One part of my job is working as a tour guide. I lead groups of international students around places like Nottingham, Sherwood Forest, Durham, Lake District, Peak District and I hope one day to give a tour around my hometown Coventry!
You’d think that learning a script and taking students to the same places each week would get boring and repetitive but it really isn’t! Each time I take a group of students, there are different challenges to overcome, problems to solve and the groups all have different vibes…the group who had a slow three hour coach journey with no heating are less enthusiastic than those who just had a one hour journey with no traffic.
As a tour guide, you need to know a whole lot more than just what’s on the script – where are the nearest toilets? where can you get a bottle of water/cup of coffee? where is there some shelter from the rain?
A tour guide has to be adaptable and make the most of opportunities that come up. If there is a special event on like Robin Hood Day, instead of just walking past the people in medieval clothes (who aren’t usually there), ask them to give a performance or tell the group about what they’re doing today. If Coca-Cola is handing out free cans in the centre, lead the group past their stand so the customers can get a little sugar boost etc. If someone tells you about an organ concert in 30mins time at the church, take the group back to the church to hear the concert.
Those are examples of good unexpected things that can happen during a tour. But there are problems that happen during tours – people have lost bank cards and ID cards at Sherwood Forest, I’ve lost three students who didn’t arrive at the bus at the departure time and weren’t answering their phones, groups have arrived 30 minutes before the attraction opens and need entertaining etc. It’s times like these when my skills come out and I shine. I always keep calm in situations like this and by getting other people involved and on board, the problems are always resolved. Students cards were returned to them on the same day, with the help of Sherwood Forest staff we found the missing students and on the Harry Potter tour, when the students arrived before the cathedral opened, I spent the time ‘sorting’ students into their Harry Potter houses which was fun for me too, especially deciding which group looked like they would be Slytherins!
So being a tour guide, it’s something I enjoy, it’s something I wish I could do more of because there are so many stories to tell people about a place, stories that aren’t on wikipedia or in the travel guides.