Think your hometown is extra-special? Enjoy meeting new people? Whether you love its history, delicious local foods or scenic sites, share it with others—and make money—as a tour guide! And now that it’s summer, it’s the perfect time to start! Here’s how:
Get started. With summer travel in full swing, people are flocking all over—and they’re willing to shell out anywhere from $40 to $50 an hour to find out what makes your town really tick. Sites like ToursByLocals.com and Vayable.com make it easier than ever to connect with visitors looking for an authentic local experience—just log on and apply. And don’t worry if you haven’t led a tour before: “Enthusiastic novices are encouraged to apply,” says Sara Cooke of ToursByLocals. After all, you can offer that down-home touch many tourists crave. (Do you know the baristas in town by name? Have insider access to homes or gardens? Have a friend who whips up local specialties? Know the spot with the absolute best view?) What's more, the sites offer resources, training and other support.
Draw in visitors. “Having a strong background or expertise in a particular subject is a great way to stand out—especially if it adds to a sort of ‘insider knowledge,’” says Cooke. “For example, Pat in Yosemite Park is a photographer as well as a guide, so he’s able to help his guests get great photos while they explore the park with him.” Also smart: Customize your tour. “Our New Orleans guide sends a survey to every person who requests a tour,” says Cooke. “The survey asks questions that gauge a traveler’s interest in museums, food, history, music, shopping and so on, and that allows for a personalized experience.”
Put yourself in the traveler’s shoes. “Suzanne, one of our top-rated guides, gets raves for going the extra mile,” says Cooke. That includes sending visitors reading material before their visit, extending herself by making restaurant reservations and sending a thank you message upon the traveler’s return home to see how the rest of their trip went.
Aim for unforgettable. “What makes a tour most memorable for tourists are the little details—not seeing the Empire State Building or the St. Louis Arch but the short stroll they took through the neighborhood where the guide grew up and how they shared a coffee and pastry at the guide’s favorite shop, overlooking a park,” says Cooke. “This provides the authentic ‘insider’ experience so many people seek when they travel!”