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At the National Department of Tourism we measure success not only in the visitor numbers, but in the experiences we create, the new opportunities for meaningful employment and growth and the understanding that is fostered between people from different backgrounds and different corners of the world and our tourist guides play an integral role in this.​

Tourist Guides are often one of the first people to welcome tourists and the last to bid them farewell. Their role is to enhance our visitors' experience and be ambassadors for South Africa as a tourist destination.

Definition of Tourist Guide

Tourist Guides act as ambassadors of the country, they are the first to meet and welcome tourists and they are often the last ones to bid farewell to them when they leave the country. ​

Various international organizations such as the World Federation of Tourist Guides Associations (WFTGA) define a tourist guide as the person who guides visitors in the language of their choice and interprets the cultural and natural heritage of​ an area, which person may possess an area specific qualification. Such specifications are usually issued and/or recognized by the appropriate authority. 

A tourist guide is someone who points out the way and leads others on a trip or tour. Generally, a tourist guide will work at a specific location, city or province. In some cases, guides qualify to guide throughout an entire country. 

According to the Tourism Act No. 3 of 2014, Tourist guide means any person registered as such under section 50 and who for reward accompanies any person who travels within or visits any place within the Republic and who furnishes such person with information or comments.

Importance of Tourist Guides

Characteristics of tourist guides.

The Benefits of Travel Guides

By: Author Valerie Forgeard

Posted on Published: June 26, 2023  - Last updated: July 1, 2023

Categories Travel

When planning a vacation , there are many things to consider. One of the most important aspects of any trip is deciding what to do and see. A travel guide can be an invaluable resource in this process. Travel guides provide information on everything from attractions and restaurants to nightlife and shopping. They can help you make the most of your time away and ensure you experience all your destination offers. This blog post will discuss the benefits of using travel guides when planning a vacation. We’ll also provide tips on choosing the best guide for your needs.

Why Use a Travel Guide

Travel guides like the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide help you decide the best time to travel, which places are worth your time and money, and what activities and attractions are available. They also provide background information about the place or culture you will visit.

A Travel Guide Will Help You Decide When Is the Best Time to Travel

When is the best time to travel?

When is the best time to travel? Well, it depends. In some cases, the answer is simple. If you want to visit a place where sunshine and warm weather are guaranteed, you should travel during the summer. You should visit during the festive season to experience the best of a country’s culture. But what if you are not sure when to go on your trip? What if you are not interested in festivals or the weather?

That’s where a travel guide comes in handy! A good travel guide will give you all sorts of information about different cities around the world and what makes each city unique

It Gives You Insight Into the Places You Should Visit

Whether visiting a city for the first time or an old hand, a travel guide can help you find the best places. It gives you insights into the best places to visit in any destination, from hotels and restaurants to stores and attractions.

A good guidebook will help you decide where to go and what to do there and give you an overview of local laws and customs so you know what is expected of visitors. For example, suppose you’re visiting a Maori in New Zealand. In that case, you may want to ask if there are restrictions on taking pictures or if credit cards are accepted everywhere in South America. You could also ask if tipping is necessary for all of North America.

A Good Guidebook Will Help You Decide Which Activities and Attractions Are Worth Your Time and Money

A good guide will help you decide which activities and attractions are worth your time and money. It gives you insights into places of interest and recommendations on where to stay.

It can also save you a lot of time by not having to do extensive research before your trip. With a good book, all your questions will be answered in one place, so you do not have to spend hours searching for answers on websites or forums.

It Provides Information About the Place and the Culture

To get the most out of your travel experience, it is important to understand the culture of the place you visit. A good travel guide will help you learn about the customs and traditions of a country or region and understand better the cultural differences visitors experience. He or she will also give you information about etiquette and social situations that may occur during your stay.

For example, is it customary to greet each other with a handshake or bow? Do people resent you if you greet them in the wrong way? Do they prefer small talk at meals, or do they want to eat in silence?

It Gives Recommendations for Accommodation

In a travel guide, you will always find recommendations on where to stay, from luxury hotels to Airbnb to camping if you’re on a walking tour or traveling by car. The recommendations are based on the authors’ research and their experience in the region of your travel destination. If you are looking for a cheap place with good WiFi, a guide will tell you where to find that.

You’ll Get Information About Great Restaurants and Cafes and Even Where They Are Located

You can get information about the best restaurants, cafes, street food, and even where they are located. This means you do not have to spend time walking around on Trip Advisor or around the city to find out where the good restaurants are. You’ll know exactly where to go when you are hungry and where you can get good food any time of the day or night.

You can also find out about different parts of the city. So if you want to eat something specifically for dinner, there is probably a place nearby that will suit your needs. Since these guidebooks are often updated from time to time by their authors, who have traveled extensively in the region in question, they offer not only up-to-date information but also unique insights into local customs and traditions that may be completely absent from other sources!

A Travel Guide Can Help You Find the Best Places to Go and the Best Stores to Visit

When you are traveling, you may want to go shopping. Some people like to store souvenirs when they go on vacation. Others like to buy gifts for family members or friends back home. If this is what will make your trip memorable, then you must have a list of things that need to be purchased before you leave.

It can be difficult to buy things while traveling if you do not know where to go and what items are available there. You do not want to waste time driving around town trying to find something that may not be available in the area you are staying in during your vacation!

A good guidebook will help you find the best places to store, such as markets, malls, and the best shopping areas, with a great selection of souvenirs and gifts for everyone back home!

A Good Travel Guide Will Give You Tips on How to Stay Safe

When traveling to a foreign country, you should first learn how to stay safe. Travel guides do not take you around a city or country. Instead, they tell you how to stay safe while you are on your own. However, they will still give you tips on how to stay safe. Here are some examples of advice you might find in your guidebook:

If someone tries to rob or attack you, give them what they want – it’s not worth risking your life over something material! And if the attacker already has a weapon (e.g., a knife), fight back only if necessary – there’s no point in hurting yourself any more than necessary!

Children should never be left unattended for fear of being kidnapped or otherwise harmed.

Do not go into dark alleys or other secluded areas alone. It is much safer to stay in well-lit areas with many people.

Why Choose a Tour Guide

When planning your next trip, remember that a great tour guide can be invaluable.

A good tour guide will show you where and what to do during your visit. He or she will help you avoid getting lost and ensure that you make the most of your time in the region.

A good tour guide will also give you information about the places they show you and give you an insider’s perspective on the history or culture of the place.

For example, if you visit Rome for the first time, a tour guide can tell you stories about how the ancient Romans lived and what they ate. With this knowledge, you can better understand why each place is important today.

A Great Tour Guide Also Makes It Easier for You to Interact With Locals

He can help you meet people and make friends if you are traveling alone. He can give you tips on where to stay and eat and even help you avoid scams that tourists might otherwise get ripped off with. They can also give you an insight into the local culture that is not possible for most tourists who only visit a place once or twice in a lifetime.

Having a Good Tour Guide Allows You to Ask Questions

As a traveler, you will probably have a lot of questions. You can ask to your tourist guide. Here are just a few examples:

A tour guide can also answer any questions about local transportation, including busses, trains, cabs, and more.

You Do Not Have to Worry About Getting Lost or Missing Anything Important

If you are worried about traveling alone, a tour guide is probably the best way to ensure you do not get stranded.

If you are traveling with friends or family, you can hire a tour guide to ensure everyone stays together and no one gets lost or separated from the tour group. However, remember that it is not a tour guide’s job to watch over unsupervised children; that is your sole responsibility.

You Save Yourself the Trouble of Organizing Private Transportation

If you have a full-time tour guide, transportation will likely be arranged by the tour operator as part of the package you book. This means you do not have to worry about your transportation and can focus on the fun parts of your vacation.

This can be especially useful if you have limited mobility or difficulty with language barriers. Also, if you are traveling with children or elderly relatives, it is often easier to have someone else drive, so they do not get tired or frustrated as quickly when trying to find their way around new places.

They Give the Latest Advice on Safety Precautions

Tour guides are well-informed about what is happening in the area and are trained to keep their tour members safe. Tour guides are well-informed about what is happening in the area; if crime has increased recently, they probably know about it.

In most Western countries, tour guides often must take a first aid course to know what to do in an emergency.

Do not be afraid to ask questions! If you have safety concerns, you can talk to your tour guide before or during your trip.

They Have a Wealth of Knowledge

The best tour guides will ensure you see all the major sights and attractions on your trip. This way, you will not miss any must-see sights while visiting a tourist destination. It is also a good idea to choose an experienced tour guide because they know the best places to visit and how long it will take you to see these attractions.

Group tour guides are known for helping tourists in popular areas, but they also know things you would not find in guidebooks. They have a wealth of knowledge about the places they take visitors to and can share that knowledge with their clients. This can be invaluable for those looking for something new and different.

They Can Help You Better Understand the Local Culture

When traveling to a new country, it’s always good to have someone who can help you better understand the local culture. Many people travel to learn about other cultures. Group tour guides are experts in their field and know everything about their country or city. They also have a lot of stories to tell.

If you want to learn all the local customs, traditions and culture, you should hire a tour guide to help you. You will be able to see things you would not have seen if you were traveling alone or with other people who do not know much about the place they are traveling.

A Travel Guide Book vs. A Tour Guide

If a guidebook is a book that tells you what to do and where to go, then a travel guidebook is a book that helps you figure out where to go and what to do.

A tour guide has everything planned out for you. At the same time, a travel guidebook does not tell you where, when, or what, but it gives tips on how to get around, what transportation is available, what other activities are available nearby, and so on.

The 10 Types Of Tour Guides: Which One Will You Be?

hospitality training courses in London

Posted on Dec 11, 2022 at 09:12 PM

You’re about to embark on a new career. You’ve been doing research and found that many tour guide positions are available in cities worldwide. You love people and want to share your passion for your city, so it seems like a perfect fit!

So what do tour guides do? What kind of skills and training is needed? Let’s explore these questions and more. 

What is a tour guide? 

A tour guide is someone who leads a group on tour.

The term "tour guide" is also sometimes used to describe the person who leads a sightseeing tour of a historic building, site, city, or neighbourhood. A tour guide may be employed by a museum, historical society, or other organisation interested in preserving local history and culture.

Tour guides are often called "docents" or "those who show." In addition, they are sometimes called "tour directors" or "tourist escorts," but these terms also have other meanings.

Tour guides work primarily with tourists and visitors but may also work with locals interested in learning more about their city or town.

Tour guides can be found at museums, historical sites, and other locations that showcase unique elements of local culture. Some tour guides specialise in private individuals or specific groups, while others work with larger groups of tourists worldwide.

There are many steps to becoming a tourism guide; check out the 6 best steps to becoming a professional tour guide .

what is tourism guide

10 tour guide types, which one are you?

There are many kinds of tour guides around the world; some of the most popular categories of guides include:

1. The professional tour guide

The professional tour guide is the most common type of tour guide, and it's the primary type most people think of when thinking about a tour guide. It's usually a full-time job, but it can also be part-time or a side gig. They typically work with international tourists and are licensed international tourist guides.

2. The private tour guide

A private tour guide accompanies paying clients on tours for a fee but doesn't work full-time in the industry. Instead, they use their time off from work or school to make extra money by giving guided tours to tourists in their city or country. They can offer services based on their timetable as their managers.

3. The academic tour guide

This tour guide works at an educational institution such as a university or an art museum, giving tours to students, teachers, and other community members. Academic tour guides earn additional income by educating visitors and sales commissions on books, maps, and other merchandise sold during tours. They usually have an educational background, study galleries and cultural buildings, and are often fluent in many languages.

4. The freelance tour guide

A freelance traveller gives guided tours to tourists abroad on vacation or business trips. They're adventure lovers who love private cruises to nature and other places.

The most convenient thing about freelance operators is that they're their manager and director, have flexible hours, and can choose which client to take on. 

5. The local tour guide 

A local tour guide or escort works at a tourist attraction , such as an amusement park or zoo. They may also be employed by a travel agency that offers guided tours to visitors. Some local guides work independently and receive payment directly from their customers instead of through an employer.

6- The Traditional Guide: 

The definitive guide is knowledgeable about the destination's history, culture, and sights and delivers a structured, fact-filled tour. They may use a microphone and headset to provide information to the group and incorporate interactive activities or demonstrations to engage the group.

7- The Cultural Guide: 

The cultural guide focuses on the destination's traditions, customs, and way of life and provides an immersive experience for travellers. They may take the group to local markets, homes, or community events to give them a glimpse into the daily life of the people in the area.

8- The Adventure Guide: 

The adventure guide leads active and physically challenging tours, such as hiking, biking, or kayaking. They are knowledgeable about the local terrain and wildlife and may provide instruction and equipment for the activities.

9- The Food and Drink Guide: 

The food and drink guide focuses on the destination's local cuisine and beverage culture. They may take the group to local markets, restaurants, or farms to try the local specialities and learn about the ingredients and techniques used in the area.

10- The Local Guide: 

The local guide is a native of the destination and provides travellers with a personalized and authentic experience. They may share their own stories, experiences, and the area's hidden gems and local secrets.

What kind of skills should a tour guide have?

Tour guides should have a lot of skills. They must have strong communication and social skills to communicate with the tourists and answer their questions about the city or country they visit. 

Tour guides also need to be able to explain things clearly and precisely, so tourists understand what they are seeing. In addition, they should be friendly, helpful and easygoing because they will deal with many different people from different parts of the world.

 They need to be organised, have good management skills and have an eye for detail to plan exciting and fun trips for everyone involved.

They should have good leadership skills because they will often entertain groups of people in busy cities or countries where a lot is happening at once. 

Tour guides must be able to keep everyone together and make sure no one gets lost or separated from the group. To do this effectively, tour guides must be able to think quickly on their feet and come up with solutions if something goes wrong during the trip (like legal trouble or a mix-up with security systems)

If you’re interested in being a tour guide but don’t know where to start, here are some hospitality training courses in London .

Tourist guides play a particular part in every tourism experience ; they add their signature to the social aspect of getting to know a new region. 

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How To Be A Successful Tour Guide

Published: December 14, 2023

Modified: December 28, 2023

by Jenelle Speck

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Being a tour guide can be an incredibly rewarding and exciting profession. It allows you to share your passion for travel and adventure with others while immersing yourself in different cultures and exploring new destinations. Whether you’re leading a group trek through the Amazon rainforest or guiding tourists through the ancient ruins of Rome, being a successful tour guide requires a combination of knowledge, skills, and a genuine love for adventure.

In this article, we will discuss the essential requirements and qualifications needed to excel as a tour guide. We’ll explore the importance of researching and planning captivating tours, as well as the effective communication skills necessary to engage and connect with your guests. Additionally, we’ll delve into the art of building rapport with your guests, handling difficult situations, and ensuring their safety and satisfaction throughout the entire journey.

To be a successful tour guide, it’s crucial to maintain professionalism and adhere to ethical standards. We’ll provide insights on how to continuously enhance your knowledge and expertise to stay ahead in the ever-evolving travel industry. Lastly, we’ll touch on the importance of marketing and promoting your tours to attract new clients and grow your business.

Whether you’re a seasoned tour guide looking to refine your skills or someone considering a career in adventure tourism, this article will provide valuable information and tips to help you become a successful tour guide, delivering memorable experiences to your guests.

Requirements and Qualifications

Becoming a tour guide requires a combination of skills, qualifications, and personal attributes. While there may not be any set criteria or formal education requirements, possessing certain qualities can greatly enhance your chances of success. Here are some of the key requirements and qualifications to consider:

  • Passion for Adventure: A deep love for travel, exploration, and adventure is the foundation of being a successful tour guide. Your enthusiasm will be contagious and inspire your guests to fully embrace the experience.
  • Knowledge and Expertise: A comprehensive understanding of the destination you are guiding in is crucial. This includes history, culture, geography, local customs, and attractions. Continuously expand your knowledge through research and firsthand experiences.
  • Communication Skills: Excellent communication skills are essential for delivering engaging tours. From clear and concise explanations to storytelling, your ability to captivate and connect with your guests is paramount.
  • Language Proficiency: Fluency in the language(s) spoken by your guests is highly advantageous. If you plan to lead tours internationally, consider learning popular languages like English, Spanish, or Mandarin.
  • Physical Fitness: Tour guiding often involves physical activities like hiking, walking, or cycling. Being physically fit allows you to endure the demands of the job and provide assistance if needed.
  • Organizational Skills: Planning and coordinating tours require excellent organizational skills. From managing logistics to creating detailed itineraries, staying organized ensures smooth and enjoyable experiences for your guests.
  • Interpersonal Skills: Building rapport and creating a positive rapport with your guests is crucial. The ability to connect with people from diverse backgrounds and make them feel comfortable is a valuable asset.
  • Problem-Solving Abilities: As a tour guide, you may encounter unexpected situations or challenges. Quick thinking, adaptability, and problem-solving skills will help you handle such situations with ease and maintain guest satisfaction.

While academic qualifications may not be mandatory, pursuing relevant courses or certifications in tourism, hospitality, or outdoor activities can enhance your credibility. Additionally, gaining practical experience through internships, volunteering, or working as an assistant guide can provide valuable insights and practical skills.

By possessing these requirements and qualifications, you will be well-prepared to embark on a successful career as a tour guide, delivering unforgettable experiences to your guests.

Researching and Planning

One of the most critical aspects of being a tour guide is the ability to research and plan captivating and well-organized tours. Your guests rely on you to provide them with a seamless and unforgettable experience. Here are some essential steps to follow when researching and planning your tours:

  • Destination Familiarization: Familiarize yourself with the destination you will be guiding in. Research its history, culture, attractions, and hidden gems. Get to know the local customs, traditions, and etiquettes to ensure a respectful and immersive experience for your guests.
  • Understanding Your Audience: Determine the demographics, interests, and preferences of your target audience. Will your guests be adventure enthusiasts, history buffs, or nature lovers? Tailor your tours accordingly to provide a personalized and engaging experience.
  • Selecting Key Sites and Activities: Identify the must-see sites and attractions in the destination. Consider both popular landmarks and off-the-beaten-path locations to provide a well-rounded experience. Research and select exciting activities and experiences that align with your guests’ interests.
  • Creating a Detailed Itinerary: Craft a detailed itinerary that outlines the day-to-day activities, including transportation, accommodations, meal options, and specific timeframes for each activity. Build in flexibility for unexpected changes or additional opportunities that may arise.
  • Ensuring Safety and Accessibility: Prioritize the safety and accessibility of your tours. Research hazard-prone areas, weather conditions, and any potential health risks. Account for the physical abilities and limitations of your guests, providing suitable alternatives or adjustments when necessary.
  • Engaging Guides and Experts: Connect with local guides or experts who can provide unique insights and enhance your guests’ experience. Collaborating with knowledgeable individuals adds depth and authenticity to your tours.
  • Considering Logistics and Timing: Pay attention to logistical aspects, such as transportation arrangements, ticket bookings, and crowd management. Plan your tours to avoid peak tourist seasons or crowded times to ensure a more enjoyable and comfortable experience for your guests.

Remember to continuously update your knowledge by staying informed about current events, new attractions, and changing regulations. Embrace feedback from previous tours to refine and improve your planning process. By conducting thorough research and careful planning, you can create tours that leave a lasting impression on your guests.

Creating Engaging Tours

As a tour guide, it is your responsibility to create engaging and immersive experiences for your guests. By curating tours that leave a lasting impression, you can ensure their satisfaction and increase the likelihood of them recommending your services. Here are some tips to help you create captivating and memorable tours:

  • Storytelling: Narrate captivating stories and anecdotes about the destination and its attractions. Make history come alive, add local legends, or share personal experiences to engage your guests emotionally and intellectually.
  • Interactive Experiences: Provide opportunities for your guests to actively participate and engage with the destination. Incorporate interactive elements like hands-on activities, tastings, or cultural demonstrations to create a deeper connection and understanding.
  • Sensory Experiences: Appeal to your guests’ senses by highlighting the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of the destination. Encourage them to fully immerse themselves in the local culture and environment.
  • Variety of Activities: Offer a variety of activities to cater to different interests and preferences. Whether it’s hiking, biking, exploring historical sites, or indulging in culinary delights, provide a diverse range of experiences to appeal to a broader audience.
  • Flexibility and Spontaneity: While it’s essential to have a well-structured itinerary, leave room for flexibility and spontaneity. Embrace unexpected opportunities or interests that arise during the tour and adapt your plans accordingly to provide a memorable and personalized experience.
  • Engaging with Locals: Encourage interactions between your guests and the local community. Arrange visits to local markets, workshops, or community initiatives where they can engage with locals, learn about their daily lives, and support local businesses.
  • Unveiling Hidden Gems: Go beyond the typical tourist hotspots and unveil hidden gems that showcase the destination’s unique charm and character. Whether it’s a secluded beach, a secret viewpoint, or a lesser-known historical site, surprise your guests with hidden treasures.
  • Share Insider Tips: Provide insider tips and recommendations to make your guests’ experience even more enriching. Share your favorite local restaurants, shops, or lesser-known trails, allowing them to discover the destination like a local.

Remember, the key to creating engaging tours is to cater to your guests’ interests, evoke their curiosity, and create a sense of wonder and excitement. By incorporating storytelling, interactive experiences, and a variety of activities, you can create tours that leave a lasting impact and keep your guests coming back for more unforgettable adventures.

Effective Communication Skills

As a tour guide, effective communication is the key to engaging and connecting with your guests. It allows you to share information, convey your passion for the destination, and create an enjoyable and informative experience. Here are some essential communication skills to master:

  • Clarity and Enunciation: Speak clearly and enunciate your words to ensure that your guests can understand you easily. Use simple language and avoid jargon or complex terminology that may be unfamiliar to your audience.
  • Active Listening: Practice active listening by giving your full attention to your guests. Encourage them to ask questions or share their thoughts and opinions and respond attentively. This helps create a positive and interactive atmosphere.
  • Body Language: Pay attention to your body language, as it can greatly impact how your message is received. Maintain an open and welcoming posture, use appropriate gestures, and make eye contact to establish a connection with your guests.
  • Use of Visuals and Props: Support your verbal communication with visual aids and props. Maps, photos, or physical objects can enhance understanding and make your explanations more engaging and memorable.
  • Adaptability: Adapt your communication style to suit the needs of your guests. Consider their language proficiency, cultural background, and any accessibility requirements. Ensure that everyone can fully engage and understand the information you are sharing.
  • Personalization: Tailor your communication to your audience by using personal anecdotes, addressing individuals by name, or referring to their interests. This personal touch creates a connection and makes the experience more memorable.
  • Storytelling Skills: Master the art of storytelling to captivate your guests’ attention. Use vivid descriptions, emotions, and suspense to bring the destination to life and create a memorable experience.
  • Engage with Humor: Incorporate humor into your communication to create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. Light-hearted jokes or funny anecdotes can help break the ice, maintain interest, and foster a positive connection with your guests.

Remember to gauge your guests’ engagement and adjust your communication as needed. Ask for feedback and encourage them to share their thoughts and questions throughout the tour. By honing your communication skills, you can ensure a memorable and engaging experience for your guests, leaving them with a deeper appreciation for the destination and their time with you.

Building Rapport with Guests

Building a strong rapport with your guests is essential for creating a positive and memorable experience. When guests feel comfortable and connected with their tour guide, they are more likely to engage, ask questions, and fully embrace the journey. Here are some tips to help you build rapport with your guests:

  • Warm Welcome: Start the tour with a warm and friendly greeting. Make eye contact, smile, and introduce yourself to create a welcoming atmosphere from the very beginning.
  • Active Engagement: Engage with your guests throughout the tour by asking open-ended questions, encouraging their participation, and actively listening to their responses. This shows genuine interest and makes them feel valued.
  • Personalize the Experience: Take the time to learn your guests’ names and use them during interactions. Remember their interests or special occasions they may be celebrating. Personalizing the experience makes them feel special and acknowledged.
  • Share Personal Stories: Share personal anecdotes or experiences related to the destination or the tour activities. This creates a connection and allows guests to see you as not just a guide but also a fellow traveler.
  • Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: Show empathy by understanding and addressing your guests’ needs and concerns. Be attentive to their emotions and adapt your approach accordingly. This helps create a comfortable and supportive environment for open communication.
  • Respect Cultural Differences: Be mindful of the cultural diversity within your group. Respect different beliefs, customs, and values, and encourage guests to share their own cultural backgrounds to foster a sense of inclusivity and appreciation.
  • Be Approachable: Be approachable and accessible to your guests. Encourage them to ask questions, seek guidance, or share their thoughts and experiences. Showing a willingness to interact and help creates a welcoming and supportive environment.
  • Show Genuine Enthusiasm: Express your passion and enthusiasm for the destination and the tour activities. Your genuine excitement will be contagious and inspire guests to fully immerse themselves in the experience.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Remain flexible and adaptable to meet the individual needs and preferences of your guests. Be open to suggestions, adjust the pace if necessary, and accommodate reasonable requests to ensure their comfort and satisfaction.

Remember, building rapport requires genuine interest, active engagement, and a willingness to connect with your guests on a personal level. By establishing a strong rapport, you create a trusting and enjoyable atmosphere that enhances the overall tour experience for everyone involved.

Handling Difficult Situations

As a tour guide, it is essential to be prepared for and effectively handle difficult situations that may arise during your tours. Whether it’s a sudden change in weather, a medical emergency, or guest dissatisfaction, your ability to stay calm, proactive, and empathetic is crucial. Here are some tips for effectively handling difficult situations:

  • Remain Calm and Composed: Stay calm and composed, even in challenging situations. Your guests will look to you for guidance and reassurance, so maintaining a calm demeanor helps instill confidence and minimize panic.
  • Assess the Situation: Quickly assess the situation and prioritize the safety and well-being of your guests. Identify any immediate risks or concerns and take necessary steps to address them promptly.
  • Communicate Clearly: Effectively communicate with your guests, providing clear instructions and information about the situation at hand. Keep them informed of any changes, updates, or alternative plans, ensuring they feel informed and involved.
  • Show Empathy and Support: Display empathy and understanding towards your guests’ concerns or discomfort. Listen attentively, acknowledge their feelings, and address their needs to the best of your ability. Offer support and reassurance throughout the situation.
  • Follow Emergency Procedures: Familiarize yourself with emergency procedures and protocols specific to the destination or activity. This includes knowing the location of emergency services, medical facilities, and evacuation routes.
  • Seek Expert Advice if Needed: If the situation requires specialized knowledge or assistance, seek advice from local authorities, medical professionals, or relevant experts. Act promptly to ensure the safety and well-being of your guests.
  • Maintain Open Communication: Encourage guests to voice their concerns or questions openly. Listen attentively, respond empathetically, and address their concerns transparently. Open communication helps build trust and allows for timely resolution of issues.
  • Provide Alternative Options: In case of unexpected changes or disruptions, offer alternative options or activities to make up for any inconvenience. This demonstrates your commitment to ensuring your guests have a satisfactory experience, even in challenging circumstances.
  • Document and Report: Keep a record of any incidents, complaints, or feedback received during the tour. This information will be valuable for improving future tours and providing insights to your organization, if applicable.
  • Learn from the Experience: Reflect on difficult situations and learn from them to enhance your future tour planning and management. Evaluate what worked well and identify areas for improvement, ensuring that you are better prepared for similar situations in the future.

Remember, while handling difficult situations can be challenging, your ability to remain calm, communicate effectively, and prioritize the safety and well-being of your guests is vital. By demonstrating empathy, proactivity, and professionalism, you can navigate through challenging circumstances and ensure a positive experience for your guests.

Ensuring Guest Safety and Satisfaction

As a tour guide, the safety and satisfaction of your guests should always be a top priority. By implementing proactive measures and creating a positive environment, you can ensure that your guests have a safe and satisfying experience. Here are some key aspects to consider:

  • Thorough Risk Assessment: Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment before each tour to identify potential hazards and develop appropriate safety measures. Consider factors such as weather conditions, terrain, activities, and the physical capabilities of your guests.
  • Provide Safety Briefings: Start each tour with a safety briefing to educate your guests about any potential risks, safety protocols, and emergency procedures. Make sure they know how to use any equipment provided and encourage them to ask questions or express any concerns.
  • First Aid and Emergency Preparedness: Carry a well-stocked first aid kit and be trained in basic first aid techniques. Familiarize yourself with the nearest medical facilities and emergency services in the area. Be prepared to handle common emergencies and provide appropriate assistance.
  • Regular Equipment Maintenance: Regularly inspect and maintain all equipment used during the tour, such as hiking gear, vehicles, or water sports equipment. Ensuring they are in good working condition reduces the risk of accidents and malfunctions.
  • Monitor Weather and Environmental Conditions: Stay informed about weather forecasts and environmental conditions. Modify plans if necessary to avoid exposure to extreme weather or unsafe conditions. Have a backup plan in place for unexpected changes.
  • Proactive Communication: Keep your guests informed about any changes to the itinerary, safety updates, or relevant information throughout the tour. Maintain clear and open communication channels, allowing your guests to raise any concerns or ask questions at any time.
  • Encourage Feedback: Regularly seek feedback from your guests to understand their needs, preferences, and concerns. Actively address any feedback received and use it to improve future tours and tailor the experience to meet their expectations.
  • Ensure Accessibility: Accommodate the accessibility needs of your guests, such as mobility restrictions or dietary requirements. Modify activities or provide suitable alternatives to ensure that everyone can participate and feel included.
  • Create a Positive Environment: Foster a positive and inclusive atmosphere where all guests feel welcomed and respected. Encourage interaction and mutual respect among the group, creating a supportive environment for everyone to thrive.
  • Exceed Expectations: Strive to exceed your guests’ expectations by going the extra mile. Surprise them with little touches, personalized gestures, or unexpected experiences to create a lasting impression of satisfaction and delight.

