the big issue

Local tour guides are a valuable commodity with operators championing their ability to enrich WKH H[SHULHQFH RffHU DOO LPSRUWDQW cultural insight and let travellers see the country through a local’s eyes. But that wasn’t always the case – many companies used to use almost exclusively British guides, who would escort the group from the airport check- in desk to their destination of choice. What prompted the change, and what GLਬHUHQFH GR ORFDO JXLGHV PDNH" :H FDQYDVVHG VRPH NH\ SOD\HUV WR ਭQG RXW

GOING LOCAL As standards of training, communication and understanding of what tourists are looking for have improved, so too has the number of operators relying on local guides. Explore says 99% of leaders now hail from the destination in which they work, with just a handful of cases where cost or logistics prohibit this. Head of sustainability Prue Stone

VD\V “:KR EHिHU WR LQWURGXFH \RX WR the community or help with dialects and ODQJXDJHV WKDQ VRPHRQH ZKR OLYHV WKHUH" ौH\ NQRZ ZKLFK UHVWDXUDQW VHUYHV vegetarian meals and which story to tell DURXQG D FDPSਭUH %\ XVLQJ ORFDO OHDGHUV we are supporting the economy and local community, investing in training and providing an authentic experience.” ौLV DSSURDFK DOVR FXWV FDUERQ emissions by negating the need for a UK OHDGHU WR ਮ\ EDFN DQG IRUWK DQG DOORZV D EHिHU VSUHDG RI GHSDUWXUH GDWHV EHFDXVH the guide is based there permanently, according to Explore. Intrepid Travel has, similarly, moved

to using only local guides as travellers’ tastes have matured. Rather than simply wanting to ‘see’ a destination,

Who better to introduce you to the community or help with languages than someone who lives there?

the company says clients now want to LW DQG DUH PRUH FRQਭGHQW ۑHFQHLUHS[H‘ travelling independently or adding extra nights pre or post-tour. EMEA managing director Robyn Nixon

says: “Intrepid works exclusively with local leaders as they can show travellers WKH KHDUW RI D GHVWLQDWLRQ ौH\ NQRZ WKH destination they’re working in and will PDNH VXUH HDFK WRXU LV VHDPOHVV ौLV means everything from booking train tickets to taking groups to the hidden gems of their destination.” Providing local employment is a key

factor, and Intrepid has made strides in employing more female guides, who now make up nearly 30% of its leaders worldwide. Local knowledge and language skills are not to be underestimated, with guides on hand to explain the country’s cultural mores or answer detailed questions about local life. John Warr, Wendy Wu Tours’ global sales director, says: “As our guides are born and raised in the areas where we travel, they have extensive knowledge DQG ਭUVW KDQG H[SHULHQFH RI WKH ORFDO areas, which means we can be more adventurous with our tours. “2XU JXLGHV DUH KLJKO\ SURਭFLHQW DQG


LEAD THE WAY While local guides are clearly at an advantage in knowing the destination, there can be plus points to having a tour manager too, whether that’s creating camaraderie at the airport, reading the social dynamics of the group, or relating local customs to experiences clients are more familiar with. Alastair Campbell, managing director

of Travelsphere and Just You, says: “Our approach is to have the ‘perfect team’ of tour managers and local guides. Our customers love the fact that we RਬHU WKH EHVW RI ERWK ZRUOGV 2Q DOO tours, customers are accompanied by an experienced, English-speaking tour manager, supported by local guides who share their expertise and insight.” 0DQ\ RSHUDWRUV DOVR GUD़ LQ H[SHUWV –

from war historians on Leger Holidays’ EDिOHਭHOGV WRXUV WR (J\SWRORJLVWV RQ tours along the Nile – where knowledge rather than nationality is key. Alexander Oliver, Prestige Holidays’

tours product supervisor, says: “We tend to have a mix of both – an English tour manager (one that knows the country) and a local guide with all of their colour, ODQJXDJH DQG ORFDO NQRZOHGJH ौH WRXU PDQDJHU ORRNV D़HU WKH ZHOOEHLQJ RI WKH group – to make sure people have the right rooms, the right meal at dinner and VR RQ ौH ORFDO JXLGH LV WKH H[SHUW DQG the conduit between guests and the heart of the country. “Also, we sometimes have an academic

JXLGH ौH\ PLJKW EH IURP WKH FRXQWU\ or they might have dedicated their life to ancient Greek history or Italian opera – the key thing is that they must be able to bring PDिHU ZKHUH WۑQVHRG WKH VXEMHFW WR OLIH ,W they’re from, as long as they can work as a team and add that je ne sais quoi.”

March 2020 11

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