Guiding FAQs and Definitions
The information on this website, especially this page, has been designed to help those of you who are new to the guiding profession. By all means, please feel free to contact the CTGA of BC if you require further information.
What is a tour guide?
A tour guide is an individual in a front-line position who leads participants (individual or groups) on tours, ensures that itineraries are followed, provides commentary in an informative and entertaining manner, and creates positive experiences for tour participants.
There are three types of tour guides:
A tour guide may be also known as a tourist guide, tour leader and/or a docent (on-site volunteer).
What is a tour director?
A tour director leads, accompanies, and assists participants on multi-day tours, manages arrangements and services, provides relevant information and commentary, and creates positive experiences for participants. A tour director may also be known as a tour manager, tour escort, courier, program director, and/or highway guide.
Do you need to have a licence to become a sightseeing guide?
In Canada there are only two places that require a licence to provide a local sightseeing tour, Montreal and Quebec City. Both of these cities are located in the Province of Quebec. This is subject to change as other jurisdictions may implement similar requirements in the future. There is no where in the country where you need to have a licence to conduct a sightseeing tour between cities and towns (long-distance guiding [Tour Directing] or multi-day trips or tours).
Is it necessary to take any kind training to become a guide?
At the present time this is only a requirement in Montreal and Quebec City, but we understand other cities may be contemplating introducing such a requirement. However someone who is new to this profession would find it difficult not to seek out some form of training before beginning. There is more to being a guide other than knowing what commentary to deliver.
If I were to find a job as either a local or long-distance guide, does the employer train me?
Yes and no. It depends on the company, some will train you with the necessary skills and commentary and others expect you to not only already have the training but to be experienced as well.
How do I become a local or long-distance guide?
You need to figure out what kind of a guide you'd like to be. Or start off as one type of guide and proceed to become another over time and with experience. Sometimes in this profession, it's best to lay the groundwork out this year, start networking to learn 'the ropes', and then try to get working in the following year (either part time or full time). Most employers start seriously looking at their needs and who to hire in January or February, but this is not always the case.
Local step-on guides usually also learn how to do "meet and greets" at airport, train, and cruise ship terminals plus convention centres. This is because there isn't always a steady flow of local tours, so also being able to work for one of the many DMC's, or destination management companies, helps to supplement a guides ability to gain additional work with visitors.
In the off-season, most guides take on other types of jobs.
To get a job as a step-on guide, you would need to network with other guides or contact our association for further information. Unfortunately, you can't get much info from trying to 'look it up' in a telephone book.
Suppose you wanted to learn how to do a standard 'city tour.' You need to learn where the tourists like to go and how they get there (i.e. what route is most commonly taken by other guides)? What commentary is given from block to block, point to point. Before you let passengers go into an attraction, what is it they are going to see there, what background information should you give them? How much time is spent at this stop, etc?
Your employer will have certain rules and policy that they'll also want you to follow, especially about your appearance and type of clothing. This and much more knowledge of handling of people, communication skills, what do to before, during and after a tour plus many other topics is needed before you can start off.
Most large cities have at least a few companies that hire driver-guides. Some of these companies run year round daily tours for individual tourists or those traveling in a group. In the lobbies of most hotels, or at a visitor information centre run by places like Tourism Vancouver or Tourism BC, you can find a selection of brochures from these companies.
These brochures list the various type's of local tours, when and where they go, duration and costs. Most companies that hire driver-guides will also help with the driver training, unless you already know how to drive a van, mini-bus or full size coach. Some will also help you with getting the correct class of drivers licence.
Work as a driver-guide tends to be very steady once the tourist season is under way.
To become a Tour Director for long-distance tours...while it isn't always necessary to first have been a local step-on guide, it is usually a good idea to have done this type of work first. Once you've learned to do a local city tour, it becomes much easier to learn to do the job of a Tour Director. A TD needs to know what commentary to give, how to run a tour that is stopping for sights, snacks, lunches and hotels, how to deal with the passengers, their luggage, the bus and the driver, checking into and out of a hotel, optional tours, paperwork and a list of other duties.
To get a better idea of how a multi-day tour runs, a day by day account, go into a travel agency and ask for a couple of different company brochures on bus trips that go to the Canadian Rockies or some other place of interest to you.
Those companies have set up the dates, route, some of the meals, the hotels and sometimes even the flights at the start and end of the trip. They then either use their own drivers and buses and Tour Directors, or contract out to a bus company and a freelance TD.
Work as a Tour Director involves long hours and many days away from home. Many experienced TD's will no sooner end one trip, then go right out on another -- turning days away from home to weeks, or longer. Newer freelance TD's tend to receive a few tours for the season, till they become better known, however they can work for more than one employer which can increase the amount of trips. A newer TD who begins working for a company may or may not get a full set of tours or trips, it all depends.
In spite of the long hours and time away from home, the job is quite rewarding in many ways.
Whether working for a company or as a freelance TD, your meals and hotel accommodations are taken care of. If the trip starts or ends in a different city from your own, the flight is also looked after.