Remember, ensuring guest safety and satisfaction requires careful planning, effective communication, and a responsive approach. By taking proactive measures, prioritizing their well-being, and aiming to exceed their expectations, you can provide a exceptional experience that leaves your guests happy, fulfilled, and eager to recommend your services.

Maintaining Professionalism and Ethics

As a tour guide, maintaining professionalism and ethical standards is crucial for building trust with your guests and ensuring a positive experience. Upholding a high level of professionalism and ethical conduct not only reflects positively on you but also contributes to the reputation of the entire tourism industry. Here are some key principles to guide your behavior:

  • Expertise and Knowledge: Continuously update and expand your knowledge about the destinations you guide in, including history, culture, and current affairs. Be well-informed and able to provide accurate and insightful information to your guests.
  • Respect for Cultural Sensitivities: Show respect for the culture, customs, and traditions of the destinations you operate in. Promote responsible tourism practices that preserve and celebrate the local heritage, environment, and communities.
  • Professional Appearance and Conduct: Present yourself in a professional manner by dressing appropriately and maintaining a neat appearance. Demonstrate professional behavior by being punctual, attentive, and responsive to your guests’ needs.
  • Confidentiality: Respect the privacy and confidentiality of your guests. Do not disclose personal or sensitive information without proper consent. Safeguard any information obtained during the tour to maintain confidentiality and trust.
  • Honesty and Integrity: Be honest and transparent in your interactions with guests. Provide accurate information, including pricing, expectations, and potential risks. Do not engage in misleading practices or make false claims that may compromise guest trust.
  • Empathy and Inclusivity: Treat all guests with respect, regardless of their background, nationality, or beliefs. Foster an inclusive and welcoming environment, ensuring that everyone feels valued and included.
  • Conflict Resolution: Handle conflicts or disagreements with professionalism and diplomacy. Listen to all parties involved, seek understanding, and work towards a fair resolution. Maintain composure and remain neutral when mediating disputes.
  • Environmental Responsibility: Be mindful of the impact your tours may have on the environment. Promote sustainable practices such as reducing waste, respecting wildlife and natural habitats, and encouraging responsible behaviors among your guests.
  • Accountability: Take responsibility for your actions and mistakes. Address any guest concerns or complaints promptly and professionally. Learn from feedback and strive to continuously improve as a tour guide.
  • Compliance with Legal and Ethical Standards: Familiarize yourself with and adhere to local laws, regulations, and industry guidelines. Avoid engaging in any illegal or unethical activities that could tarnish your reputation and that of the tourism industry.

Maintaining professionalism and ethics ensures that you provide a trustworthy and reputable service. By practicing these principles, you not only enhance the guest experience but also contribute to the sustainable development of the tourism industry.

Enhancing Knowledge and Expertise

As a tour guide, continuously enhancing your knowledge and expertise is crucial for staying ahead in the ever-evolving world of adventure tourism. By deepening your understanding of destinations, honing your skills, and staying up-to-date with industry trends, you can provide a higher level of service and enrich the experiences of your guests. Here are some strategies to enhance your knowledge and expertise:

  • Continual Learning: Embrace a lifelong learning mindset by seeking opportunities to expand your knowledge. Read books, articles, and travel guides about the destinations you guide in. Attend seminars, workshops, and conferences to stay informed about the latest industry developments.
  • Destination Familiarization: Explore your guiding destinations extensively. Visit different sites, engage with locals, and immerse yourself in the culture. This firsthand experience will not only deepen your knowledge but also allow you to share enriching stories and insights with your guests.
  • Seek Feedback from Guests: Regularly seek feedback from your guests to understand their perspectives and areas for improvement. Use their insights to address any shortcomings and refine your guiding techniques. Actively engage in conversations with your guests to learn from their experiences and gather valuable feedback.
  • Network and Collaborate: Connect with other tour guides, travel professionals, and industry experts. Join professional associations or online communities to exchange ideas, insights, and best practices. Collaborate with fellow guides on joint projects or share knowledge through mentorship programs.
  • Develop Specialized Skills: Consider developing specialized skills or expertise in specific areas of interest. This could include gaining certifications in wildlife conservation, cultural heritage, or adventure activities. This specialized knowledge will enhance the uniqueness and quality of your tours.
  • Technology and Digital Skills: Embrace technology and develop digital skills relevant to your role. Utilize online resources, apps, and platforms to enhance your guiding capabilities. Stay updated with social media trends to effectively market and promote your tours to a wider audience.
  • Language Acquisition: Learn additional languages to expand your communication capabilities with a wider range of guests. Being able to speak the language of your guests builds rapport and allows for a more immersive experience.
  • Keep Up with Industry News: Stay informed about the latest industry news, travel trends, and sustainability initiatives. Subscribe to industry publications, follow reputable blogs, and engage with industry influencers and experts on social media platforms.
  • Engage in Cultural Exchange: Immerse yourself in cultural exchange opportunities to gain firsthand knowledge about different cultures, traditions, and customs. This can be achieved through volunteer work, homestays, or participating in local community activities.
  • Reflect and Evaluate: Set aside time for self-reflection and evaluation. Assess your strengths and areas for improvement as a guide. Regularly reassess and update your tour itineraries, activities, and delivery techniques to ensure they meet the changing needs and expectations of your guests.

Remember, the pursuit of knowledge and expertise is a lifelong journey. By embracing continuous learning, seeking feedback, and connecting with others in the industry, you can enhance your guiding skills and provide exceptional experiences for your guests.

Marketing and Promoting Your Tours

Effective marketing and promotion are essential for attracting clients and growing your tour guiding business. By utilizing various marketing strategies and channels, you can reach a broader audience and showcase the unique experiences you offer. Here are some key tips for marketing and promoting your tours:

  • Create a Compelling Website: Develop a professional website that showcases your tours, highlights your expertise, and provides easy access to information and booking options. Ensure that your website is visually appealing, mobile-friendly, and optimized for search engines.
  • Utilize Social Media: Leverage social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to promote your tours. Share engaging content, including stunning photos, videos, and captivating stories. Interact with your audience, respond to comments, and use relevant hashtags to increase visibility.
  • Partner with Travel Agencies and Hotels: Collaborate with local travel agencies, hotels, and accommodations to establish mutually beneficial partnerships. Provide them with detailed information about your tours and offer commission-based referrals to attract potential clients.
  • Create Compelling Content: Publish informative and engaging content relevant to your tours on your website, blog, or social media platforms. This can include destination guides, travel tips, and personal stories that highlight the unique experiences you offer. Optimize your content with relevant keywords to improve search engine visibility.
  • Offer Special Promotions and Packages: Create exclusive promotions, discounts, or package deals to attract new clients or encourage repeat bookings. Collaborate with local businesses to offer unique add-ons or experiences as part of your tours.
  • Collect and Showcase Testimonials: Encourage your satisfied guests to provide testimonials and reviews of their experience. Display these testimonials on your website and social media platforms to build trust and credibility with prospective clients.
  • Attend Travel Exhibitions and Events: Participate in travel exhibitions, fairs, and conferences to showcase your tours and network with potential clients and industry professionals. Distribute brochures, business cards, and promotional materials to leave a lasting impression.
  • Build Relationships with Travel Bloggers and Influencers: Collaborate with travel bloggers, influencers, and vloggers who align with your target audience. Offer them complimentary experiences in exchange for honest reviews, social media exposure, or collaborative content creation.
  • Optimize for Search Engines: Implement search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to improve your website’s visibility in search engine results. Research relevant keywords and incorporate them into your website content, meta tags, and headlines.
  • Provide Excellent Customer Service: Deliver exceptional customer service throughout the entire guest experience. Respond to inquiries promptly, provide detailed information, and be attentive to guest needs. Word-of-mouth referrals and positive reviews can be powerful marketing tools.

Remember, marketing and promoting your tours require a multi-channel approach. Continuously assess the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, monitor analytics, and adjust your strategies accordingly. With a targeted marketing plan, you can attract more clients and position yourself as a trusted and sought-after tour guide in the industry.

Becoming a successful tour guide in the adventure tourism industry requires a combination of knowledge, skills, and a genuine passion for travel and exploration. By meeting the requirements and qualifications, researching and planning captivating tours, effectively communicating with guests, and building rapport with them, you can ensure memorable experiences. Handling difficult situations, prioritizing guest safety and satisfaction, maintaining professionalism and ethical standards, enhancing your knowledge and expertise, and implementing effective marketing strategies are all integral to your success as a tour guide.

Remember that continuous learning, adaptability, and a commitment to providing exceptional service are key. Embrace new technologies, stay informed about industry trends, and constantly seek to enhance your knowledge and skills. By creating engaging tours, fostering positive connections with guests, and promoting your services effectively, you can attract clients and build a strong reputation within the industry. Through professionalism, ethical conduct, and a genuine love for adventure, you can create unforgettable experiences and become a sought-after tour guide.

So, embark on this exciting journey with a mindset of constant improvement and a dedication to delivering exceptional adventures. As you guide your guests through remarkable destinations, remember that you have the power to inspire, educate, and create memories that will last a lifetime.


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Why good tour guides are important.

Anne de Jong

  • July 28, 2023

Why good tour guides are important

The importance of good tour guides for a successful travel experience

When customers book a travel experience with your business, they come with expectations. They rely on your expertise, your local knowledge, and your ability to provide them with an amazing experience.

In case they booked a travel experience that involves a tour guide, they want to travel worry-free. With someone else having the responsibility. The quality of the guide is therefore essential for satisfied customers. A good guide is able to boost the travel experience and add additional value. While a lesser guide does the opposite: leaving customers disappointed and dissatisfied.

A good tour guide does not only boost the travel experience for customers. But they are also responsible for making sure the trip creates positive impact on the destination and minimises negative impact.

“Local tour guides and drivers are the principal interface between tourists, the travel experience, the local community and the environment, and therefore have a huge responsibility.”

In this article

  • The importance of good tour guides

The qualities of a good tour guide

Tour guides and sustainability, sustainable tour guide training, reminder guidelines.

  • The significance of personal connection

Value your good tour guides

Tour guides have a huge responsibility during the travel experience. Not everyone is or can become a good tour guide. We’ve listed six most important qualities for a good tour guide to take into account.

1. Outgoing and engaging

To make travellers feel comfortable during a travel experience, the tour guide needs to be enthusiastic, outgoing, and engaging. Their task is to involve all people in the group and to create a happy and safe environment. They should be easily approachable for questions or concerns and also invite travellers to be curious and ask more questions.

2. Good communication skills

Besides being outgoing and engaging it’s important the tour guide has good and clear communication skills. This is necessary to make sure everyone is aware of the (day) planning and what’s expected of them. Good communication skills also come in handy when explaining specific do’s and don’ts in a sensitive destination.

3. Knowledgeable and passionate

The true added value of a good tour guide is their local knowledge. When visiting a destination, travellers are interested in for example local habits, foreign fruits, and history facts. They will always look at the guide first for further explanation and background information. Preferably, the tour guide is an expert and passionate about the destination.

City tour guide

4. Organised and punctual

Travellers having to wait on their tour guide because they’re late, are often stressed. And might be dissatisfied about the start of the travel experience. So, it’s important for the guide to always be on time, to have a clear structure and to follow the set itinerary . In case the customer requires a change, this could be possible but only when feasible and well-planned.

5. Patient and able to manage a crisis

Not all travellers are easy-going and flexible. A good tour guide knows how to take care of slower or difficult people. They have to remain patient at all times. They also know what to do in case of an emergency: handling the crisis while maintaining a calm atmosphere where possible.

6. Trained and qualified

It’s not a fundamental quality of a good tour guide, but it does add value to have trained and qualified guides. Guides with an official guide training and/or license are professionally trained to be a tour guide. They are able to organise and run a travel experience following official guidelines.

“We know that it’s not possible to provide an unforgettable travel experience without an excellent tour guide” – Anna Grodzki, manager of Matoke Tours Uganda.

When you are invested in good tourism , you want your travel experiences to be operated in a responsible way. Your tour guides are at the front of the operations and responsible for what actually happens during the travel experience. Therefore, it’s important they are aware and trained on your sustainability policy and practices.

In terms of sustainability, there are five main tasks of a tour guide during a travel experience. By adhering to these guidelines, they’re ensuring a responsible and good travel experience.

1. Treating local communities respectfully

Especially during community-based travel experiences, but also when simply visiting a local market, treating locals with respect is key. Tourism should benefit the local communities and provide positive impact. The tour guide sets the right example by treating locals with respect and ensuring the travellers do as well. A good guide also encourages authentic interaction.

2. Protecting the natural resources

Same as treating locals with respect, natural resources should be protected and well taken care of. This entails not touching and taking any protected flora and fauna from the environment, staying on the tracks, and always taking (plastic) waste out of nature . The guide is responsible for making sure travellers adhere the same guidelines.

Masai guide

3. Ensuring animal welfare

Travel experiences with wildlife are always sensitive and for the sake of the animals, tour guides have to make sure they’re treated well. Not only do they again set the right example, they’re also responsible for reporting mistreatment of animals. Their role is to explain to travellers why certain (captive) animal travel experiences are a no-go and highlight the animal-friendly alternatives.

4. Driving safe and responsible

When driving, the tour guide needs to follow responsible and safe driving guidelines. Keeping to the speed limits, staying on the designated roads, and turning off the engine when standing still are basic aspects. Also, the use of mobile phones is not responsible driving behaviour. In case of safaris , the guide is expected to keep a clear distance from wildlife and to always give them right of way.

5. Raising awareness and educate travellers

During the travel experience, it’s the tour guide’s responsibility all travellers behave responsibly. Even though they should already be informed before their trip, the guide’s task is to remind them and to explain certain rules and regulations. It’s about raising awareness and encouraging travellers to contribute to good tourism during their travel experience.

