On Being a Tour Director
When someone finds out I’m a Tour Director for Starr’s bus tours, one of their first comments is usually, “That must be fun. What do you need to know to be a Tour Director?” All my Starr Tour Director counterparts have heard the same question over and over. Below are some answers along with additional questions I have received and my answers to these questions.
After answering with the usual “you have to like working with people,” and “you have to enjoy traveling,” I tell them that they have to be able to count to 54, smile throughout the day -even when your day starts at 4:00am-, and project positivity as well as your voice to your tour guests.
On every trip, tour guest dynamics change, equipment changes, and drivers change. But that is all part of what I call: The Challenge of the Day! You see, even when I’ve done the same trip any number of times, I know that for my tour guests, it’s probably their first time. I have to keep my narrative sharp, exciting and funny. Yes, I believe having a sense of humor is another quality of a good Tour Director. At the start of every trip, I always ask my passengers if any of them have traveled with me before. When no one has, I breathe an audible sigh of relief and tell them, “Great! Then you don’t know any of my jokes!” And for those who have, most have forgotten them, by now anyway.
What about the excitement of motor coach travel? Some might say that it’s not quite as exciting as air travel, but then, any equipment problems are easier to handle at ground level. Speaking of which, we also have to manage technology on the bus like the outlets, WiFi, DVD player, etc. Times are changing and since I am a bit technologically challenged, I have had, on occasion, to get help from very young travelers. I am always thankful for help!
What are the most important qualities of a Tour Director? Well, you have to like getting up very early in the morning, sometimes known as the middle of the night! Not to mention you have to be chipper all the time! From greeting your tour guests to the attractions we visit, places we eat and hotels we check into. Our days are long so it’s important that Tour Directors pace themselves. We are certainly not allowed to fall asleep in our dinner plate nor are we allowed to catnap while traveling on the bus.
Tour Directors have to work in partnership with their driver – as equal partners. I have worked so closely with drivers in the past that I have been known to even sing a duet with them. Oh, and we have to be good at writing on a moving bus. The worse we write, the harder it is for those back in the office to read our reports. That’s not always a bad thing! But they do give us a hard time since it’s hard for them to decipher our handwriting. But we have to tell the story of each trip so the office can review and plan more effectively for the future. Yes, they really do read my reports and our Tour Guests’ surveys too!
Being a Tour Director is a bit like being a stand up comic: you want everyone to love you, laugh at your jokes and then want to see you again. So do you think Tour Directing is for you?
Bette Barr, Tour Director