A tour guide shows visitors around tourist attractions and other sites of interest, either on foot or by coach.
As a walking tour guide working at a specific site such as a castle, art gallery, museum or outdoor attraction, you could be:
- welcoming tourist groups
- doing presentations to groups, perhaps showing a video
- walking around the site leading them in a group
- stopping at points of interest, describing architecture, history or tales of interest
- answering the tourists' questions.
As a coach tour guide you could be:
- travelling with tourists around a city or from town to town
- giving a commentary about the places you are passing, using a microphone
- stopping off at places of interest, leading the tourists in a group and answering any questions
- checking everyone is back on the coach before moving off
- working as a driver guide, driving tourists around in a minibus while giving a commentary
- checking tour groups into accommodation if the tour is overnight.
The figures below are only a guide. Income for tour guides varies considerably, depending on:
- where you work
- the size of the company or organisation you work for
- the demand for the job.
Employed tour guides can earn from £13,000 up to around £24,000 a year, depending on where they are based, areas they cover and whether they are a driver guide.
Self-employed guides can expect to earn around £130 to £170 a day, or more if they are guiding in a foreign language. The Scottish Tourist Guides Association (STGA) recommend fee guidelines for guides for full day and half day excursions, which range from £160 to £180 for a half day (£190 to £220 for foreign language) and £250 to £280 for a full day (£280 to £320 for foreign language). Driver guides can earn from £350 to £380 for a half day and £480 to £540 for a full day.
- You might have to travel, around Scotland or abroad.
- You might have nights away from home.
- You work irregular hours including early mornings, evenings, nights and weekends.
- Work may be seasonal with longer hours in the summer.
- You might have to wear historical costume.
- You will be out and about a lot.
- You might work both indoors and outdoors.
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- Skills and personality are more important than formal qualifications.
- You usually need experience in working with the public.
- You should be able to demonstrate an interest in and knowledge of the local area, history and culture.
- You could consider taking one of the accredited guide training courses offered by the STGA. There are three different levels of training: Blue Badge Guide, Green Badge Guide and Yellow Badge Guide.
- A Blue Badge Guide is qualified by the STGA to guide throughout Scotland, for the 2020-2022 course STGA is partnering with City of Glasgow College, Green Badge Guides are qualified to guide through a specific region of Scotland there is a new (such as the City of Glasgow or North Highlands).
- There is a new Green Badge Regional Programme which will cover the North East of Scotland, in partnership with the University of Aberdeen. The operational area includes Aberdeen City and Shire, Dundee, Fife and St. Andrews.
- Fluency in a least one additional language is useful and for some jobs necessary. The STGA offers tours in English plus 20 other languages.
- A driving licence is useful. To work as a driver guide you must have the appropriate licence and insurance.
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What Does it Take?
You need to have:
- a good memory for facts and historical events
- excellent communication skills and an outgoing nature
- clear, fluent speech
- self-confidence and leadership skills
- a good sense of direction
- a genuine interest in art, history and Scottish culture
- the ability to deal with emergencies and remain calm under pressure.
- To become an STGA Blue Badge Guide you must pass an intensive 18-month part time course at SCQF Level 7 (equivalent to HNC). It includes classroom study, weekend and summer schools and field work.
- The Blue Badge Guide course runs every two years.
- Qualifying as a Green Badge Guide can take up to one year and includes online learning and residential weekends. These courses only run from time to time and for areas requiring guides.
- To qualify as a Yellow Badge Guides you need to work for a company that provides this training for employees. See the STGA website for details.
- Entry requirements vary for each course.
- Some companies provide their own in-house training.
- STGA offer a voluntary Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme. Under this, Blue Badge holders must complete 40 hours of learning each year, and Green Badge holders, 20 hours.
- If you are an employee of a company you could progress from tour guide to tour manager.
- Some guides are self-employed, working on a freelance basis for tourist companies or working directly for customers and charging a fee for each tour.
There are around 500 qualified STGA guides.
The next Blue Badge course will take place from 2020 to 2022 and you can apply from summer 2019. The fee is £6,866, plus STGA membership fees.
According to the STGA website there are a number of companies who provide Yellow Badge Guide training for their employees, including The National Trust for Scotland, City Sightseeing Glasgow, Stromness Town Walk and Ness Battery and Mercat Tours, Edinburgh.
The following organisations may be able to provide further information.
People 1st - Hospitality Guild
Tel: 0203 074 1222
People 1st is the Sector Skills Council for the hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism industries.
UKSP is now part of the Hospitality Guild, which provides information on careers in the hospitality and tourism industry. The website has an online 'personality' test designed to help you identify suitable careers within the above industries.
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