Nature tour guide

The most efficient way to make sure your tour guides are following your good tourism practices is training. Provide them with your sustainability policy and explain its practical implementation. Include tasks and guidelines they can relate to and also easily put into practice.

Tour guides are more likely to comply to (new) guidelines and rules if they’re part of the development process. And if they feel they’re contributing to a good cause. Organise a brainstorm session or workshop, ask for their opinion and give them a say. They have more local knowledge and can come up with interesting practices that are useful for everyone.

Best practice example

Matoke Tours’ specialised travel guide training program helps local guides excel in cultural tourism and outdoor adventure tours in Uganda.

To remind them about their training, develop a short one-page document with the practical sustainability guidelines. These guidelines can either be a reminder or a supplement of the actual training. It’s also very valuable to provide to new or freelance tour guides you’ve never worked with before.

By providing tour guides with physical guidelines, they’ll know exactly what’s expected of them on the job. Include the guidelines in their contract but also place them in the vehicles. Not only are they be reminded of it all times, but travellers also notice your effort and their commitment.

If you don’t work with local tour guides directly, make sure your local partner informs and trains them on your basic (good tourism) principles.

“90% of travellers want to experience a destination ‘like a local’ – GetYourGuide”

The significance of authenticity and personal connection

Tourism today is all about authenticity and personal connections, making incredible travel experiences possible. Beyond having knowledgeable and responsible guides, it’s the genuine stories they share that truly captivate travellers. People no longer just want to sightsee; they yearn to experience a destination “like a local.”

A recent survey by GetYourGuide revealed that 90% of travellers express a strong desire to explore a destination from a local’s perspective. Notably, over 60% of millennials emphasize the importance of authenticity in their experiences. This highlights the growing significance of genuine encounters that resonate deeply with travellers. And who could be better suited to foster these connections than knowledgeable guides who possess unique insights into the destination?

Establishing a personal connection with travellers is essential. When travellers bond with their guide, they feel at ease, allowing them to immerse themselves in local culture with curiosity and enthusiasm. The guide becomes a cherished companion, sharing personal stories, historical backgrounds, and adjusting narratives spontaneously based on the travellers’ interests.

To cultivate this essential connection, we present four key tips:

1. Showcasing guides on your website

Provide potential travellers with a glimpse into the personalities and expertise of your guides by featuring them on your website . Introduce each guide, highlight their unique backgrounds and experiences. When travellers can familiarise themselves with the guide beforehand, it boosts excitement and comfort right from the beginning of the journey.

2. Inquiring about travellers’ interests

Prioritise understanding your travellers by asking about their interests after booking. A brief, optional survey with multiple-choice questions about their favorite foods, animals, and other relevant preferences can offer valuable insights. Armed with this knowledge, your guides can create personalised experiences tailored to each individual’s interests.

3. Embrace flexibility in itineraries

To foster authentic and personalised connections, avoid strict scripts and itineraries. Allow your guides to integrate the travellers’ interests gathered from the survey and tailor the experience accordingly. While ensuring essential experiences are covered, the flexibility to accommodate spontaneous detours, such as visiting a local food market or discovering a hidden gem, will enhance overall satisfaction.

4. Encourage engaging conversations

Motivate your guides to engage in meaningful conversations with travellers throughout the experience. By actively listening to their needs, preferences, and curiosities, guides can better understand the group dynamics and adjust their storytelling accordingly. This creates an environment where open dialogue is valued, fostering cultural exchange and authentic connections.

Good and responsible tour guides are hard to find but worth so much if you have found them. Invest time or money in working with reliable partners or train guides yourself. Taking good care of your guides benefits your business and make you more successful long-term.

Committed and happy guides do their best to provide your travellers with the trip of their lifetime by taking that extra step. When done well, this results in satisfied and hopefully repeating customers.

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You have been working all days and you have been good to me and helping me with your good institution learning and guide me through good profession

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Great to see you’re benefitting from our content. Looking forward to support you in completing the online course Samuel!

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Good article on tour guide. I personally liked this article and will train our local tour guides as mentioned in this article. Once again thanks for sharing this article.

For ur kind information I’m a tour operator based here in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Very good to hear you liked the article and that you’re going to put it into practice. Good luck!

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Very practical and informative guidelines. Ii has added alot to my knowledge as tour guide.

Very good to hear Adam!

Anne de Jong

Anne de Jong

what is tourism guide

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Understanding tourism at your destination

what is tourism guide

  • Toolkit About the Sustainable Tourism Toolkit How to use this guide? Our Objective Resource Library
  • Guides Strategic foundations Guide 1: Understanding Guide 2: Strategy Guide 3: Governance Guide 4: Engagement Core Delivery Guide 5: Communication Guide 6: Infrastructure Guide 7: Value Guide 8: Behaviour Guide 9: Investment Guide 10: Monitoring
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What this guide 1 will tell you

This guide 1 will help you understand why tourism matters, some key questions you may need to ask and answer, and some ways to fill evidence gaps, such as utilising other partner's resources. Continue reading below to follow our steps to success.

Steps to success

Why this matters.

Every business school in the world teaches, 'If you can't measure it, you can't manage it'. You cannot manage tourism or help shape it in progressive ways without having a basic understanding of what it is, how it affects people and places, and what it can potentially become with some inspired and progressive interventions. To ensure the scarce resources available for tourism development and heritage protection are utilized to their full effect, it is crucial a unified understanding exists across each destination regarding what is successful, what does not work, and what sustainable opportunities exist for growth or development. Not all tourism is good tourism; some forms of tourism are much more sustainable, while others may have a negative effect on the surrounding environment if not managed properly.

Almost all potential sites can benefit from better evidence and data – this is not just a heritage management issue, but a tourism destination issue. It is necessary you work to gather this information . Other places similar to your sites have successfully addressed these questions, and often with limited resources. You may find the examples most relevant to your situation in our Resources page .

Start with the basics define your terms of reference

Be clear on where and what your 'destination' is . A destination is the physical space in which a tourist spends their holiday or vacation. It includes a full range of services, products and experiences :

  • The attractions people visit
  • The accommodation in which they stay
  • The transport arrival hubs
  • The food and drink establishments utilised
  • The retail outlets in which they shop
  • The museums and galleries they visit
  • Even the city, town, village, or homes where the local community resides.

A World Heritage site (WHS) can be a destination in itself. However, more often it is located in, or part of, a wider venue, forming the key , or one of the key, attractions of the place concerned. The UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme is based on the need to manage tourism at a destination scale – managing the issues simply within the boundaries of the World Heritage sites would be ineffective.

Defining your broader destination is extremely important in building foundations for sustainable tourism, and it can be particularly helpful to look at how other places have done this already. For example , Angkor Wat WHS is the attraction, but Siem Reap is the destination, or Uluru Kata Tjuta WHS (formerly known as Ayers Rock) is the attraction, while Alice Springs is the destination.

We offer guidance below that addresses tourism challenges at a destination scale. Therefore, it will be important to know and understand the geography of your location  - where it begins and also where it ends.

How much do you know about the destination?

Here are some basic questions you will need to answer about your destination. It may be useful to list your answers in a separate document to refer back to later.

Can you answer all of the following?

  • How many tourists do you receive per year?
  • How long do they stay in your destination?
  • Who are your tourists? Where do they come from?
  • Are you attracting the most advantageous segments of the tourism market? How do you perform relative to other comparable destinations?
  • How do tourists arrive and move around your destination? Where do they go to afterwards?
  • What are their motivations for coming? What do they know about your site?
  • What do they care about? Do they understand your outstanding universal value (OUV)?
  • What are the positive and negative social, economic, cultural, and ecological impacts caused by visitors? How do they affect the heritage management of the site?
  • Where, and by whom or what, are these impacts experienced?
  • How many people can your site/destination sustainably cope with and manage?
  • Do you understand the scale, quality, capacity, and location of your tourism infrastructure (hotels, restaurants, travel providers, food and drink, leisure, retail)?
  • How do your visitors spend their money? Who benefits from this spending? Who does not benefit?
  • Who picks up the costs of the heritage?
  • Who or what entity must be part of a partnership that would bring about positive changes to your destination?

If you cannot answer these questions , or similar questions specific to your site, you must dedicate some time to trying to find these answers before attempting to change anything. These answers will help you gather the necessary information to begin managing tourism in your location at a destination scale.

The four crucial issues you need to measure and understand, and why

Understanding tourism is the first step to managing your site more effectively. Surprisingly, few World Heritage sites collect accurate data on key tourism indicators. Good data is the key to both being able to monitor threats to the site or the host community, and ensuring interventions are effectively targeted. The following four topics are crucial to fully understanding tourism possibilities at your destination.

1) Supply side

To manage tourism effectively, destinations need to understand the supply side of the process – which involves undertaking an inventory of tourism assets and infrastructure, while assessing the scope for growth and the changes over time. The effectiveness of a destination relies on securing revenue and is heavily dependent upon the location, scale, capacity, and quality of the accommodation, transport system, food and drink, retail, leisure experiences, and visitor attractions. Every destination should have a simple and up to date inventory of its tourism assets and visitor attractions.

2) Demand side

Sites must also understand the demand side of the tourism sector :

  • How many people want to visit? Is the demand growing or declining?
  • Who are the visitors, and when do they visit?
  • Why do they come, and how long do they stay?
  • How much do they spend and what do they purchase?
  • Where do they come from?
  • What do they want to experience, and how do they learn about the site, its values, and the host community?
  • Are visitors satisfied with the experience?
  • How is all of this changing over time, and does the destination attract the most advantageous visitor segments?

This information is crucial because you may need to use it later for new investment possibilities and new or updated infrastructure . All destinations should at the very least measure visitor satisfaction levels.

3) Community voice – community impacts

It is critical that destinations think carefully about the potential positive and negative impacts that tourism may have on the host community and their intangible cultural heritage. Communicate with the host community to understand their needs, concerns, and aspirations. It is a basic tenet of sustainable tourism that host communities have a voice in shaping the tourism processes that affect them. There is tendency to think about the community's wishes after everything has already been decided – this is a grave mistake and one likely to breed mistrust and apathy on the part of local residents.

4) Heritage, cultural, social, and ecological impacts

Perhaps the most important issue when talking about World Heritage sites is understanding the heritage – what can and cannot happen in its proximity. We would hope that every site has a Heritage Management Plan that is clear about the impacts and opportunities that result from tourism, as well as the areas of concern and issues to be addressed. It is critical for effective heritage management that destination personnel understand and monitor the past, present, and potential future ecological, cultural, and social impacts of tourism. In many sites there will be ways to sustainably manage tourism and tourism growth, but site managers need to understand the point at which impacts are destructive and require intervention. The degree to which tourism businesses provide local career opportunities (with fair wages), equal opportunities, and occupational safety are important and worthy of analysis. Think carefully about 'liveability' as well as the visitor experience. It is also important to monitor risks and negative impacts over time so that areas of concern can be managed in the appropriate way at the appropriate times.

These four areas of action are critical to effective destination management . Every World Heritage site destination should evaluate their knowledge and understanding on these issues. This is not simply some form of onerous conservation regulation. It is as much about developing and managing the destination for the benefit of its businesses and host community, as it is about raising awareness concerning what can and cannot happen at sites recognised as the world's most important and valued historic places or natural landscapes.

Bring together the key data and evidence on your destination in one place

Create a simple inventory of the available evidence on tourism issues in the destination. This will save a lot of time for stakeholders and is a useful exercise for a conservation or management body, as well as for a commercial business.

Knowledge and understanding is powerful so spread it across the destination. Most tourism macro data is not market sensitive. It can usually be shared and analysed publically with no ill effects for the destination (though it may reveal certain weaknesses or difficulties if the destination is doing things less well than it should be). Surprisingly few World Heritage destinations can answer any or all of these questions with any supporting evidence. We would, therefore, recommend that you bring together any available evidence on the destination and make it accessible, as it will empower businesses and others to think strategically about the performance of the tourism sector.

Assess objectively whether enough is known about tourism in your destination

What are the gaps in your knowledge and evidence?

It will become apparent relatively quickly which key questions you cannot answer with the evidence currently available. Make a simple list of the topics you know and understand. Continue with a list of those you do not know, but think would be useful to know. This list is rather important for the stages that follow because you will be able to engage other partners in helping you fill the information gaps you find.

Who can fill the data/evidence gaps?

Identify, link, and connect different stakeholders who have an interest in better tourism. There are many ways to collect data without spending a large sum of money. Many World Heritage sites will be able to establish relationships with local or international universities, colleges, and schools, as well as private businesses willing to devote time, effort, and money to understanding tourism and its associated issues with supporting evidence. If all else fails, engaging interns and volunteers to use simple but robust survey techniques can shed light on the tourism market for the destination as a whole.

The point is that often there are other organisations willing to use the destination as a research location, creating a mutually beneficial relationship for all parties involved. Some destinations already have established Evidence and Impact Forums for interested specialist parties and academics; if asked, a surprisingly wide range of stakeholders could be interested in helping you undertake this research.

Some ways to get started

Do not be daunted by the number of things you do not know… begin your evidence gathering and analysis . You may even start to answer some of the key questions by simply buying a clipboard, standing on the street, and asking visitors some polite questions. If you can ask a couple hundred visitors the right questions , then you will begin formulating insights into tourism at your destination. Likewise, if you contact around 20 tourism businesses via face-to-face interviews or through an online survey , you will begin to create a picture of what is happening at your destination, what is working, and what is not. Simple observations can reveal a great deal – get a map and mark observations concerning crowding, litter, deterioration of the historic environment, or poor visitor experiences. Your efforts may not meet the highest standards of social science, but this is not important.

Some destinations will, of course, be well resourced to hire professional teams of experts to undertake robust analysis of these issues – and that is to be encouraged where possible – but most destinations have to do their best with a range of practical, DIY, and partner solutions. We are not demanding perfect analysis. Rather, we are arguing that some form is essential . If you are lacking an available human workforce, you may encourage visitors to fill out a short survey when booking with hotels or agencies, or leave one in their hotel rooms. If incentivised , perhaps with the possibility of winning tickets to a local show or a free dinner, it has been shown that people are far more likely to complete such surveys. The luckiest, or best-managed locations may already have a destination management organisation happy to lead a data gathering project on tourism, and their work may simply need to be influenced by heritage professionals to widen its scope.

As you gather new evidence make it public . However small your samples or tentative your conclusions, you should make these public so others can respond , help you widen the survey base, or simply disagree with your findings and replace the information with something better. Knowledge is never perfect or finished; it is the process of learning and finding the information that matters.

