Day in the life of a tour guide

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Bob, entertainer and tour guide

Image courtesy of Kerrivaughan
" Day in the Life of a Tour Guide"

A tour guide (or tourist guide) provides assistance, information and cultural, historical and contemporary heritage interpretation to people on organized tours, individual clients, educational establishments, at religious and historial sites and at venues of other significant interest. They [normally] have a recognized national or regional tourist guide qualification. Wikipedia

This is the last of four courses which form "Introduction to Tourism" a course contained within the Certificate in Applied Travel and Tourism programme. Once all four courses have been completed those enrolled will have gained the New Zealand National Certificate in Tourism (Core Skills) Level 3.

Learning Objectives

Unit Standards linked to this course: US 23766, 23755, 23768, 23764, 23763, 23758, 23759


Tour guiding

You will be asked to organise tours in the Napier region for a wide range of conference delegates.  You will be expected to display excellent customer service, communication and interpersonal skills. This will be done via the use of a series of role plays.

What is a Tour Guide and what do they do

Imagine being paid to go on a European cruise, walk the greatest walk in the world (as the Milford Track is known), visit some of the world's most famous sights, raft the Zambezi or even climb the highest mountain in the world.  Tour guides do all this and more!

But dont be fooled by all this glamour, there is more to the job than just the sights, sounds and people.

Types of Tour Guides

Multi Destination tours

These range from tours aimed at younger tourists and travellers like the Kiwi Experience (in New Zealand) or Contiki (in Europe) where you may have up to a whole coach load of tourists that you are responsible for looking after (and more importantly partying with) for a period of anything from a week to five or six weeks.  At the other end of the age and rage scale you may be accompanying a coach load of retired folks as they wend their way gracefully around a country or region. 

Adventure Tour Guides

Kayaking around the Abel Tasman National Park? Taking tourists for a walk on a glacier (with or without a helicopter ride thrown in)? The greatest walk in the world? Rafting down the Shotover river? Climbing New Zealand's highest mile (the summit ridge on Aoraki/Mount Cook)?  These are just some of the options just here in New Zealand - think what else is out there in the rest of the world!

Adventure Tourism is a growing sector of the tourism industry where people are looking for something out of the ordinary (rather than being taken round museums and art galleries).  New Zealand is at the forefront of the Adventure Tourism sector and there are plenty of opportunities out there for adventurous Tour Guides.

City Tours

Tours of the sights and sounds of a city are a perennial favourite for tourists (just look at the double decker bus that travels around Dunedin on a daily basis).  Imagine being in a position where you could see some of the world's most famous buildings for free! 

Specialist Attraction tours

If you have a passion for anything at all that you could show to people (birds?, mountains? old tractors? 16th century British architecture?, glaciers?) then you can be almost guaranteed that there will be others with a similar passion who will want someone to show them round.


This is what Careers NZ has to say about being a tour guide.

Careers NZ

What skills does a Tour Guide need?

The great thing about the skills you will learn as a tour guide is that they are very transferable to almost any other job.  This is because most of the skills are related to dealing with people and that is the most important thing to say at this stage - First and foremost you have to have a real interest in people - that is what makes the job endlessly fascinating.

Tour guides need to be:

  • friendly, outgoing and able to put people at ease
  • polite, patient and professional
  • responsible and trustworthy
  • helpful and perceptive of visitors' needs
  • able to take criticism
    able to relate to people from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds

1. Make sure you have solid people skills as well as infinite patience. Be honest about whether you're comfortable being "on" for 10, 12, even 18 hours a day. That's more important than knowing all about art, history or geography.

2. Get trained and certified at a school for tour guides.

3. Get hired by a tour company. The larger the company, the more work you'll have and the more chance to travel to exotic parts of the world.

4. Sign on with a company headquartered in your own country if you want to go abroad. It's easier than getting a work permit with a foreign company

5. Expect to operate as an independent contractor rather than an employee, especially with smaller companies. Although you'll have to arrange your own insurance coverage, think how much you'll save while you're working and the company is covering your hotel, meals and transportation.
6. Research the area you'll be touring extensively. Companies provide some basic information, but it's good to do homework on your own. You'll have more confidence, and people on your tour will appreciate your expert touch--which may lead to bigger tips and word-of-mouth recommendations from your clients.

7. Be a master of organization--you need to juggle your time and handle details such as getting through customs and finding lost luggage. You'll be in charge of transportation logistics, accommodations (finding hotels or setting up camp), meals, equipment repairs and maintenance, and more.
8. Stay calm when other people aren't. You have to handle all emergencies, whether a monsoon hits, the bus breaks down, a client has a meltdown or the hotel is overbooked.

9. Plan for a minimum of personal free time on a trip. That's just as well: Once you take care of all the arrangements and everyone else's needs, you'll have very little energy and time to go exploring on your own--or even do your laundry.

10. Be aware that you set the tone of a trip. If you're upbeat and enthusiastic, others will join in and have fun.

Read more:How to become a tourguide


ProGuides New Zealand is a non-profit professional association of tour guides and driver/guides in New Zealand.  It is the the Professional Tour Guide Association of New Zealand.

Its members are professional tour guides and/or driver guides. The tour guide profession consists of lots of individuals doing a highly qualified job. ProGuides as an industry body is highly recognised and valued by the wider industry.

For more information - have a look here proguide

Australia also has its own institute for Tour Guides with useful details on its Vision and Mission statements and a good Tour Guide Code of Practice - Code of Practice


There has been a spate of incidents in New Zealand in the recent past (mostly to do with Adventure Tour Guiding operations) that have resulted in charges being laid under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.  This is a key piece of legislation and sets minimum requirements for both employers and employees in terms of identifying and then minimising, isolating or eliminating hazards.  It also sets out training and record keeping requirements.

As a result of one of the incidents (the death of a British backpacker on a river boarding trip in Queenstown), a head to toe review of the Adventure Tourism industry was ordered by John Key (in his position as the Minister for Tourism).  This has introduced a raft of new requirements for all providers of adventure tourism activities - the main one being the need for a comprehensive Safety Management Plan and the requirement for this plan to be independently audited.  This initiative is being jointly led by Tourism Industry Association of New Zealand (TIA) and Outdoors New Zealand.


This course is used in the following programme