Notes on being a tour guide in New Zealand
Areas of advancement with Tour Guiding roles depend greatly on type of guide and the size of the company.
Within a Larger Operation
The more experienced a guide is with any particular company the more useful they became. They will be assigned to a larger variety of tours and have more options to pick and choose what and when they want to work. This in itself is advancement as it keeps the job interesting and usually means the guide will be assigned some of the better tours and has a more regular income.
For example a sightseeing tour company may offer a variety of ½ day or day options and a few multi day away tours. A guide would typically guiding one of the tours repetitively l and once they were experienced would move on to guide other tours until they were eventually capable of leading all the tour the company offered included the “away” trips.
Larger operations may have levels of hierarchy amongst their guides. For example the Milford Track Guided Walk Operation. There are several guides per trip with one will be appointed ‘The Lead Guide” therefore the one in charge of the tour. There will also likely be position with in the company of “Head Guide” who will be responsible for all the issues concerning guides in the company.
An experienced Tour Guide can choose to Freelance. Rather then aligning themselves to one company they can promote themselves to a range of companies. This allows the guide to accept or decline work that is offered and set their own rates if they choose. To Freelance a guide needs a good understanding of the product of each company he/she works for and will still need to undergo company training for each operation. As well as a good background of experience licenses (P or class2), a 2nd language or other specialist area is useful for Freelance Guides.
For example a guide whose specialty is New Zealand Flora and Fauna and has Outdoor guiding experience would be able to promote him/herself to all the hiking tour operations a accept work on a per job tour basis
A Chinese-speaking guide could promote him/herself to all inbound tour operators dealing with Chinese in New Zealand
The more skills and experience you have the wider range of companies you can promote yourself to.
For example A freelance guide who has an outdoor background, speaks Japanese and a has a P class license might find him/herself…guiding 2 or 3 week cycling tours over the summer, in between driving 4wd day tours some days and others acting as a Japanese speaking guide on Milford Sound Bus Tours, then guiding ski tours in the winter.
The more the guide has to offer the more opportunities they can find. One draw back is that most operations are seasonal and often are all busy at similar times .
Starting Own Operation
Experience as a guide and a good understanding of the industry is a good base for starting a tour operation
Opportunities exist guiding or escorting tours to overseas destinations. Some may originate from New Zealand but there are more opportunities for long haul tours originating from UK, USA or Australia
Egg Top Deck Explore
Experience as a tour guide in one country is usual to gain work as a tour guide elsewhere.
Moving into Areas of Interest
There are many specialist areas to move into with guiding. Certain areas require extra qualifiications and skills but having other guiding experience can be a good foot in the door.
Specialist areas may include
Natural History Guide
Sea Kayak Guide
Wages and Salary
Varies greatly depending on the company , type of clientele, extra skills, qualifications required for job, experience or the guide. Also type of contract
Day tour operations often pay guides per job
A ½ day tour (4-5 hours total work) could range from $70- $120
A full day ( 8) could range $100- $200+
Tours which involve a guide staying away overnights may range from
$120-$200+ per day with either all meals included or a meal allowance.
Some guides can make substantially more through tips and commissions of activity sales