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5 Characteristics that Make Up the Perfect Tour Guide

by ATJ Posted in The Alaska Experience Blog |


Alaska Tour Guides

Photo used through creative commons license by Scott McMurren


There are average tour guides—and then there are the ones people remember forever. The ones who live on in the tales people tell about their favorite travels. These are the guides who help their guests make the memories of a lifetime, who make even the mundane parts of a trip feel like part of their bucket lists. In Alaska, the scenery is mind-blowing, but a great guide will go the extra step to help connect visitors to their surroundings in a personal, memorable way. And those are also the guides who make the big tips. Do you have what it takes to be an Alaska tour guide? Here are the five traits that make up the best guides.

They’re deeply knowledgeable, and can answer questions.

Even if they weren’t born and raised in the region where they work, the best tour guides own a deep knowledge of the history, geography and geology of the area they guide in. They can point out landmarks, tell stories about the characters who call the area home, identify wildlife and recognize native plants. How many days does it take to climb Denali? How does a Grizzly catch its dinner? How do people travel over Alaska’s glaciers? That depth of knowledge makes clients feel like they’re getting their money’s worth on a tour.

They’re confident with the details of their job.

Guests who might be somewhat out of their comfort zones need to be set at ease and made to feel as safe and as possible even in the wilds of Alaska. Whether it’s driving a van, steering a raft or just walking a trail, the best guides are intimately familiar with their gear and how to use it. They know their routes like the backs of their hands and set their guests at ease. This helps guests feel confident and comfortable, even if they’re doing something that feels adventurous—and it’s reflected in tips.

They make people laugh.

Everyone remembers the people who make them laugh. Whether it’s driving from a cruise ship to a hotel or hiking in Denali National Park, guests will have a much more memorable time if they’re crying with laughter along the way. Sure, not all of us are natural humorists, but it’s noticeable when a guide puts in the effort to learn a couple of jokes or funny stories. Especially if the jokes relate to the tour.

They listen.

Making guests feel comfortable and happy is one of a guide’s main roles—and sometimes that means bending an ear. Sure, listening to guests’ needs will help a guide perform better. But sometimes listening is also a form of flattery, which can go a long way toward better tips. It’s a lot like bartending. Sometimes people come to hear your stories, and other times they come because they want to tell you theirs. Asking where guests are from and laughing at their jokes makes a tour guide much more likable than just silently driving along or only talking about themselves.

They go the extra mile.

The most memorable tour guides are the ones who obviously love their jobs and their personalities always shine through. Some days are going to be easier and more fun than others, but having some signature style makes the days go by more easily and makes those guides more memorable for their guests. Think: always wearing special flair like a Hawaiian shirt or cowboy hat, or singing a silly song for guests.

No matter whether you’re a sing-songy extrovert or a thoughtful introvert, being psyched on your job as a tour guide is the first step to doing a great job. The best guides know how to use their personal strengths to make sure their guests have the most memorable trip possible. The key is to develop a deep knowledge base and use your people skills to their max. Guests will appreciate it—and it will translate to dollars in your pocket.

Do you have any of those qualities? Then it sounds like you’d make a great tour guide. Learn how to apply for Alaska summer jobs and you can show our guests what makes the Final Frontier so amazing!

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