The major employers of tour guides are, naturally, tour companies. Many tour guides work on a freelance basis, while others may own their own tour businesses. Approximately 57,300 tour and travel guides are employed in the United States.
Tour guides may begin as a guide for a museum or state park. This is a good introduction to handling groups of people, giving lectures on points of interest or exhibits and developing confidence and leadership qualities. Zoos, theme parks, historical sites, or local walking tours often need volunteers or part-time employees to work in their information centers, offer visitors directions, and answer a variety of inquiries. When openings occur, it is common for part-time workers to move into full-time positions.
Travel agencies, tour bus companies, and park districts often need additional help during the summer months when the travel season is in full swing. Societies and organizations for architecture and natural history, as well as other cultural groups, often train and employ guides. If you are interested in working as a tour guide for one of these types of groups, submit your application directly to the directors of personnel or managing directors.
Tour guides gain experience by handling more complicated trips. Some workers may advance through specialization, such as tours to specific countries or to multiple destinations. Some tour guides choose to open their own travel agencies or work for wholesale tour companies, selling trip packages to individuals or retail tour companies.
Some tour guides become travel writers and report on exotic destinations for magazines and newspapers. Other guides may decide to work in the corporate world and plan travel arrangements for company executives. With the further development of the global economy, many different jobs have become available for people who know foreign languages and cultures.
Tips for Entry
Apply for entry-level jobs with a tour operator to break into the industry.
Read publications such as Courier (https://ntaonline.com/publication-type/courier-magazine) to learn more about trends in the industry and potential employers.
Attend the National Tour Association (NTA) annual convention to network and to interview for jobs.
Volunteer at a local museum or park to become a tour guide. This will provide experience with customer service and public speaking.