I am embarking on a new career.  If you didn’t read about it here, I’m working toward becoming a tour director.  Last September I went to school, and in November I attended an industry conference in New Orleans.  Now my goal is to find a Tour Director job.

Denver 

I went to school in Denver, at the International Guide Academy (IGA) in September to become a Certified International Tour Manager (CITM).  Mike stayed at home in Heber City for 2 weeks without a car (since I took it to Denver), but he managed fine without me. 

Most of the time, I stayed at my Sister, Monica’s new townhome in Longmont. But as that was a long drive, (an hour in no traffic, 3 hours IN traffic, as I woefully found out one morning) I spent a few nights with some good friends from Towerpoint Pickleball, Amie and Randy, only 20 minutes away.

Monica and I enjoying a sunny afternoon break!

The Class

The class provided TONS of information, stuff that you didn’t even know that you didn’t know!  It was a 9 day intensive class with the first lesson : that group travel is very different that individual travel.

I was concerned that the date I had picked might be overfull (with a 20 student  limit).   But  it turned out there were only 5 of us.  We, of course, became fast friends.

IGA Tour Director Class - Sept 2023
5 Students, 1 return auditor (Amit – White Shirt), and Daniel (blue stripes) the instructor.

Welcome Lecture

We had to prepare a 10 minute “Welcome” lecture, pretending to be a tour director to a country we have never visited.  I presented on Greece.  These presentations were video taped… Nope not sharing!

Info presentations

Our second project was 2-five  minute information lectures on topics of local interest.  We presented these on the final day, while taking a bus trip to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre.  This  was not videoed but gave us practice on the microphone and talking to the group on a moving bus. I presented on the Denver iconic “Molly Brown House” (primary home of the Titanic survivor, Molly Brown, who….) and the Durango Silverton Narrow gauge Train in the  Southwest corner of Colorado.

Certification 

In the end, we all passed and graduated.  We are now all Certified International Tour Directors.  Check 1!

New Orleans

Following the class, I had a month and a half to prepare for the IATDG (International Association of Tour Directors and Guides) Conference in New Orleans. Having never been to New Orleans before (except one day that Mike and I walked down Bourbon street on a break on our RV travels), it was exciting to attend IATDG and spend 5 days in a hotel on Bourbon Steet.

Fun

Of course, since the group is made up of Tour Directors, there was a lot of opportunity to learn about New Orleans.

The first night during the meet and greet the party ended with a “second line”.  For those like  me that haven’t heard that term, that is the thing you see in movies where a brass band plays  jazz and leads you dancing down the street. Super fun.

One evening they had a scavenger hunt  where teams had to run all over the french quarter and take photos of various things in New Orleans, complete with a timestamp and a team member in the photo.  Also super fun, and educational.

It was my Birthday. In New Orleans it is custom to pin money on the birthday girl, super fun! And made my birthday special.

One evening we were treated to dinner and cruise on a riverboat.

And the final day we were allowed to choose from one of about half a dozen local tours. (Plantations, Air boating on the swamps, etc).  I chose a walking tour of the garden district.  It was very interesting.  We rode a trolley a car and walked by Nicholas Cage’s and Sandra Bullock’s houses, amongst a lot of other interesting history.

Conference

Of course between all the fun was a full schedule of sessions on a variety of topics, and of course I attended as many as I could.  I shared a room with a classmate from school so  we divided any conquered a bit (and stayed up all hours of the night gabbing).

My Roomie, Patti,, and I - fellow tour director
My Roomie Patti and I

A major focus of the conference was it’s function as a job fair.  There are 3 categories of roles in this profession, 1) Tour Directors, the person that accompanies the tour from start to finish and makes sure things run seamlessly. 2) Tour Guides, the local folks that step in for a day with extensive knowledge of the area. And 3) Tour Operators who do the planning, marketing, and hiring of the other two categories.

The conference had representation from 43 Tour Operators, and provided an opportunity for the rest of us to interview with them.  These interviews were in 3 forms:

Three interview formats

1) One minute elevator pitches : The room had 6 tables, each with 6 or 7 tour operators behind it (approx. `4 people).  The applicant (me) hands them each a resume, then you have exactly one minute to give your pitch.  Then they have 30 seconds to evaluate you.. then on to the next table.  Like speed dating except to get a job.. Speed interviewing I guess.  It was quite Bizarre. Here is a video presentation that is close to what I did there if you are interested.

2) 3 minute interviews:  This was more like a traditional interview, the Tour Operator asks questions, the applicant answers, and of course answers questions back.  But you only have 3 minutes.  Your schedule is determined by a  computer to assure you get the chance to interview with anyone you want, and vice versa for them.

3) The  third format was the 5 minute-3 on 1 interviews.  Three applicants with one Tour Operator.  This gave them the  chance to ask a question “How would you handle…” and see what each reply.

The results

All in all it was interesting and a great opportunity.  Since the conference, I have been in contact with a few of the companies. No tour companies have hired me yet.  I am clearer on what I am interested in and the list of companies that offer it is narrow.  Specifically, I have decided the following.

  • I would rather be an employee, where I can be a champion for a company that will look out for me too, rather than a contractor where I am continually looking for new short term jobs. 
  • Ideally I do not want to lead student tours. 
  • I hope to explore a variety of destinations, instead of returning to the same locations all the time.  Of course, since I live in an RV, I cannot be regionally based. 

All of those things make it tougher.. Wish me luck!  In the meantime I have been hired to do two training tours with Sun Tours out of Albuquerque. Both in May, both to Southern Utah National Parks. If things go well (of course I only expect the best) I can continue to contract with them to keep myself busy.  We still plan to keep inspecting  and traveling in the RV.  I’ll let you know where I’m going next.

The fortune cookie I got immediately after returning home from Denver!

2 thoughts on “Progress to Becoming a Tour Director”

  1. I enjoyed hearing about your new adventure. I’m sure you will do very well with it!

  2. You always amaze me. There is nothing that you can’t or won’t do when you put your mind to it.
    GOOD LUCK on your new adventure!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *