDs and not others. A different TD may want to conduct a sing-along on the bus, or show a related DVD, or all of the above. A TD needs to "read" a particular group and decide which approach is the best approach.

Sometimes no approach is best. There is nothing the matter with silence and quiet contemplation of the scenery outside.


Overview – Cultural Issues & Language Barriers