A tour manager or tour leader plans and accompanies a group of holidaymakers on a tour, within the UK or abroad, making sure everything runs to plan. The tour, lasting days or weeks, is usually by coach, but sometimes includes travel by train, plane or boat.
You could be:
designing tours and booking all aspects, such as accommodation and meals
making deals with hotels and theatres to provide meals, accommodation and entertainment
assisting with meal preparation and buying supplies on some types of tours
welcoming groups at the starting point and making sure that everyone has arrived
pointing out and explaining tourist attractions during the trip
answering questions and giving advice on language and currency
making sure travel arrangements and stopovers run smoothly and changing routes or arrangements as necessary
handling passport or visa problems, emergencies, illness, accidents, lost luggage and any complaints.
The figures below are only a guide. Income for tour managers or tour leaders varies considerably, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Most tour managers or tour leaders are self-employed and work for tour operators on a freelance basis, charging a fee for each tour.
Starting pay can be between £15,000 and £20,000 a year, which can rise up to around £30,000 with experience. In addition you may get, for the duration of each tour, a daily allowance plus free board and lodgings, plus other relevant expenses.
You work long hours including early mornings, evenings, and weekends; you are usually on duty day and night for the tour's duration, which can be for a few weeks at a time.
You work both indoors and outdoors.
You are away from home, sometimes abroad, for days, weeks or even months at a time.
Depending on the type of tour you lead, your accommodation could be anything from a hotel or hostel to a tent.
You might have to wear a uniform.
The work is seasonal, but it is possible to work all year round if you are prepared to work in different countries.
Skills and personality are more important than formal qualifications, but a good general education is useful.
Fluency in a foreign language is usually necessary, especially if working abroad.
You should have knowledge of and interest in the history and geography of the area you want to work in.
You should be in good physical condition if the tour involves adventure activities, for example trekking or kayaking.
A driving licence may be an advantage, particularly a PCV licence as some jobs involve being a driver/tour manager.
If working as a driver tour leader, you usually need to be at least 25 years of age for insurance purposes.
Vacancies appear in trade journals such as Travel Weekly, Travel Trade Gazette and on websites which advertise travel jobs such as traveljobsearch.com. Once you have relevant experience you can register with a travel related employment agency such as New Frontiers.
What Does it Take?
You need to be:
able to communicate with a wide range of people
able to deal with problems and emergencies in a calm manner
good at solving problems
responsible and able to make decisions
tolerant and resilient.
You need to have:
a smart appearance
awareness of safety issues and first aid
excellent organisation and time management skills
a knowledge of foreign languages
lots of energy and a sense of humour
good knowledge of the history, culture and geography of the countries you are based in.
New tour managers or tour leaders usually attend an induction course covering main destinations, company policies and health and safety. Courses can last a few weeks.
You may accompany an experienced tour manager for your first few trips.
You are expected to keep your knowledge of routes, places of interest and accommodation up-to-date.
The International Association of Tour Managers (IATM) offers two certificates to its active members, The European Tours Managers Certificate and The Tour Manager/Tour Guide's Certificate (TMC/TGC), which identifies you as a professional tour manager. To gain the certificate you must be a member and pass a written and oral exam. The association also organises educational tours and programmes aimed at developing your skills.
You may move on to manage a number of tour leaders.