Assess sustainability meaningfully- can tourism ever be sustainable at your site?

Now that you are collecting and analyzing data, consider whether there are ways other than tourism to share your site and give your community a good quality of life. The global environment faces profound challenges due to our addiction to travel and the consumption of resources at unsustainable levels . Planes, trains, cars, and other forms of transport are a significant contributor to climate change through the burning of fossil fuels, and many communities face significant challenges in terms of water usage and the disposal of waste water and other solid wastes. The world is experiencing unprecedented levels of species extinction through habitat loss for food production, pollution, and over fishing, so now more than ever you need to assess whether you can justify tourism. If you are, in fact, able to do so, assess what kind of tourism can be accommodated that does not contribute negatively to the situation, either directly on a local basis or through externalities (e.g. CO2 emissions) on a global basis.

We need a new kind of tourism that does not contribute to environmental damage, climate change, pollution, and loss of ecosystems. Some sites are already making the tough decision not to open complete access to visitors. Instead they have chosen to share their stories and values through a greater online presence, or offering remote access to the site with accompanying narrative guides– for instance, St Kilda in Scotland is one example. When gathering data to understand tourism in your destination do not duck the toughest question of all – face it and think about it. If the need for tourism is so great and is effectively unavoidable for your community, then think about how you can manage or prevent its direct effects on a local basis. In parallel, find ways to offset or mitigate its externalities on a global basis, such as a scheme for carbon offsetting.

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What does an ecotourism guide do?

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What is an Ecotourism Guide?

An ecotourism guide is a specialized type of tour guide who focuses on promoting and facilitating environmentally responsible and sustainable tourism experiences. Their role is to educate and engage tourists in activities that minimize negative impacts on natural and cultural resources, while promoting conservation, preservation, and local community involvement.

Ecotourism guides have a deep understanding of the ecosystems, biodiversity, and cultural heritage of the destinations they operate in, and they use their knowledge to provide informative and educational experiences for visitors. They lead guided tours in natural areas, such as national parks, wildlife reserves, or ecologically sensitive sites, sharing their knowledge about the local flora, fauna, and ecosystems.

What does an Ecotourism Guide do?

Hikers going on an ecotour with a guide.

Through their expertise and guidance, ecotourism guides educate tourists about the significance of conservation, responsible behavior, and the need to protect natural resources. By providing immersive and educational experiences, ecotourism guides help visitors develop a deeper appreciation for the environment and local communities.

Duties and Responsibilities Here are some duties and responsibilities of ecotourism guides:

  • Environmental Education: An important role of ecotourism guides is to educate tourists about the local environment, ecosystems, and wildlife. They provide information on the area's ecological significance, biodiversity, and conservation challenges. Guides explain the importance of sustainable practices, such as minimizing waste, respecting wildlife habitats, and following designated trails or codes of conduct.
  • Guided Tours and Interpretation: Ecotourism guides lead tours in natural areas, sharing their knowledge and expertise with visitors. They provide interpretation and explanations about the flora, fauna, geology, and cultural heritage of the destination. Guides use storytelling techniques, interactive activities, and demonstrations to engage tourists and deepen their understanding of the environment. They also highlight conservation success stories, local conservation efforts, and ongoing challenges.
  • Responsible Behavior Enforcement: Guides play a crucial role in ensuring that tourists adhere to responsible behavior guidelines. They enforce regulations, such as staying on marked trails, keeping a safe distance from wildlife, and minimizing disturbance to ecosystems. Guides educate tourists about the potential impacts of their actions and encourage them to follow sustainable practices, such as proper waste disposal and using eco-friendly products.
  • Safety and Risk Management: Guides prioritize the safety of tourists during ecotourism activities. They assess potential risks, provide safety briefings, and ensure that participants have appropriate gear and equipment. Guides are trained in first aid and emergency procedures, capable of responding to unforeseen circumstances and handling emergency situations in remote areas.
  • Cultural Exchange and Community Engagement: Ecotourism guides facilitate interactions between tourists and local communities, promoting cultural exchange and respect for local traditions and customs. They act as liaisons between visitors and community members, organizing visits to local villages, showcasing traditional practices, and encouraging tourists to support local businesses and crafts.
  • Environmental Monitoring and Conservation Efforts: Guides often contribute to environmental monitoring and conservation initiatives. They may collect data on wildlife sightings, participate in habitat restoration projects, or engage in citizen science initiatives. Guides collaborate with local conservation organizations and contribute to research efforts aimed at preserving and restoring natural resources.
  • Sustainability Advocacy: Guides act as ambassadors for sustainable tourism practices. They advocate for responsible tourism within their communities, promoting the value of sustainable development and the long-term benefits of preserving natural and cultural resources. Guides may participate in community outreach programs, educational campaigns, and workshops aimed at raising awareness about sustainable practices.

Types of Ecotourism Guides Ecotourism guides have different specialized roles that depend on the specific focus and activities of the ecotourism experience. Some guides may fulfill multiple roles, combining aspects of different specialties depending on the type of experience and the specific destination.

  • Naturalist Guides: Naturalist guides have in-depth knowledge of the local flora, fauna, and ecosystems. They lead nature-focused tours, providing information about the unique biodiversity, ecological processes, and conservation challenges of the area. Naturalist guides may specialize in specific ecosystems such as rainforests, coral reefs, or savannahs, and their role involves interpreting and sharing their expertise on the natural environment with tourists.
  • Wildlife Guides: Wildlife guides specialize in guiding tours focused on observing and learning about wildlife species. They have extensive knowledge of the behavior, habitats, and conservation status of the local animal species. Wildlife guides assist in locating and identifying wildlife, explaining their ecological roles, and ensuring that tourists maintain a respectful distance to minimize disturbance. They also educate visitors about conservation efforts to protect wildlife populations.
  • Cultural Heritage Guides: Cultural heritage guides focus on showcasing the cultural and historical aspects of a destination. They lead tours that highlight local traditions, customs, historical landmarks, and archaeological sites. Cultural heritage guides provide insights into the significance of cultural practices, share stories and legends, and facilitate interactions with local communities. Their role involves fostering cross-cultural understanding and promoting respect for cultural heritage.
  • Adventure Guides: Adventure guides specialize in leading ecotourism activities that involve physical challenges and outdoor adventures. They may guide activities such as hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, or wildlife safaris. Adventure guides prioritize safety, provide instruction on proper equipment use, and ensure that participants follow responsible outdoor practices. They combine adventure experiences with education about the natural environment, conservation, and the importance of sustainable adventure tourism.
  • Sustainable Tourism Guides: Sustainable tourism guides focus on promoting and educating tourists about sustainable practices throughout their entire travel experience. They emphasize responsible behavior, eco-friendly accommodations, supporting local businesses, and minimizing the environmental footprint. Sustainable tourism guides provide information on sustainable transportation options, ethical wildlife encounters, and ways to support local conservation initiatives. Their role involves advocating for sustainable tourism principles and ensuring that tourists make informed choices that align with these principles.
  • Community-Based Guides: Community-based guides work closely with local communities and indigenous groups. They facilitate immersive experiences that provide insights into traditional lifestyles, cultural practices, and local knowledge systems. Community-based guides may lead tours that involve community visits, homestays, or participation in community development projects. They foster cultural exchange, promote fair and equitable tourism practices, and support community-based initiatives for sustainable livelihoods.

What is the workplace of an Ecotourism Guide like?

The workplace of an ecotourism guide is diverse and dynamic, primarily centered around natural environments, cultural heritage sites, and ecologically significant areas. Ecotourism guides can find themselves working in various settings, depending on the type of tour and destination.

In natural environments, such as national parks, wildlife reserves, or marine sanctuaries, the workplace of an ecotourism guide often involves outdoor settings. They may lead hiking expeditions through lush forests, conduct wildlife safaris in open savannahs, or guide snorkeling tours in coral reefs. These environments provide an immersive and ever-changing workplace, with opportunities to explore stunning landscapes, observe diverse wildlife, and engage with the elements of nature. Ecotourism guides in these settings must be knowledgeable about the local ecosystems, wildlife behavior, and safety procedures to ensure a memorable and responsible experience for tourists.

In cultural heritage sites, the workplace of an ecotourism guide often involves historic landmarks, archaeological sites, or traditional villages. They may lead guided tours through ancient ruins, share stories about the cultural significance of a particular site, or facilitate interactions between tourists and local communities. This environment provides a rich cultural backdrop for the guide's work, offering opportunities to delve into history, witness traditional practices, and engage with local customs. Ecotourism guides in cultural heritage sites must have a deep understanding of the local culture, historical context, and be able to effectively communicate the cultural significance of the site to visitors.

The workplace of an ecotourism guide can also extend to community-based tourism initiatives, where they work closely with local communities and indigenous groups. This setting allows guides to engage with community members, participate in community-led projects, and support sustainable livelihoods. It offers a unique workplace where guides have the opportunity to bridge cultural gaps, foster cross-cultural understanding, and contribute to the socio-economic development of local communities.

Regardless of the specific setting, the workplace of an ecotourism guide is characterized by a deep connection to the natural environment, cultural heritage, and the well-being of the communities they interact with. Guides often find themselves outdoors, navigating through diverse landscapes, sharing their knowledge, and providing meaningful experiences to visitors. Their workplace is not confined to an office but rather encompasses the beauty and richness of the destinations they guide, allowing them to showcase the wonders of nature and culture while promoting sustainability and responsible tourism practices.

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Tourism Marketing: A Guide to Effectively Market Your Tours and Experiences

Discover how to strategically promote your tours with our comprehensive guide on tourism marketing and elevate your brand visibility today

what is tourism guide

by Janelle Visser | 2 February 2024

If you build it, they will come, as the adage goes. But in today’s digital age, where anyone can build anything and put it online in moments, the question becomes: how will they find — and choose — you? 

In the dynamic world of tourism experiences, the key to attracting travelers lies in successfully marketing your tours, activities and attractions. And it’s not just about attracting tourists, it’s about creating unforgettable connections that turn one-time visitors into loyal advocates for your brand. 

Marketing is consistently ranked by Arival event attendees as one of the most important topics they are looking for insights on. As traveler preferences and booking habits change, so do the most effective ways to market to them. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the evolution and strategies of marketing for travel and tourism in today’s digital era, providing actionable insights for tour operators and attractions, and answering key questions that every tour operator grapples with. From crafting a marketing strategy to understanding the components of a successful tourism marketing campaign, we’ll explore how to navigate the competitive and ever-evolving landscape of tour, activity and attraction marketing, and create lasting connections with your guests.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What is Tourism Marketing?

The evolution of tourism marketing, how to create a tour marketing strategy.

  • Conduct Thorough Market Research
  • Identify Your Target Audience
  • Understand Your Customer Needs and Expectations
  • Create Unique Selling Propositions (USPs)
  • Build a Strong Brand
  • Consider Offline Marketing for Tours
  • Embrace Digital Marketing Strategies
  • Leverage Modern AI Technology
  • Take Advantage of the Current Trends
  • Monitor and Evaluate Your Strategy
  • Navigating the Future of Tourism Marketing with Arival

At its core, tourism marketing is a strategic approach to promoting destinations, tourism products and services to tourists. For operators, this primarily means promoting your tour, activity or attraction offerings. The aim is to understand and meet the needs and wants of travelers, creating memorable experiences that encourage reviews, repeat visits and referrals. 

In the context of the global tourism economy, where according to Arival’s latest data the in-destination experiences industry is expected to be worth $270 billion in 2024. Tourism marketing plays a pivotal role in the success of travel businesses, helping them to stand out above their competitors and serving as the bridge that connects them with their target audiences of travelers.

As travel marketing company Blend ’s Managing Director put it recently in an interview with Arival, “The simplest way to define [marketing] is what comes to mind when someone thinks about your brand or experience. And what you do through your marketing channels is help shape that perception.”

The landscape of marketing in tourism has undergone a profound transformation since the early 1900s when the Michelin Guide first encouraged motorists to explore the world beyond their own towns. Progressing from traditional tourism promotion methods like brochures and word-of-mouth recommendations to the digital age of Google searches and social media influencers, technology has played a pivotal role in shaping how destinations and experiences are promoted. 

what is tourism guide

Fast forward to today, where the advent of short-form video marketing and generative AI has added new dimensions, allowing every tour, activity or attraction operator to engage travelers in innovative ways. These tools provide opportunities for engagement, personalization, and storytelling that were once unimaginable, and have become integral to captivating the modern traveler.

Successful marketing for tourism starts with a well-defined marketing strategy, which will help ensure the effort and resources you put into marketing are effective. The following steps will help guide you through the creation of a marketing strategy for your tour, activity or attraction company.

1. Tour Marketing Strategy

Understanding the market is the foundation of any effective strategy. Thorough research into customer demographics, travel patterns, and consumer behaviors will provide invaluable insights as you create your marketing strategy. 

Arival conducts regular tourism market research to assist tour, activity and attraction businesses with this process. For example, Arival’s latest consumer research on the 2024 U.S. Experiences Traveler found that day tours are on the rise among U.S. travelers , and that younger millennial and Gen Z travelers in particular are moving away from traditional sightseeing tours and looking for more experiential tours , such as culinary tours and immersive experiences. See Arival’s latest research here . 

what is tourism guide

2. Identify Your Target Audience

Targeting your tourism marketing plan to a specific audience is crucial, as this will enable you to enhance the relevance of your offerings, improve engagement, and maximize the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

Identifying your target audience involves a strategic process that combines market research as described above, data analysis, competitive analysis and customer profiling. Google and social media platforms, for example, offer analytics tools that provide insights into the age, interests, geographic location and income bracket of your followers, that can help you to develop detailed buyer personas that represent your ideal customers, and create a plan to reach and engage these audiences. 

In addition, analyzing the target audience of your competitors will help you build on this and identify gaps or underserved segments in the market that your tourism marketing plan can effectively target.

what is tourism guide

3. Understand Your Customer Needs and Expectations

Conducting tourism market research and identifying your target audience will help you with this step. Once you have an idea of who your target customers are, you can discover what their needs and expectations are, and how to develop a marketing strategy to reach them effectively. 

For example, if you offer sightseeing tours and you have identified younger Millennial and Gen Z travelers from the U.S. as a demographic you want to market your tours to, you will need to go beyond sightseeing to attract this demographic, according to the latest Arival research . 

How can you make your tours more immersive and experiential, and reflect this in your marketing to engage this demographic? Anticipating and meeting your customers’ needs and expectations can lead to higher customer satisfaction, fostering reviews and repeat business. Personalization is key.

