Group tour at Inca ruins, Peru, Goway Travel

The Six Hidden Skills of Your Group Tour Director

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Travelling with a small group can offer the best of both worlds when it comes to globetrotting. Most small group tours allow a fair degree of autonomy. At the same time however, your tour director is there to take care of the little details and get you where you need to go, making sure you don’t miss all you came to see and experience.

But few group travellers realize just how many hats their tour director wears!

Pene Hollingworth is now retired, but her tour-leading career has been a varied one, to say the least. Pene has needed skills as an accountant, marriage counselor, electrician, time keeper, therapist, finder of lost false teeth, and more, in her years leading group tours.

Pene Hollingworth at Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Pene Hollingworth at Taj Mahal, Agra, India

Here are six hats you might not expect your tour director to be wearing that they always carry with them:

Nurse and Dietician

While your tour director is no substitute for professional medical care, your well-being and safety is still their priority. They’ll step in to provide some first aid where needed, and offer advice on how to avoid illness or injury in the first place. This might include guiding your dietary choices in-destination, navigating your dietary requirements, and ensuring any authentic local specialties you might try are memorable for the right reasons.

Counselor and Mediator

Mental health is just as important as physical health. Again, while the tour director (probably) isn’t a registered therapist and shouldn’t be seen as a substitute for one, they can offer an objective, short-term ear while someone is in destination. Then, there’s dispute resolution! Whether it’s two travellers, twelve, twenty, or two-hundred, at some point, someone is going to disagree! It might be a dispute between partners, within the family, or between total strangers, but when a globetrotting disagreement impacts the group, the tour director needs to be able to step in to help find a compromise.

Electrician, Mechanic, and Emergency Suitcase Technician

Inside a minivan in Thailand with group of touristsPower demands and reliability can vary in different destinations! Your tour director has spent a lot of time in destination and is familiar with these issues, so there’s a good chance they can help you out if something’s not working, or at least find someone who can. Things can also happen to the tour vehicle. Obviously, your tour director may have to call in some help for these issues too, but not all of the fixes they’ll come up with are mechanical. Pene’s suggestion for a breakdown you can’t fix yourself is to break out the snacks and have an impromptu party until real help can arrive. Of course, some problems are a lot less technical. Pene remembers getting a call to help a guest to fix a broken suitcase at 2am, but, ah… please don’t do this unless it’s really an emergency!

Crisis Co-Ordinator

We all hope they won’t, but serious events like strikes, protests, coups, power outages, and even natural disasters including floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions do happen. A good tour director can make all the difference as they steer you through, keeping you out of harm’s way or if the worst happens and you need to cut the trip short, helping you to get home safe and sound.

Finder of Lost Things

From glasses, to passports, to wallets, to hearing aids… even false teeth and, of course, children, your tour director has probably helped to find them all at some point.

Expert on Everything

“Do they have Christmas in Australia?” “Do our hotels have bathrooms?” Don’t worry! Some of the world’s most essential destinations are nothing if not surprising. There’s no such thing as a stupid question, even if it seems strange or funny to you. Your tour director has heard them all, and helping you learn more about your destination is part of their job.

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Christian Baines
Christian Baines

Globetrotting Contributing Editor -
Christian’s first globetrotting adventure saw him get lost exploring the streets of Saigon. Following his nose to Asia’s best coffee, two lifelong addictions were born. A freelance writer and novelist, Christian’s travels have since taken him around his native Australia, Asia, Europe, and much of North America. His favourite trips have been through Japan, Spain, and Brazil, though with a love of off-beat, artsy cities, he’ll seize any opportunity to return to Paris, New York, or Berlin.

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