So a friend asked me: “How come you still have work? I thought tour guides are a thing of the past… Now all the information is available online, why would I need you?”
Longer read, discussion encouraged.
I invite WordPress people – travel bloggers, guides and others to comment, put their links, ping-back – is that a word?, hire a pigeon to get in touch…
The timing for that question couldn’t be better. February 21st is coming soon – International Tourist Guide Day, as it was decided by the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations. I normally use the term “tour guide”, not “tourist guide”, I’ll try to explain the difference in some of my later posts. Maybe the difference is only in our head anyway.
And what a great day to have our day – at least in my country, the end of February is not a peak tourist season, all the madness will start in April and there is a short period of time where we can “rest” in February. We’re not actually resting – we have seminars, training, we exercise, go to the movies, read a good book… because – when I really start working in April, all of my free time will be Past Tense. (Yeah, I can confirm to you – I’m getting drunk with some of my colleagues to celebrate our day. That’s maybe the best advice for all travelers who think about entering the tourist sector – drink all your alcohol now, because it’s unprofessional to drink while you’re working. Wine tasting is an exception, but it’s called “tasting”, not “drinking”, for a reason.)
(note: I’m in Serbia here, not in Croatia; article about Belgrade coming)
Don’t get me wrong – I love my job, I adore it… That doesn’t mean it’s all “fun and games” like people sometimes think. It’s a job and you should regard it as such. I start laughing when I read ads “Work in tourism! Earn money, travel, have fun!” Yes, I am earning money by traveling and it’s fun and entertaining but it can only be fun if you’re working seriously.
I want to show you this meme which I find very entertaining. Usually, for every photo that is not mine I put a source but this particular image is something that is present in many pages of various tour guides groups for many years and I have no idea who is the original author. It sums up perfectly many misconceptions that even we have about our own profession. Yeah, we’re not Jesus. But I know some tour guides who think they are (they’re not).
Let’s go back to my friend’s question. With all the resources available, every tourist knows more than me so… how come I still have work?
Yes, I am not as smart as Wikipedia, I don’t know every street like Google Street View, I don’t have 764 reviews of restaurants stored in my brain, I talk when I talk and you can’t turn me on and off like an audio-guide. But sometimes I know a great deal more than a detailed travel guide book. Sometimes I know a great deal less. Everything can go smoothly. But also, I can make a huge mistake. People like me as a guide. And sometimes, they just don’t. Imagine the fun when that happens! It’s all part of the job – not my job, but every job out there ever.
No matter how quickly the technology evolves, no matter how many possibilities there are, there is always a human touch that can give you something special, if you have a good guide. But to “have” a good guide is just one half – if you want to appreciate the city and a country interpreted by a local (or by a foreign enthusiast as well), you need to “want” your guide. If you’re not interested in having a city tour in the first place, I certainly don’t recommend it. Some people prefer to travel/have a city tour with a guide, some don’t. And that’s perfectly fine.
Maybe some travel bloggers will now get angry with me, but let me try to explain. I adore reading your posts, but sometimes I wonder what is all the fuss with the comments “do it yourself, you don’t need a guide or a travel agency”. I always imagined it to be something normal – some people prefer groups and guided tours, some don’t. I adore reading travel blogs, they are beautiful, but sometimes it’s literally “I’ve been to Amsterdam and – wait for it – I took a train to Brussels and I found a nice restaurant there – all that without a flesh-and-blooded guide”. I’m sorry, but it’s not exactly nuclear physics and most of the people would do the same. People organized their trips by themselves 20, 50, 100 years ago. Before all the Trip Advisors, Googles, blogs. I did find a funny meme about Travel Bloggers as well – is it really like that? (I can hardly wait a comment that sounds like: “Yes, and you can become a travel blogger too just if you pay for my seminar. I am now in a 5-stars luxury hotel in Australia, writing about my latest adventure in Brazil while two ladies are bringing me cocktails… I am in no way actually in my living room trying to upload an image for the last ten hours”)
(image taken from https://indotravelicious.wordpress.com/, but again the original author is – who knows…)
I love traveling alone. I imagine everybody does. But, I also like to sit in a bus with 40 people that I’ve met for the first time. Even when I’m not a big group traveler and traveling with a small number of friends, I like to have a tour guide because I enjoy hearing about the city from a local’s perspective. (Not necessarily a tour director – I’ll explain later; but when I travel with friends I’m usually the tour director – I wonder why the list of friends that I invite to travel with me is getting smaller, haha – I think only tour directors will get that…) But, I’ll give you a secret – sometimes I don’t want a guide, I don’t even want to explore the city by myself. I just want to see all the important places in 30 minutes, take a selfie and go to the beach. And I do just that because for some reason it is necessary for me to have “that kind of a day”. We all have different experiences, different desires, different habits and needs – and they change all the time.