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4. Create Unique Selling Propositions (USPs)

One of the challenges a tourism marketing strategy needs to solve is how to make you stand out above your competitors. Why do tourists choose some travel experiences over others? One way to differentiate your offerings is by identifying and highlighting unique selling points (USPs) that resonate with your target audience.

Let’s say you have identified younger Millennial and Gen Z travelers as a group you’d like to target with your marketing efforts. In your city there are multiple competitors offering similar tour products to yours, however you’ve realized that this target audience has an affinity for food tours. You find a way to work elements of culinary tourism into your sightseeing tour offering and your marketing to set yourself above your competitors and offer something unique in your region.

what is tourism guide

5. Build a Strong Brand

A consistent, strong brand fosters trust and ensures your tour company is memorable in the minds of potential guests. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t recognize the logo of an apple with a bite taken out of it, or doesn’t know where the phrase “just do it” comes from. 

Brands are about more than creative logos and catchy slogans, however. Building a robust brand for your experience business involves defining a clear identity with a focused mission and incorporating those USPs described in the previous step. Then, reaching out to your target audience through engaging storytelling and content, bolstered by a strong online presence, will enable your customers to build an emotional connection with your brand. Ensuring you’re delivering high-quality customer experiences to your target audience is crucial to building trust in your brand, and encouraging positive reviews is essential to building your brand’s reputation and ensuring ongoing brand success. 

Arival Insider Pro Access members can learn more about the importance of building your brand here. 

what is tourism guide

6. Consider Offline Marketing for Tours

Before we go too deep into digital marketing in tourism, it’s important to recognize that traditional methods like print advertising, brochures, and partnerships with local businesses still have relevance and can complement digital marketing strategies.

Many travelers are still waiting to book their things to do until they are in-destination, which means there is an opportunity to meet these travelers where they are. For example, working with destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and other regional tourist organizations that operate tourist information centers can enable you as a tour or experience operator to get printed promotional material about your experiences physically in the hands of tourists looking in person for things to do. Reach out to destination marketers in your region to take advantage of this offline marketing opportunity. 

what is tourism guide

7. Embrace Digital Marketing Strategies

As travelers increasingly use digital channels to discover, plan and book their travel, operators can and should leverage a range of digital marketing strategies to effectively promote their tours and engage with potential customers. 

From Google Things to do to search engine optimization (SEO), from social media strategy to working with influencers, from effective email marketing to impactful content marketing, a strong tourism marketing plan will incorporate a variety of digital marketing elements to bring a wider audience to the top of the funnel, and engage with them throughout the funnel at various stages of their discovery, planning and booking journey.

Arival has developed a number of guides and articles to help experience operators navigate the world of digital marketing for travel and tourism. Here are a few resources:

  • An Essential Guide to SEO for Tours & Activities
  • Content Marketing
  • Your Guide to Influencer Marketing in Travel and Tourism

what is tourism guide

8. Leverage Modern AI Technology

The popularity of AI in 2024 cannot be understated, however many companies in the travel industry have been using AI in various forms long before the release of ChatGPT in late 2022 brought Generative AI, or Gen AI to the forefront. Gen AI, though, has made it a lot more accessible for travel businesses and tourism marketers without a lot of technical expertise to integrate AI to personalize customer experiences, generate targeted content, and enhance decision-making in marketing strategies for tourism. 

Many companies in the marketing for tourism space have developed tools and resources for tour, activity and attraction businesses, some of which are listed on Arival’s list of AI Resources for Experience Operators . Find out more about what’s the latest with AI in travel and how tour and attraction businesses are using it at the next Arival event. 

what is tourism guide

9. Take Advantage of the Current Trends

Staying up-to-date with the latest digital trends in marketing for travel and tourism is essential to stay relevant and get ahead of your competitors. 

For example, over the last couple of years, short-form videos on platforms like TikTok have risen dramatically as a channel for travelers — younger Millennial and Gen Z travelers in particular — to find inspiration for travel experiences. Incorporating vertical and short-form video in your tourism marketing will help you engage this audience, enabling you to meet travelers where they are online and present the experience offerings of your tour, activity or attraction company in a format your audience is familiar with.

@j_buzzi I don’t think I’ll ever get over how amazing bioluminescence is! 🤯🌌 #bioluminescence #getupandgokayaking ♬ Another Rain (From “Halo 3: ODST”) – DS Music

Justin Buzzi , founder of Get Up and Go Kayaking , jumped on the vertical video trend and attracted millions of views and over one million likes on TikTok with this short bioluminescence video.

10. Monitor and Evaluate Your Strategy

A strategy without evaluation is like a ship without a compass. Regularly assess the effectiveness of your marketing strategy using key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs to monitor the effectiveness of your marketing strategy could include website traffic, conversion rates, social media engagement, booking levels, and customer reviews and ratings. Consistent monitoring and evaluation ensure that you not only navigate the course but also make agile adjustments, keeping your strategy aligned with the ever-shifting tides of the tourism market.

1. What are the key components of a successful tour marketing campaign?

Success lies in a well-researched strategy with clear targeting built on tourism market research, compelling USPs that speak to the needs and expectations of your target audience, and a strong brand built on a balanced mix of offline and digital marketing, as well as a compelling tourism experience product itself. All of these components work together to make for a successful marketing strategy. 

2. How often should I reevaluate and update my tourism marketing strategy?

In the world of tourism marketing, trends and traveler preferences change rapidly. Check in regularly with travel trends (and let Arival research guide you). While you might evaluate the effectiveness of your overall strategies quarterly to stay responsive to market changes and ensure your strategy remains effective, more frequent monitoring of individual social media channels, website KPIs and SEO will help you be that much more effective.

3. How can I optimize my website for tour marketing purposes?

Your website is your digital storefront. Prioritize content marketing , then optimize for search engines ( learn more about SEO here ), ensure seamless user-friendly navigation and online booking system capabilities for both computer and mobile booking , incorporate visually captivating elements like photos and videos, keep your pricing and product listings up to date, and update your content regularly. 

4. Are there any specific strategies to attract international tourists?

To attract international tourists, consider ways to tailor your marketing messages for the specific regional audiences you’re interested in reaching. Look at tourism market research and trends for the different regions you intend to target — what works in the U.S. might not work in Asia and vice versa. Your local and regional destination marketing organizations (DMOs) may be able to help with this, as destination marketers often conduct research on the international travelers coming to your destination. Consider utilizing multilingual content to reach a broader range of potential travelers, and explore partnerships with international travel agencies. Check out Arival’s list of OTAs organized by geographic region to help you identify potential distribution partners in other languages and regions.

5. How important are customer reviews and testimonials in tour marketing?

Customer reviews and testimonials play a crucial role in tour marketing, acting as powerful social proof that influences potential customers. Positive reviews build credibility and trust, addressing concerns and reservations prospective customers may have. Encourage your satisfied customers to share their experiences on platforms like TripAdvisor or Google, or wherever they booked, and don’t forget to respond to these reviews, whether positive or negative.

6. What are some unique challenges in tourism marketing compared to other industries?

Tourism marketing faces unique challenges such as seasonality, unpredictable external factors (e.g., natural disasters ), and the need for real-time adaptability to changing travel trends. High competition demands innovative strategies to stand out, and the reliance on positive word-of-mouth makes ensuring customer satisfaction even in the face of unpredictable challenges critical. 

7. How can I use tourism marketing to cope with seasonal fluctuations in the industry?

To cope with seasonal fluctuations, craft seasonal promotions, diversify offerings to match changing preferences, and use marketing to highlight the unique experiences available during different seasons. Some strategies include implementing targeted off-season promotions, creating incentives for bookings during slower periods, and developing themed tours or events that align with seasonal interests and capitalize on festivals or holidays. Implementing dynamic pricing strategies , where prices vary based on demand, can also help maximize revenue during peak seasons and encourage more visitation during slower periods.

Navigating the Future of Tourism Marketing With Arival

Success in tourism marketing lies in learning about your audience, developing practical strategies to reach them, constant adaptation to keep up with changing market conditions and traveler trends, and utilizing tools and research like what Arival provides to stay ahead in a competitive landscape. 

Keep in mind that you don’t have to do this alone. There are multiple marketing agencies out there that specialize in marketing for travel and tourism companies, with some even focusing specifically on tours, activities and attractions. Check out our curated list of the tourism marketing agencies for tours and attractions here. 

Even better, join us at the next Arival event where we’ll dive into the latest tourism market research insights and trends in travel experiences, and share practical tourism marketing strategies and other actionable takeaways to help you reach your target markets, increase your bookings and grow your business.  

Become an Insider Pro Access member today and get access to the full library of Arival research, plus many other benefits such as free consulting sessions, special discounts and 20% off in-person events, starting from $179 per year.

Sign up to receive insights tailored for the in-destination industry as well as updates on Arival.

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A Complete Guide To Understanding Ecotourism

Terms like ecotourism, green tourism, and sustainable tourism have been popping up in discussions easily, and unfortunately, they are being used interchangeably. Here, we will take a look at what is ecotourism and what are the principles of ecotourism.


Over the years, ecotourism has been gaining a lot of importance, especially considering that more and more travellers are looking to be more responsible and follow environment-friendly practices. However, many are still not clear about exactly what is ecotourism or the principles of ecotourism. There is a misconception that ecotourism, green tourism, and sustainable tourism are the same thing, and while they all promote responsible tourism, they all mean different things and have different scopes.

In this article, while trying to give a deeper understanding of what is ecotourism, we will give you information about ecotourism like the meaning of ecotourism, ecotourism tourism definition, and the principles of ecotourism. By the end of this article, we hope you will have a clearer understanding of the term and its evolution.

Also read: What is the difference between eco tourism, green tourism and sustainable tourism?

What Is Ecotourism?

Eco-tourism or ecological tourism has been defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES, 2015). To answer the question “What is ecotourism?” in a simpler way, it is a form of tourism that is about going out into the natural world and is more about what you do in a place than where you stay. It is more than just travelling around the whole world and sightseeing.

It is the kind of tourism where fragile and/or pristine natural environments are visited in a way that the impact of the visit is minimised. The environment and local communities should benefit in such a way that the latter is motivated to keep the local environment pristine.

Another way to explain what is ecotourism is to say that it involves travel to places where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the main attractions. It supports conservation efforts through the education of tourists, giving them an insight into the human impact on the environment, and helping them gain a better appreciation of natural habitats. It may also benefit the environment through direct investment in conservation efforts.

Also read: 10 simple ways to become a responsible traveller

History Of Ecotourism

Understanding Ecotourism

Although the term ecotourism has been gaining popularity in recent years, it is not a new concept. However, there is no clarity as to the origins of the term as there are several different claims as to when it came into use.

Some claim that the term ecotourism was popularised by Hector Ceballos-Lascurian, who also claimed to have coined the term in the year 1983. This is when he was in the dual role of founding president of PRONATURA (an influential Mexican conservationist NGO) and Director General of Standards and Technology of SEDUE (the Mexican Ministry of Urban Development and Ecology). To him, ecotourism meant travelling to undisturbed areas to enjoy the natural beauty and culture. Later, in 1984, he founded ECOTOURS, Mexico’s first ecotourism agency. Ceballos-Lascurian even served as an Ecotourism Advisor to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the United Nations World Tourism Organisation for many years.

Some others claim that the term was coined in 1965 by Claus-Dieter (Nick) Hetzer, who was an academic and adventurer from the Forum International, Berkeley, USA. He is also believed to have run the first eco-tours in Yucatán in the early 1970s.

[What is an eco-tour?: Tours that involve visits to scenic or remote natural areas and are designed to minimise negative impacts on the environment and local inhabitants.]

There is another claim that eco tourism originated even earlier, in 1901 in fact, with the Sierra Club’s Outing program. These were annual expeditions that took hikers into the Sierra Nevada’s backcountry, showing them its natural wonders so that they could actively work for the preservation of the forests.

Over the past decades, there have been many icons of ecotourism and now, this form of tourism has been gaining a lot of importance. Ecotourism is considered to be one of the fastest-growing tourism sectors in the industry (about 5 percent annually) and there are no signs of it slowing down, even though more traditional forms of tourism have seen a stagnation.

Principles Of Ecotourism

Now that we have seen what is ecotourism and taken a look at its history, we will go over the principles that guide the ecotourism industry. Ecotourism is essentially about bringing together communities, conservation, and sustainable travel.

Many tour packages are being classified as “eco-tours” even though they do not emphasise conservation, education, or social and cultural participation, and low impact on the places visited. Therefore, to help you understand which tours are actually eco-tours, here are the principles of ecotourism:

1. Building Environmental And Cultural Awareness And Respect

group of tourists listening to a male tour guide speaking in a rural area in Kerala, India, what is ecotourism

The major focus of ecotourism is to sensitise people towards environmental issues, improve awareness, and encourage people to be conscious of the effect on the places they visit. Following this principle, a few tour operators create educational programs on conservation for local schools. Interpretive guides, naturalists, and guest lecturers are also offered by other operators to help visitors get a deeper understanding of their experiences. Some operators also offer immersive interactions with local cultures (that are becoming more common) that emphasise proper interactions instead of a usual performer-audience relationship.

2. Minimize Physical, Social, Behavioural, And Psychological Impacts By Operating Low-Impact Eco Tours

Family on a backpacking trip, what is ecotourism

The ecotourism industry’s focus is sustainability, and minimising the negative impact that conventional tourism leaves on the environment. Over time, however, the concept has evolved to include making a positive impact, rather than merely having a neutral impact on the environment and the locals. Maintaining small groups and avoiding under-managed or over-visited destinations is a good way to minimise the impact of the group on the areas visited.

3. Provide Direct Financial Benefits For Conservation

Biggest Cats, Bengal Tiger in Sundarbans tiger reserves in india, what is ecotourism

One of the main objectives of ecotourism is to help local conservation efforts by inviting financial benefits. Visiting national parks is one way for tourists to contribute towards the conservation of nature and wildlife. When ecotourism gains more importance and practitioners, more revenue generation opportunities are created that are environmentally better alternatives to urbanisation, deforestation, unsustainable agriculture, and poaching.

Also read: How to be a more responsible wildlife tourist

4. Generate Financial Benefits For Locals And Private Industry

Women collecting tea leaves in Southern India, Kerala

Another important principle of ecotourism is the generation of financial benefits for local communities. Through direct or indirect means, locals must get the financial benefits of eco-tourism. This could be through tours, admission fees, donations, and taxes on travel and accommodation. Community tours are a good way to generate financial benefits for local communities.

