VUSSC/Content/Tourism/Applying Effective Communication Skills/Communication Strategies

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What is a communication strategy?

This deals with "how" we get individuals to understand the intended messsage. It focuses on the ways in which a tour guide will go about achieving the overall goals of the operator and in effect, the tourist.

Using effective communication strategies

During a tour, you must use strategies to overcome communication barriers. Here are a few essential effective strategies you should try.

  • Be an attentive listener

An important principle for effective communication is effective listening. When your visitors are speaking to you, give them your undivided attention. You must stop whatever you are doing, face them and keep eye contact with them. Nod to show that you are listening, and verbally confirm that you have heard.

  • Ask for clarification

If a visitor is speaking to you and the message is not clear, ask for clarification and again, confirm your interpretation of what has been said, to make sure you have understood correctly. Also encourage your visitors to ask questions. You will know that visitors have understood your messages, if they give appropriate feedback and act on your instructions. Repetition is a necessary element of tour guiding.

  • Be clear and concise

A clear message promotes understanding. Use correct language structures, simple sentences and unambiguous words, and try to avoid unnecessary jargon or local slangs. Be comprehensive but concise and say exactly what you mean. Apply standard grammatical rules in tour commentaries and ensure that your commentaries follow a logical sequence. Work on your pronunciation of words and voice projection to make sure the message carries across the group and reaches everyone.

  • Be consistent

Your body language should not contradict, but should confirm your verbal message. It is important that you as the tour guide and therefore the leader of the tour group, should be consistent in your words and actions. Remember that your non-verbal cues are often more convincing than your verbal messages.

  • Be confident and know your product

Remember that tourists research too, so when addressing tourists, ensure that the information is correct. If it is not, tourists may lose confidence in your ability to guide them. So make sure that the facts are accurate and up to date. To do this, you should take information from reliable sources, such as from reputable magazines, news media, promotional material, industry associations, experts, local communities or from first hand experiences such as site visits. Knowing your product well, will give you that boost that you need so that if tourists ask questions, you will be able to give appropriate responses. This means that you must prepare well for a tour so that you are confident in delivering the tour commentary and in answering questions from the group.

  • Be motivated and show pride in your country

You are the link between the tourist and your country. You represent your country and its people in the eyes of the tourist. Your attitude should therefore by positive when you interact with your visitors. Be accessible to them and be willing to share information and advice about your homeland. Explain the local rules and procedures so that your clients would understand them and abide by the laws of your country. Maintain a pleasant atmosphere in the group by giving visitors a warm welcome and being friendly, respectful, helpful and polite throughout. Be attentive to the needs of the tourists throughout the tour.

  • Be a leader

Remember that you are the leader of the tour group, so you must display effective leadership skills. This does not mean that you should be bossy, but that the group relies on you to take them safely to and from where they wish to go. As part of your role, you should encourage introductions among the group members and encourage participation in discussion, even from quieter members.

  • Pay attention to non-verbal cues

Body posture, gestures or facial expressions convey particular messages at all times.

  • Appropriateness

The message should also be appropriate. Both the message and the language used, should fit the audience and the purpose of the communication. How do we keep our message appropriate? We should pitch it to the interests and expectations of the individual or group we are talking to. Keep information relevant to the site or subject we are describing, and make sure the tourist is satisfied with the information – it should satisfy their expectations and interests. Use the correct English terminology.

  • Deal with complaints and difficult tourists

Use confirming responses, acknowledge the experiences, questions or comments of tour members. Confirm their right to feel and think as they do, regardless of how it may differ from the average point of view. Provide positive feedback where you can.

  • Analyse your own perceptions

Keep questioning your own views and be aware of where they come from and what they were influenced by. Seek to embrace more views and incorporate other views to broaden your scope of perception. Observe carefully in a tour guiding situation and look for the bigger picture – it is important to see any one moment as part of a larger context.

  • Equipment Use

If you are using a microphone, make sure that is working and that you are confident in handling it. The microphone is an important tool in helping you communicate clearly.

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Read the following case study then answer the following questions

A group of fourteen tour operators from England, went on a familiarization trip (fam trip) to Mauritius. Since the purpose of the fam trip is to encourage the tour operators to sell Mauritius as an option in their country, it was important that the fourteen tourists (participants) should sample some of the local sites. One of the sites chosen was the Botanical Gardens at Pamplemousses, in the south of the country. A site tour guide was to meet the bus at the venue.

On arrival at the site, the tourists disembarked from the tour bus. The group of tour guides was seen sitting on a patch of grass. After five (5) minutes, one of the men stood up and approached the group. He immeditately launched into his tour commentary in French. As if on an alarm clock, the tour guide sped through the garden without allowing the tourists to take photographs.

On embarking the bus, all the tourists evaluated the tour and found some things that they all found went wrong and meeded to be corrected.

  1. Besides commentary, what is the primary role of the tour guide in the "eyes" of the tourists?
  2. What went wrong in the case study? Identify at least two things.
  3. Which strategy or strategies should be used to correct these errors?