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6 Essential Qualities for a Top-Notch Tour Leader

Tour Leaders can make or break a small-group tour. They're in charge of the entire experience from start to finish, from the airport transfer to the return on the way home. Whether or not you enjoyed your experience can often be attributed to how the Tour Leader ran the schedule or set your expectations for the trip. It does vary on who the best Tour Leader is for each person, because everyone has different personalities and expectations for their guide. However, thinking about the question critically, there are 6 essential Tour Leader qualities that came to mind.

So, what makes a good tour leader?


A Tour Leader works days on end, for long hours, sometimes with back-to-back groups. They have to learn how to survive on little sleep, and with lots of caffeine! A Tour Leader must always be alert and energized, because they have to share that energy with their group. If they show how tired there are, it effects the group.


On the same token, enthusiasm is a huge must for Tour Leaders. Even though they may have seen a site a million times, their travelers have not, and it’s up to them to share the excitement of the place. They also have to be the one that gets people ready and eager to go somewhere after they’ve spent a long day on the bus, or out in the heat with a 5:00AM wake-up call. Their enthusiasm is infectious and helps elevate a group’s spirits.


Knowledge is an essential part of a Tour Leader’s job. Not only do they have to be energetic and enthusiastic, they have to know what they are talking about! The best Tour Leaders have the answers to the questions you are asking, and if they don’t, they have the resources to find the right answer for you. They also know the difference between providing important and relevant information but without boring the group, and balancing the information given with the needs of the members of the group.


Organization is one of those skills that if the Tour Leader has it, you don’t even notice that it’s one of their skills, but you will certainly notice it if they are NOT organized. The reason being, the organization goes on behind closed doors, while you are quietly walking through a site or museum, enjoying your lunch or before you even wake up in the morning. Your Tour Leader works hard at confirming visits, double-checking on weather or traffic, and fixing problems you (hopefully) didn’t even know existed.


The best Tour Leaders are well connected and can think on the fly. They need to be creative and know how to solve problems swiftly and efficiently. If is a road decides to close last minute, they have to know of alternative routes to get you where you need to be quickly. They might also need to fill in time if the group finishes too early, but may not have the budget to spend on a paid event, so they need to know what’s close, accessible and would be engaging for the particular group they are with. It’s definitely an art! They sometimes need to fix group member problems within the group as well, which takes experience and a level of thoughtfulness to ensure that everyone feels as if they were treated well.


Empathy is another huge part to a Tour Leader’s success. Empathy is listening and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. They might not be 50+ and have any medical conditions that make it difficult to travel for multiple days on end, but they always understand and consider the feelings of their small-group travel members and be respectful of them.

At ElderTreks, we are proud of the Tour Leaders that lead our trips. Check out the amazing leaders who are traveling with our groups to destinations near and far.

Do you agree with the above list of Tour Leader Qualities & Skills? What are your top qualities that you love in a Tour Leader? Comment below!

- August 31, 2016

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