5. Deliver Memorable Interpretative Experiences For The Visitors

Group of tourists helping tea pickers harvest fresh tea leaves from a tea plantation in Kerala, India

Although ecotourism is geared towards reducing a negative impact on the environment and the local communities and generating a positive impact on the same, it doesn’t mean that the tours have to be all about work. Any tour (conventional or not) should be designed in such a way that visitors should enjoy their trip. If the eco-tours are tough and/or too boring, there is a fair chance that many may start losing interest in more responsible tour packages, thereby having a negative impact on the communities that depend on these tours.

6. Recognise The Rights And Spiritual Beliefs Of The Indigenous People And Work With Them

Rajasthani women posing for a photo, what is ecotourism

Tourists who are part of eco-tours are encouraged to respect the rights and spiritual beliefs of the locals/indigenous population of the destinations instead of just getting in their faces and taking their photos without their permission. Like any other individual, the local communities value their privacy and it would always be better to first interact and have meaningful conversations with them and, only once permission is received, take a picture of them.

Beware Of Greenwashing!

While you are in safe waters when you practice ecotourism, sustainable tourism, or responsible (all of which are eco-friendly), you must always be careful of tour operators and tourism companies that only pretend to be eco-friendly in order to attract more business, a practice widely known as greenwashing. A good way to make sure that the company or tour operator to whom you are giving your business is legitimately eco-friendly, you will have to do a bit of digging and gathering of all the facts. Once you are convinced that the company is legitimate, go ahead and book your eco-tour and contribute to a better and happier world.

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Buses and minibuses in a parking lot. The sky is dark blue, and a few stars are visible.

Aurora Tourism in Iceland: You Can Seek, but You May Not Find

The country markets itself as a destination to see the northern lights — especially this year, which is a peak time for solar activity. But they can be elusive, as one writer recently found.

In Reykjavík, Iceland, aurora borealis tourism is a booming business. Hopeful tourists board buses to head out into the night in search of the northern lights. Credit... Sigga Ella for The New York Times

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By Amelia Nierenberg

Amelia Nierenberg spent four nights searching for the northern lights in Iceland.

  • March 25, 2024

From the outside, it may seem like the northern lights dance across Iceland’s skies each night. On Icelandair ads, planes fly across shimmering curtains in the sky. On social media, travelers gaze at the green bands above them . The lights are even on some recycling bins in Reykjavík, the capital: “Keep Iceland Clean.”

In the past decade or so, an aurora borealis industrial complex has boomed in Iceland. Many rent a car and go out on their own, but there are northern lights big bus tours and northern lights minibus tours and northern lights Super Jeep tours . There are private guides and boat cruises . There’s an observatory base camp . There’s even a museum .

Tourists line up outside a red minibus in the twilight. Behind them, there is a light green statue that is illuminated.

But the lights can be elusive.

“Tourists sometimes expect, like, ‘At what time do you turn them on?’” said Björn Saevar Einarsson, a forecaster at Iceland’s meteorological office , chuckling. “Like we have a switch in the back room.”

This year, the letdowns are especially intense.

The northern lights, which are also called the aurora borealis, are most visible when there are solar flares, which are big eruptions on the sun that send charged particles toward Earth. This year, the sun is approaching the peak of its 11-year cycle of activity , which some assume means that the displays could peak, too.

But the enhanced solar activity doesn’t necessarily mean the northern lights will be brighter or more frequent, scientists wearily explain. Instead, they mostly mean that the lights can be seen farther south than usual: In recent months, they have been visible in Arizona , Missouri and southern England .

That doesn’t mean much for Iceland.

In fact, Icelanders and scientists said, this winter is nothing special. Sometimes, the lights are there. Sometimes, they aren’t. Just like always.

Hunting the lights

But nothing special, with the northern lights, is still very special. And so tourists keep coming .

Last month, I joined the fray. For four nights, I looked for telltale sky shimmers in and around Reykjavík.

I booked my tickets riding high — this was the best year yet, right? But as I learned more, and as my flight neared, my hopes ebbed. Scientists and tour leaders gently told me that the skies were cloudy and the solar activity seemed quiet.

“Just to let you know the forecast doesn’t look too good” Inga Dís Richter, the chief commercial officer at Icelandia , a tourism agency, wrote in an email two days before I planned to take a minibus trip with Reykjavik Excursions , one of its tour operators.

“But,” she added, “this can change.”

To find the lights, guides and travelers often rely on aurora forecasts, which overlay cloud cover and solar activity. They check them constantly, like a bride with an outdoor wedding in mid-April.

Some of the forecasts are free, like the aurora forecast run by Iceland’s meteorological office or Iceland at Night , which includes space weather. (Some are not — Aurora Forecast , which costs $12.99 a year, sends alerts.) Many people also turn to Facebook pages , where enthusiasts hungrily swap sightings.

Luck, though, is everything.

“There’s only one thing less predictable with the northern lights, and that’s the Arctic weather,” said John Mason, a global expert on the northern lights. “An aurora forecast is barely worth the paper that it’s written on.”

The guides work hard to explain the science, and set expectations. Most companies offer a free rebooking option if the lights do not show.

On my first night of aurora stalking, despite Ms. Richter’s warnings, I joined an expectant group on the Reykjavík Excursions minibus. For $88, I got a seat on the 19-person bus, which left the city’s central bus station at 9:30 p.m.

Over the next three to four hours, we would drive through the Icelandic night together. I’d either see something astonishing with these strangers — the sky, banded with light — or shiver with them shoulder-to-shoulder, awkward in the cold.

As we pulled onto the road, Gudjon Gunnarsson, the guide, set the mood early. “We are going hunting for the lights,” he said, emphasizing the word “hunting,” “similar to going out fishing in a lake.”

He drove for about 45 minutes, letting Reykjavík’s glow fade behind us. The city has about 140,000 people, and no real skyscrapers, so there’s limited light pollution. Although the northern lights can appear over the city, it’s best to see them in total darkness.

Then he paused and consulted with another guide.

“It is too cloudy here,” he told his flock. “So we will keep driving.”

But as we kept driving, clouds turned to a dense fog, so thick that the moon all but disappeared.

Mr. Gunnarsson turned off the main highway about an hour after we left Reykjavík. He parked in a parking lot. Or maybe it was a side street? The darkness was so deep that I could only make out the moonlight on the ocean, and only then after my eyes adjusted.

We disembarked and stood dutifully beside him, staring up at the sky. Then, one woman pointed toward Reykjavík. Were those the lights? (No. That was light pollution.)

Christof Reinhard, 65, who owns a medical laser company and was visiting with his family from Paris, mused that our search was a little bit like a safari. Sure, the desert is amazing, but it’s much better with lions. Or, maybe, was this more like a whale watch?

“Instead of a boat,” he said, “you have a bus.”

Mr. Gunnarsson watched the group stomp their feet and bend into the wind. Fifteen minutes. Then, half an hour. The clouds hung thick above. “There’s nothing happening here, as you can see,” he finally said to relieved chuckles. “It’s one of those nights where you just have to give up.”

Tourists can get mad, Mr. Gunnarsson and other guides said. It’s rare, but it does happen.

“It’s the trip that has our worst reviews,” said Eric Larimer, the digital marketing manager for Gray Line Iceland , a day tour and airport transport company.

A wake-up call for the aurora

For some, the joy is in the search, even if there is no find. A few focus on astronomy, often opting to stay at Hotel Rangá , which is just off the main ring road (Route 1) near Iceland’s south coast.

The hotel looks unassuming — low-slung and wooden — but it’s one of the most famous in Iceland. (The Kardashians stayed there . So did the Real Housewives of Orange County .) A standard room costs more than $300, depending on the season.

But Rangá doesn’t just cater to celebrities. It also draws astronomy buffs, enticed by its “aurora wake-up call” service and its observatory, which has state-of-the-art telescopes.

“One thing is to sell them,” said Fridrik Pálsson, the hotel’s owner, speaking of the northern lights. “Another thing is to deliver them.”

About 20 years ago, before the northern lights industry took off, he delegated the night security guard to monitor the sky. The guard pokes his head out every few minutes to look for the telltale flicker. If he sees the lights, he alerts the guests.

The service aims to address one of the main issues with hunting for the northern lights: They are usually only visible on winter nights, when it is very cold, very windy and very late.

“To be a good northern lights observer, you need the constitution of an insomniac polar bear,” Dr. Mason said.

My room phone, alas, stayed silent. But I did dream about the lights — great Wonka colors swirling, strangely, behind the Chrysler Building.

Mr. Pálsson built the observatory, too. Even if the lights didn’t show up, he figured, the stars are still magnificent — and, for city dwellers, also rare. The hotel contracts astronomers to work the telescopes and explain the stars to guests.On my second night in Iceland, as twilight slipped below happy-hour skies, I crunched across the snow to the observatory with Saevar Helgi Bragason, an Icelandic science communicator who leads the astronomy program.

He bent into a toddler-size telescope, focusing it on the moon’s craters. They looked clearer than the hotel, just a short walk away. It was too early for the lights, he said. And that evening seemed too cloudy (on Earth) and too quiet (on the sun).

Mr. Bragason joked that the lights can get in his way — they create a mist over the stars he really wants to see. But tourists often come specifically to see them. And sometimes, he said, as they wait impatiently, they can miss the real wonder.

“You’re left with these beautiful skies above you,” he said. “Basically, literally, another universe opens up.”

Creating a lights season

Hotel Rangá was a pioneer in Iceland’s northern lights tourism industry: About two decades ago, people came to Iceland for the long summer days, and left as daylight slipped farther south.

“I found it rather stupid in the beginning,” admitted Mr. Pálsson, the owner of Rangá, speaking of northern lights tourism.

But spreading tourism throughout the year made sense. Partly, that was an environmental concern. The tourists would crowd the country’s extraordinary natural sites over just a few months. It was also economic. When the visitors left Iceland, tourism jobs would ebb with the sunlight.

So the northern lights, which are reliably visible from September to March, became the backbone of the country’s winter branding, said Sveinn Birkir Björnsson, the marketing and communications director at Business Iceland , which promotes the country.

“To be able to sell this product of cold and darkness, you have to have something to offer,” he said.

Now, even though June, July and August are the busiest months, tourism has evened out over the seasons. In 2023, there were about 1.1 million international visitors to Iceland during the aurora months, based on departures from Keflavík Airport, according to data from Iceland’s tourist board . From April to August, there were about 1.1 million, too.

About a decade earlier , when tourism overall to Iceland was lower, there were about 336,000 departures from the main airport in colder months, and about 446,000 in the spring and summer.

The winter travelers are drawn by the lights — and the hot springs, glaciers and icy waterfalls. It’s also cheaper than the summer season.

Some try to visit volcanoes , but the country recently warned tourists to avoid the lava flows — Iceland is living in an unusually active period of seismic activity . In January, lava flowed into a small town and last week a volcano erupted with just 40 minutes’ notice near the Blue Lagoon thermal springs, one of the country’s biggest attractions.

The final attempts

Near midnight on my last night, a Sunday, I drove to the Grótta Lighthouse , a popular spot on the outskirts of Reykjavík.

A few die-hard experts had warned me off — many tourists go there because it’s darker than most of Reykjavík, but then don’t think to turn off their headlights. It was also raining, greatly diminishing my chances of seeing the lights.

But I only had three hours before I had to leave to make my predawn flight. I felt a little desperate, a little dazed. I parked, and approached two people who were sitting in the rain on a wet wall, looking at the water in the darkness. I climbed over seaweed, and introduced myself. What would it mean to them, I asked, if the lights suddenly appeared?

“It’d be a little bit like the cherry on top,” said Catherine Norburn, 29, who was visiting from England.

She and her husband were set to fly out the next morning. They had not yet seen the lights.

“We don’t have high hopes,” said her husband, Reece Norburn, 29, “but it’s now or never.”

We didn’t see the lights. And I didn’t see them later, even after pulling off the highway halfway between Reykjavík and the airport at 3:30 a.m., half convinced by a shimmery cloud.

But I did spend more time looking up at the sky. And it’s a marvel.

In New York City, where I live, the night sky blooms orange-mauve. In Iceland, the nighttime darkness is just that — darkness. Clouds roll, breaking the deep blue. Stars actually shine. Northern lights or no northern lights, it was still cosmically beautiful.

Amelia Nierenberg writes the Asia Pacific Morning Briefing , a global newsletter. More about Amelia Nierenberg

Open Up Your World

Considering a trip, or just some armchair traveling here are some ideas..

Italy :  Spend 36 hours in Florence , seeking out its lesser-known pockets.

Southern California :  Skip the freeways to explore the back roads between Los Angeles and Los Olivos , a 100-mile route that meanders through mountains, canyons and star-studded enclaves.

Mongolia : Some young people, searching for less curated travel experiences, are flocking to the open spaces of this East Asian nation .

Romania :  Timisoara  may be the most noteworthy city you’ve probably never heard of , offering just enough for visitors to fill two or three days.

India: A writer fulfilled a lifelong dream of visiting Darjeeling, in the Himalayan foothills , taking in the tea gardens and riding a train through the hills.

52 Places:  Why do we travel? For food, culture, adventure, natural beauty? Our 2024 list has all those elements, and more .


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A guide to Ghent, Belgium's rebellious, unsung city

Youthful and rebellious, Ghent is stepping out of Bruges’s shadow as a Belgian canal-side classic

A view of Ghent's three towers of the Belfry, St Nicholas' Church and St Bavo's Cathedral from St Michael's Bridge.

In the 16th century, Ghent lost it all on the wrong bet. Built around rivers and canals, it was Europe’s second-largest urban centre, falling just behind Paris. When Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who ruled over Belgium, raised taxes to fund military action abroad, the city refused to pay out. They’d already given a fair share, locals argued, and surely Charles, who had been born in Ghent, wouldn’t turn on his home. In response, he marched into the city with his army, stripping it of its finery and parading its leaders in their undershirts, nooses around their necks.  

Today, you can find evidence of the city’s illustrious past in its historical centre, home to a UNESCO-listed belfry and the Gravensteen, a stone fortress said to have been inspired by Crusader castles. And while its heyday is now behind it, Ghentians proudly tell the story of their fall from grace as proof of their rebellious streak.  

This spirit survived, the sign of a place that’s at ease with its identity: socially conscious and full of fresh ideas. Initiatives like Nucleo are repurposing empty spaces into artists’ studios, and inviting the public to peer in once a year — in 2024, the open day is on 5 May. Meanwhile, chefs are experimenting with the earth’s pantry, casting Ghent as a European vegetarian capital. This energy is partly due to it being Flanders’ biggest university city: out of some 267,000 residents, over a quarter are students. This ensures a near endless supply of speciality-roast coffee in the Overpoort student district, and nightlife ranging from candle-lit wine bars to sweaty warehouses, reverberating with the kind of techno more often associated with Berlin.  

