Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Tour Guide

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Everything is bigger in the outback…including termite mounds! (With Australian tour guide Rick.)

Occupation: Tour Guide

Overview: Similar to an Outdoor Guide, a tour guide is someone who acts as a knowledgeable companion for a group of people wishing to experience local sights in a safe and educational way. Excursions might be a few hours (usually at a landmark location like a museum or a walking tour of an urban center) to several weeks, depending on the type of tour. Guides travel with their group, showing them landmarks, historical sites, and other areas of interest, encouraging tourists to immerse themselves in the culture, activities, cuisine, and adventure of the place they have traveled to.

If the tour is a longer one, the guide is also the go-between when it comes to hotel accommodation, restaurant reservations, travel arrangements, transfers, etc. and will interpret between clients and locals if there is a language barrier. They also advise travelers on how to purchase items (bartering), hot to secure transport for non-group activities, and make recommendations for things to see and do with one’s free time. Guides will also ensure travelers in their care understand local laws and customs, and will pass on any other dangers to watch out for (if there are any). Tour guides may operate within a city, take their group to multiple locations in a specified area, travel with them to different parts of the country, or even accompany the group on a multi-country trip.

Necessary Training: Education will depend on the type of guiding the character is doing, but many will have a degree in the area of tourism and travel as well as supplemental training and education that pertains to their area of focus. For example, a guide who focuses on a specific location such as a museum or historical site will have in-depth knowledge of that area, and possibly even an art history degree. If a guide covers a specific town or city, they will have significant knowledge of the history, landmarks, culture, arts, and language of that location, and will be able to answer a range of questions their clients may ask, everything from the specifics surrounding the type of tour and historical and cultural facts of the area to what to see and do after the tour is over.

Tour guides that take longer excursions will have a broader skill set as they will be required to not only be knowledgeable about each area they visit, but to also organizing all management aspects of the trip including accommodation, tickets, transfers, etc. and deal with any problems as they crop up. If the tour includes outdoor camping and overland travel, just as an outdoor guide would, they are in charge of camp management and transport (often driving the group from location to location for part or all of the trip). If the tour is international, they will navigate clients through border crossings and customs which may be very different from the processes they are used to in their home country. Guides have extensive knowledge of the areas they visit and be able to ensure the safety of their guests at all times and will receive a great deal training and mentor ship from the guiding company they are affiliated with.

Many guides speak a second language or even multiple languages as this helps with the work they do (and becomes a side effect of spending so much time with different cultures as they travel). Most will require a license to operate. Because this is a people-focused occupation, they are often extroverted, love travel and adventure, have a friendly disposition, and excel at organization and time management.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, basic first aid, charm, enhanced hearing, exceptional memory, haggling, hospitality, making people laugh, multitasking, photographic memory, predicting the weather, promotion, reading people, survival skills, throwing one’s voice, wilderness navigation

Helpful Character Traits: Adaptable, adventurous, calm, charming, confident, courteous, diplomatic, disciplined, discreet, easygoing, efficient, enthusiastic, extroverted, friendly, funny, hospitable, intelligent, introverted, observant, optimistic, organized, passionate, patient, socially aware, spunky, thrifty, tolerant, wholesome, wise, witty

Sources of Friction: A group member entering an off-limits area at a historical site or causing damage to property, clients who wander away during the tour, having clients who are hard-of-hearing when in busy areas, having to compete to be heard over the throngs of tourists and tour groups in a particular area, accommodation mix-ups (not enough rooms at a hotel, rooms being less-than ideal, etc.), personality conflicts between one’s group members, a breakdown, travel delays, a client being pick pocketed, a client breaking a law because it’s not a big deal where they are from, a group member being injured or growing ill and needing a hospital, a mix-up in transfers (a van doesn’t arrive when it should, or the tuk-tuks are a no-show), group members who are given free time in an area and then don’t show up at the meeting spot when they should, causing everyone to wait, language barriers, clients who are entitled and don’t help out as expected with certain aspects of the tour (being on time, being organized, helping to clean up group areas, etc.), demanding clients who expect their tastes and desires to be fully catered to regardless of other group members, food poisoning, other tourists that try to join the group at historical sites to benefit from the guide’s knowledge without paying for it

People They Might Interact With: travelers, bus and cab drivers, other tour group leaders, custom officials, museum curators and employees, security personal, hotel staff, airport staff, restaurant staff, shopkeepers

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Love and Belonging: A character with this job is away from home often, putting in long (or odd) hours. Their energy levels may be sapped from having to look after the every need of others, longer term travel, or both. This may make it difficult to maintain certain types of relationships.
  • Safety and Security: Having members on one’s tour group not realizing the danger of certain areas may place the guide into trouble if the client ignores warnings or breaks rules.

Common Work-Related Settings:  airplane, airport, ancient ruins, antiques shop, art gallery, badlands, bank, bazaar, beach, big city street, campsite, canyon, casual dining restaurant, cave, cheap motel, city bus, coffeehouse, convenience store, country road, desert, diner, elevator, emergency room, farmer’s market, fast food restaurant, fishing boat, forest, grotto, hiking trail, hospital (interior), hospital room, hotel room, hot springs, lake, laundromat, marina, marsh, mausoleum, meadow, moors, museum, ocean, orchard, outdoor pool, parking lot, public restroom, rainforest, ranch, subway train, train station, tropical island, upscale hotel lobby, waterfall, winery, zoo

For other occupations in this collection, visit our full list HERE.


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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3 Responses to Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Tour Guide

  1. Pingback: Writing Links…4/30/18 – Where Genres Collide

  2. Dylan says:

    there is no twisting the stereotype for this entry. Or is it the same as the outdoor guide entry?

    • Hi Dylan, we don’t always include a “twist the stereotype” as sometimes an occupation won’t have really obvious stereotypes. If one comes to mind, let me know and I’ll add a way to twist it. 🙂

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