Designing guided tours

When I was in Lisbon, I joined two ‘free’ walking tours by which a small group of people, less than 15 are taken by an English speaking guide to different view points and points of interest in Alfama and Chiado/Bairo Alto. The Alfama tour is themed ledgends and myths, the Bairo Alto/Chiado is about Lisbon’s history. I was particularly baffled by the first tour, taken around by the owner of the company, is pretty cool and insightful. The second group was larger than ten with three rather dominating personalities, asking lots of questions and creating most of the group dynamic. the details and historic information were exemplified and illustrated well, so that I even remember the key dates. (and I certainly do not have a memory for historical information). Anyway, of course as a by product I also used this experience as a research opportunity to exemplify some examples on how good guiding tours are planned and executed, primarily for the Veredas de Monchique.

So what makes a good guide and an enjoyable experience?

Firstly: the guide’s personality and preparation. The first guide we had, well educated in history and human rights, repackaged the information in jokes and narrations and used reoccurring descriptions like ‘coward kind’ to differentiate between King Jose and Marques de Pombal. He used lot’s of anecdotes, examples and leading questions to take the listener on his historic adventure unfolding few and steadily new packages of information. Unfortunately I did not make more detailed notes on this to draw on more specific examples, but I am sure reading into constructing a narratives and doing good presentation can teach some more specific examples:

Structure of information and narratives:

  • roll out historic facts in chunks that correspond to what is being visited
  • prepare listeners to and confirm – Next I will tell you about…. So,…
  •  embedding it into a story with indirect speech and jokes
Secondly: Sufficient time to explore and avoid confusion:
  • Complimentary drink included – no complication with money
  • Explain how it works with the ‘tipping’ in the right situation, leave it not right to the end, but rather explain how the company works and remains existing
  • Regulate group size
  • No stress for time, if a group takes longer than the 2.5 hours

3 responses to “Designing guided tours”

  1. Boyko Blagoev says :

    Greetings from the Free Sofia Tour!

    Great article 🙂 Check out all the free tours around the world:

    The list keeps getting bigger and we will keep updating it!


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  1. Last little bits… « Sustainable Tourism Monchique - December 29, 2011

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