Sometimes, it’s even better to check things from a blog or a site because in some countries a local guide can’t prepare you for a culture shock. And that’s completely personal and depends on your own background. I am currently planning my own travel to Israel, when the season ends. I know a lot of guides from Israel and I know that they will help me when I’m going there – but Israel and Croatia are so different societies – even in the same Mediterranean culture. I trust my Israeli friends, but I will always check some things with a Croatian who was there because we have the same social and cultural perspective. If I plan to go to Eastern Asia, I would double the checking – never mind all the Korean tour leaders I know.
I’ve occasionally read some travel blogs but it was only three weeks ago when I started writing that I’ve noticed this huge abundance of travel bloggers. To be completely honest, I made this site in the beginning only to have a proper page for my clients, which are mostly tour agencies. Just a small static page, that was the idea – where I will not publish anything new, just have my CV and let it exist. But I soon became addicted to writing, publishing, getting likes, comments, followers, checking the stats… I would even say that I’m doing quite well for a 20-day blogger.
In the spring, it will not be so good. I found my new hobby but when I work, I work… I’m not sure I can keep this pace of posts. In April, when longer tours start, maybe I will not open my blog for a week or two, in July probably a whole month – writing is what I do to relax and I don’t have a luxury of relaxing during other people’s vacations.
In our line of work, we make a distinction between two types of “tour guides”. Usually, a tour guide is specialized for one or more places. For example, I am a tour guide for the city of Zagreb, in Croatia. I provide guided city tours that last 2 to 4 hours. After the tour, I don’t see my clients anymore. They can be individuals, smaller or bigger groups…
“Tour leader” or “tour director” or “tour manager” is something different – I do that also, but the whole concept is a little bit different. It’s similar, but I consider it myself a completely different job with its own problems and its own beauty. That means that I’m traveling with a group for 5, 7, 10 or 14 days all the time, 24 hours a day. I go everywhere with them. When we come to Zagreb, I am their tour leader and tour guide, but when we come to Dubrovnik there is a colleague of mine that is offering the city tour, specialized for that city, I am merely somebody who accompanies them and manages their whole program. And there’s the catch: it’s THEIR program. If they want a coffee break, I want a coffee break, if it’s possible within the program. But if I am the one who needs a coffee break, and they don’t, even if we’re now during our “free time”… there’s only one thing that I can say to myself – “Shut up and suffer!” That’s also one of the reason why on most pages of a tour guide you will not actually find a lot of photos from their tours – we’re working, we don’t have time to think about our Instagram, we think about yours… And when you share it, we’re actually happier with other people’s photos than our own…
I am curious – travel bloggers, what do you think about my job? Do you think it’s necessary today to contact somebody before you make a trip – a travel agent, for example? Do you travel in organized groups or alone – by alone, it doesn’t necessarily mean completely alone, but with friends, partners and only with them? Do you ever consider hiring a local tour guide, to have a guided city tour for a couple of hours? Or do you prefer exploring everything by yourself? Since you like traveling, would you ever consider working as a tour guide / leader / director?
And tour guides that are reading this – are we dying out as a profession? With so many other options, are people sick of real people guiding and prefer to find everything online?
Well, I let you comment on some of the questions that I asked.
Maybe some of you already wrote about this topic – you can put links to your older posts in the comments so I can check them out. I’ve just started with this and I am kind of lost with all the posts that appear daily in my Reader. Put your links, get in touch – there are probably more possibilities that I don’t even know about. Also, since this site is brand new, make sure to notify me if you think there is something wrong with the design of my page, any insight is of value to me.
I will try to answer all of your comments. I say “try” because I noticed yesterday that some of the comments ended up in my spam. Genuine comments – and I didn’t even know I have a spam folder here. I’m learning everything as I go.
Well, that’s all from me for this post. This was a long one, a lot of issues, maybe I will write in later posts about some specific themes, this was a more general perspective. New story about Zagreb coming on Friday. Hopefully it will become a tradition to publish new story here every week…
And to tour guides out there – Happy Your Day!
CHECK THIS (if some of the links are not properly put here, I do apologize and I invite you to tell me how to do it right):
This is a post by a guide from Macedonia, very nice blog and posts:
Another post, by someone who doesn’t like tour guides so much that he decided to put that in his blog’s title. I like this post actually – he lists specific problems that I am quite aware while working. I will try to write a response to him one of these days, not aimed to him directly but to other tour guides. He does make some pretty good points about some issues on our tours that can be solved, some easily, some not so easily. Or can’t be solved – and it’s perfectly fine that nothing is perfect.
Among some of the blogs that I started to follow this month, when I joined WordPress, these are some related to traveling (and other things) that I found interesting. I found most of them by chance. Some are big, some are small like mine, some are somewhere in the middle, some seem to be someone’s hobby (but maybe he/she is earning money), some seem very professional (but maybe don’t earn anything)… Anyway, I love reading them!