How To Reward And Retain Guides Long Term


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Today’s episode is all about how to build a team of tour guides that will stick with you long-term, and how to reward then year after year so that they feel appreciated. I’ve been at both ends of the spectrum on this as I started my career in tourism in 2012 as a tour guide in Washington DC and today I managed a large team of tour guides. Over the years, I’ve learned there are a few key strategies you can implement to ensure guides stick with you for the long run.

Hire professionals, not part-timers

There is this misconception that most tour guides are transient —  they are students looking for a summer job or their actors looking for part-time work. Though there’s definitely a percentage of the tour guiding population where these descriptions ring true, they definitely dont account for all guides. in my opinion if you want to have really good quality guides who are going to stay with you long-term the first thing you need to do is make sure that your team is not comprised entirely of people who fall into these categories.

The best guides are those who look at this as their career for the foreseeable future. Hire people who are passionate about what they do — whether that means hiring historians for history focused tours or passionate foodies For foodies or people who just love sharing their city or country or region of the world with other people. It is such a game changer — the quality of your tours will skyrocket and the length of time that these people work for you will also dramatically increase so that step one. It’s great to have a handful of people you can call last minute who have other priorities like enacting career that they’re pursuing or studies but make sure that the core group of guides that work for you are in this career for the long run.

Reward them at the end of each season

One of the most common ways to reward your team of guides is by offering an end of season bonus. Though I see a lot of businesses offer this, it’s certainly not my favorite approach. One, because you’re once again relying on money which has small business might be really tight, and also as a guide serving all season to been received a token amount of cash isn’t that motivating. It’s nice but it’s not the thing that’s going to keep me around, especially if I’m already at my max out earning potential and I’ve been with the company for years and years and years.

Additionally, you could also organize some sort of end of season party or conference, which could also include awards for your top performing guides in a way to recognize them in front of their peers. Once again, it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of how to adequately compensate guides who have maxed out on their earning potential, but it is a way to show some appreciation and I really recommend it regardless of the size of your business.

Integrating guides into your company

The key to keeping tour guides long term is allowing them to grow within your company. Not only will this make them have more of a stake in your business, but it also offers them the opportunity to earn more and to feel as if they’re progressing professionally. Most people don’t like to feel like they’re stagnated, so involving the more in the wider business is a great way to do that.

There are a few different ways to go about this. First, you can ask your best guides to design new tours. You can of course pay them for their work the time that they spend researching and developing thier tour, but you can also incentivize them by giving them top priority to lead that tour. If you wanted them to take even more ownership over certain tours, you could essentially let them run and manage their own tours entirely independently, but use your business as the platform from which to market it. In exchange, they will pay ou a commission on all sale from that tour.

If there are certain guides that show a particular aptitude for designing really great tours that sell, then you could even go as far as to make their title as ‘tour designer’ or ‘product designer’ official. This way it becomes something that they can add to their resume to indicate career progression. Further more, if there are other roles within the company that need to be fulfilled, hire your guides for those positions rather than outsource elsewhere.

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kara blythe creative

Kara Myers


I’m a former tourism professional turned web designer and podcaster. Tune in each week as I interview inspirational women crushing it in the travel industry. 

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