Absolute Asia Tours Q&A: What Makes a Great Tour Guide?
We’ve all been there. You are wandering through a museum abroad and reading the badly translated English signs, understanding very little about what you are seeing. If only you’d thought to hire a guide.
The next time you go to a historical site you do take a guide, and you stand there, just as confused, as he rattles off dates and names in a monotone voice before quickly shepherding you along to the next spot.
With over 20 years of experience guiding tours across Asia, we know how important a great tour guide can be. Whether you are on a half day city tour or a 2-week, multi-country expedition, your guide’s knowledge and abilities can make or break your trip. We sat down with Vietnam tour guide Hoang Nguyen to discuss his own experience and what he thinks makes a great tour guide.
Can you tell me what lead to you becoming a tour guide?
As a young boy, I was interested in my surroundings. I remember the beautiful rice fields dotted with docile water buffalos, stretching to the horizon and the friendly rice farmers who kept the smiles on their faces, despite their tiredness. I went to school and decided to learn English so I could understand more about the world and more importantly, to let the world discover the beauty of my country when I spoke with foreigners. After graduation, I became an English speaking tour guide and have been addicted to my job ever since.
When did you join Absolute Asia Tours and what were your initial thoughts?
I joined Absolute Asia Tours in 2011 and it was obvious it was a bigger corporation than the small places I’d worked before. Everything was so much more professional and I was supported from the beginning. The operations teams are great.
I’ve also had the chance to meet our SEO Emily a few times and She is very inspirational. She was once where I am and She really understands.
What do you think makes a good tour guide?
I think that language skill and patience is very important. You need to be able to create calm in every situation and to let things go that may frustrate you personally. Tour guiding does not fit everyone. You have to be ready to modify yourself to fit your group, the destination and the situation.
What do you think clients expect from a tour guide?
Clients expect local expertise; they want a reasonable explanation for everything. It is important for us not to know everything in detail, but to try to explain every situation as best we can. It is important for us to show that we are trying and respect our clients interest. I personally think it is also about giving the most interesting, unique information instead of covering every small fact.
Why do you think people should take tours while travelling?
People should consider taking tours because they can learn so much from local guides. Travellers cannot be expected to know everything about the local culture and history when they arrive but connecting with local people through travel companies like Absolute Asia Tours means they can learn while they travel. Even when there is information in English at historic sites or museums, it isn’t always accurate or easy to understand. A good guide, with great English abilities, is priceless.
It’s also good to have a local friend you can trust and who can be a doorway into the local life.
Where is your favourite place to take clients?
I love taking people to Hoi An. It is quiet and peaceful and the locals are so nice. It’s especially nice in the week when there are less people visiting.
If you had to pick your favourite thing about this job what would it be?
Meeting people. My clients are not the only ones who are learning on the tour. I can understand more about different cultures, different personalities and different perspectives from my clients. I am always understanding more about different expectations on travel as well and this helps me evolve in my job. Tell us a little about Absolute Asia Tours Responsible Tourism initiatives.
How do you promote them on your tours?
The local life tours that I run in Vietnam are a way to promote responsible tourism. We are bringing prosperity to locals, creating jobs and giving tourists cultural understanding all at the same time.
A great local guide, like Hoang, will help you to truly understand and connect with your destination and the local people who call it home. Talk to one of our experts today to find your own great tour guide to show you the real Asia.
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