The city was named 2024 European Youth Capital by the European Youth Forum — and it’s no surprise. In April, it will celebrate the accolade as part of the biennial Ghent International Festival, which will feature opera as well as dancers on roller-skates. Events will continue throughout the year, with locals as young as 15 invited to contribute ideas. As for what they’ll come up with, all bets are off.

Street sculpture by Belgian artist Michaël Borreman, who lives and works in Ghent. It shows four faceless people huddled together, their heads touching, in the middle of a street.

What to see and do

1. Historic quays If you’ve seen photos of Ghent before, chances are they’re of the Graslei and Korenlei. Once the city’s centre of trade, these quays remain a hub of activity, lined with cafe terraces and moorings for boat tours. They’re the gateway to the historical centre, as well as the neighbourhoods of Patershol, a former working-class district turned culinary hotspot, and Prinsenhof, a residential area that was once home to royalty.

2. The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb This altarpiece by the Van Eyck brothers is the most stolen artwork of all time — it was even robbed by Napoleon, and over the years, it’s been forged and almost destroyed. It marked the transition from Middle Ages to Renaissance in Flemish art: admire its genre-defining details at St Bavo’s Cathedral , where a VR tour leads visitors through its history.

3. Street art Ever since a historical centre passageway — now known as Graffiti Alley — was given over to street artists in the 1990s, murals have claimed Ghent like vines. Free to download, the ‘Sorry, Not Sorry’ map pinpoints some of the most famous. Pieces from homegrown talent include the rabbits by big-name ROA on Tempelhof and the foxes on Napoleon Destanbergstraat, which helped artist Kitsune make a name for herself.  

4. Dok Noord In the city’s northern reaches, an old factory complex has been turned into Dok Noord, one of Ghent’s newest leisure and office developments. Its main draw is Hal 16, a food hall in a former brick warehouse. Try barbecued dishes or Italian specialities including mafaldine pasta with octopus ragu, then quench your thirst at Dok Brewing Company. There are 30 beers on tap, but Waar is Loca, a pale ale brewed on site, is a crowd favourite.  

5. Museum of Industry Belgium was the first country in mainland Europe where the Industrial Revolution took hold. Housed inside a former cotton mill, this museum traces Ghent’s rise to textile powerhouse. The star of the collection is Belgium’s first spinning mule, a machine created to speed up yarn production: local Lieven Bauwens smuggled its components out of the UK, as export of such machinery had been banned.

Visitors admire The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb altarpiece inside St Bavo's Cathedral.

Where to eat in Ghent

1. Knol & Kool The choice at this vegan cafe, a few steps from the belfry, ranges from vegetable lasagne with rocket pesto and almond parmesan to bánh mì overstuffed with tofu, pickled carrot and red cabbage. Check out the on-site vegan minimarket for hibiscus-flavoured beer, green leek miso paste and nut cheese made locally.

2. Lepelblad This modern restaurant in tranquil Onderbergen, near the historical centre, works with local farmers and small producers to celebrate the season’s bounty. The menu might change depending on the day’s supply, but expect dishes like chicory tarte tatin with onion cream and mustard salad or marinated beef with salsify, soy and herbs. Each comes with a recommended wine and beer pairing.  

3. Oak This one-Michelin-starred restaurant is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a refurbished look but has retained the minimalist, dark-toned decor that lets its menu shine. Brazilian chef Marcelo Ballardin’s multi-course menus lean into his international background with creations such as mackerel with Philippine calamansi lime or sea bass with tucupi sauce, extracted from wild manioc root in the Amazon rainforest.

what is tourism guide

Where to go shopping  

1. Home Linen This boutique on the Korenlei has been crafting its own designs since the 19th century. A lavender scent permeates the space, which sells lace tablecloths decorated with red lobsters, retro night gowns and children’s dresses embroidered with rosebuds. It’s all reasonably priced, despite Belgian linen being renowned for its softness.

2. Antiques Ghent has a seemingly endless assortment of vintage shops. Located opposite each other on central Baudelostraat, Antiek-Depot has overflowing shelves of curios, while Moca has ceilings hung with chairs and tambourines. For more precise perusing, Galerie St-John has a pedigree selection of cutlery, porcelains and Belgian paintings, all housed in a former baroque church.      

3. Sweets & condiments While Belgium is known for waffles and chocolate, Ghentians will recommend different specialities. Cuberdons are nose-shaped hard candies filled with fruit syrup; get a packet at Patershol’s Confiserie Temmerman , which dates to 1904. Even older is Tierenteyn-Verlent in the historical centre, selling a locally famous mustard made using a secret recipe.  

Confiserie Temmerman in Petrshol.

After hours

1. ‘t Dreupelkot It’s been over four decades since Paul Rysenaer opened this pint-sized pub a few steps from the Graslei, where barrels serve as high tables and wood cabinets display shot glasses. Head here to try jenever, a juniper-flavoured Belgian and Dutch spirit: there are some 200 varieties on the shelves, some distilled by Paul himself.

2. The Cobbler Walk up a spiral staircase and into this low-lit cocktail bar within 1898 The Post hotel , one of the city’s trendiest addresses. It’s hard to say what’s better: the location on the Graslei, overlooking gothic St Nicholas’ Church, or its signature concoctions. Try the fruity pear sonata with vodka, Cointreau, cassis and pear, or the herbal downstairs harry, a mix of rum, cognac, vermouth, Chartreuse, maple syrup and sage.

3. Jazz clubs A UNESCO Creative City of Music, Ghent has a special affinity with jazz. Every July, Gent Jazz takes over a former 13th-century hospital with performances by the likes of Gregory Porter and Norah Jones, but you’ll find sessions to jam out to all year. Hot Club Gent , an intimate bar, and Missy Sippy , a self-styled ‘modern juke joint’, are good places to start in the historical centre.    

A barman at The Cobbler, the cocktail bar of 1898 The Post hotel.

Like a local

1. Portus Ganda Ghent’s name comes from ganda, Celtic for ‘confluence’. The city was founded where the rivers Lys and Scheldt meet; when the Graslei and Koreneli get too busy, follow the canals to this very spot, now a tranquil marina. If visiting in warm months, detour to St Bavo’s Abbey, where hornbeam bushes mark the outline of a long-lost church.  

2. The Bakery When pastry chef Joost Arijs set up a chocolate shop in SoGo — Ghent’s shopping district — in 2011, it was quickly named Belgium’s best by restaurant guide Gault & Millau. Opened down the road in 2023, his follow-up bakery was always going to draw in curious locals but, a year on, the morning queues show no sign of subsiding. Come early to have your pick of the crispiest croissants.  

3. Veggie Thursdays In 2009, Ghent was the first city in the world to introduce a weekly meat-free day — an initiative that’s since been replicated from Taipei to Los Angeles. Take part yourself at Boon , an airy, Scandi-chic vegetarian lunch bar opposite the Gravensteen. The seasonal soups, salads and slices of quiche will have you coming back for more no matter what day of the week it is.

Where to stay in Ghent

1. Ganda Rooms and Suites You’ll be hard-pressed to find better value for money than this B & B, set in an 18th-century townhouse in the historical centre. The eight rooms retain original mantelpieces and wooden beams, and the owners worked with artisans to furnish them with bespoke beds and Belgian art.

2. Pillows Grand Hotel Reylof True to its former life as a baronial residence, this four-star hotel dazzles at first sight with a sweeping staircase in its marbled, neoclassical lobby. Set in a separate building, the 157 rooms are a more pared-back affair, but with common areas including a library and a bijou spa in what was a carriage house — plus the Graslei a stone’s throw away — there’s more than enough to keep you busy.

3.   Hotel Verhaegen Frescoes, a landscaped garden, a bath house with vaulted ceilings: there’s nothing subtle about this city palace, a short walk from the historical centre. It was reimagined as a four-room guesthouse by a pair of interior designers, who combined hand-picked antiques with 21st-century touches. Splurge on the Suite des Annees ’40 — though at some 750sq ft, the term ‘suite’ hardly does it justice.  

Inside Ganda Rooms and Suites, a B&B set in an 18th-century townhouse.

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When is the 2024 total solar eclipse? Your guide to glasses, forecast, where to watch.

We're less than two weeks away from the astronomical event of the decade: A total eclipse of the sun , which will grace the nation's skies from Texas to Maine on the afternoon of Monday, April 8 .

Millions of people are expected to travel to see the spectacle, which will also attract scientists from across the country to study its unique effects . (Meanwhile, brands such as Burger King, Pizza Hut, Applebee's and Sonic are getting in on the eclipse excitement too.)

The full total solar eclipse experience will plunge people along a narrow path into darkness midday, but people outside the path of totality can still use eclipse glasses to see the moon pass in front of the sun. It's an awesome and confusing sight on the ground and in the sky.

One task to do now is to get yourself a pair of special eclipse glasses , which will be required on eclipse day to block out the sun's harmful rays. Fortunately, solar eclipse glasses are still readily available from plenty of vendors across the internet as of Wednesday, March 27. But be wary of counterfeit or fake glasses , experts warned. See below for more details about eclipse glasses.

The other big factor everyone's anxiously awaiting is the weather forecast, which most experts say is still a bit far away for a specific or even general forecast, though that hasn't stopped some meteorologists from issuing them already. But more detailed, realistic forecasts will start to roll in over the next few days.

USA TODAY 10Best: 10 solar eclipse fun facts to share with your friends

There's plenty to know before the big day, which won't happen again for about two decades . Read on for answers for all your eclipse questions, including how to watch the eclipse , understand the eclipse and use eclipse glasses to stay safe .


How do i watch the 2024 solar eclipse.

There are a few ways of watching the eclipse:

  • Get the full experience in person : If you're in a narrow band of U.S. land that spans from Texas to Maine, you will see the moon block the sun and its shadow cast a night-like darkness over Earth for a few minutes. You'll briefly be able to look up without eye protection and see the moon block the sun.
  • Watch from outside the path of totality : Much of the U.S. will get a partial view of the eclipse that isn't nearly as impressive as being in the path of totality. Earth won't be plunged into complete darkness and you'll have to wear protective eyewear to see the moon partially block the sun.
  • Watch a livestream : Check back on April 8 for a video feed from the path of totality. It's not the same as being there in person, but hey, at least you won't have to sit in traffic .

What time is the solar eclipse on April 8?

The eclipse will begin in Texas at 1:27 p.m. CDT and end in Maine at 3:35 p.m. EDT, but the exact time of the eclipse varies by where you are in its path.

You can search by zip code to find the exact time for your location.

Where will the April eclipse be visible?

All of the lower 48 U.S. states will see the moon at least clip the sun, but that sight is a trifle compared to being in the path of totality.

Because the narrow path includes or is near some of the nation's largest cities, expect millions of people to crowd into a band of land a little over 100 miles wide that spans from the Texas/Mexico border to the Maine/Canada border.

Here are the major cities in each state where you can expect to experience totality (note that the included times do not account for when the partial eclipse begins and ends):

  • Dallas, Texas: 1:40-1:44 p.m. CDT
  • Idabel, Oklahoma: 1:45-1:49 p.m. CDT
  • Little Rock, Arkansas: 1:51-1:54 p.m. CDT
  • Poplar Bluff, Missouri: 1:56-2:00 p.m. CDT
  • Paducah, Kentucky: 2-2:02 p.m. CDT
  • Carbondale, Illinois: 1:59-2:03 p.m. CDT
  • Evansville, Indiana: 2:02-2:05 p.m. CDT
  • Cleveland, Ohio: 3:13-3:17 p.m. EDT
  • Erie, Pennsylvania: 3:16-3:20 p.m. EDT
  • Buffalo, New York: 3:18-3:22 p.m. EDT
  • Burlington, Vermont: 3:26-3:29 p.m. EDT
  • Lancaster, New Hampshire: 3:27-3:30 p.m. EDT
  • Caribou, Maine: 3:32-3:34 p.m. EDT

Will clouds block the April 2024 eclipse?

It's too soon to say for sure, but history offers some clues.

Chances of cloudy skies are pretty high along much of the eclipse's northern path, and some areas such as Buffalo have about a 1-in-3 chance of clear skies in early April.

Skies are usually more clear to the south. Right along the Texas/Mexico border, chances of a clear sky can be nearly 75%.

Keep in mind that clouds don't always ruin an eclipse . High, wispy clouds won't spoil the show in the same way that low thick clouds would. In that case, you wouldn't be able to see the moon pass in front of the sun, but you would still notice a sudden darkness in the path of totality.

Where is the best place to watch the eclipse?

Texas is considered the best state for eclipse viewing . There's a good chance the skies will be clear and its location along the southern path of the eclipse means totality will last a little longer.

A few lucky travelers will also have a front-row seat with unobstructed views — from a plane .

Will traffic be bad?

Most likely, yes — especially after the eclipse ends . Millions of people will crowd into the narrow path of totality, then many will attempt to leave all at once as soon as the eclipse is over.

When a total solar eclipse passed over the U.S. in 2017, reports say some traffic jams didn't fully clear for more than 12 hours. Even worse, a recent study reported that the 2017 eclipse "was associated with increased risks of a fatal traffic crash" – potentially as much as a 31% increase, the study said .

Also worth noting: The eclipse is expected to have impacts for air travel as well.

Why are schools closing for the eclipse?

Primarily out of a concern for students' safety, schools across the country have given students  the day of the eclipse, April 8,  as a day off, a half day or a chance for e-learning. In Tennessee, for example, officials also say it gives students a chance  to experience the eclipse with their family and friends .


What is a solar eclipse definition explained..

A total solar eclipse happens when three celestial spheres — the sun, moon and Earth — line up in a specific way in space.

According to NASA, a solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and Earth. That alignment casts a moving shadow on Earth that either fully or partially blocks the sun's light in some areas. This leads to a period of partial or full darkness on a narrow stretch of Earth. 

The path is so narrow because of the huge distance and size of the sun — as well as the moon's distance from Earth. That focuses the moon's shadow on an area of land much smaller than the moon itself. The movement of the shadow across the land happens as the Earth's rotation interacts with the orbit of the moon.

A total eclipse only happens occasionally because the moon doesn't orbit in the exact same plane as the sun and Earth do. In addition, a solar eclipse can only happen during a new moon.

What's special about a total solar eclipse?

The total solar eclipse on April 8  is causing such a stir because the rare event is an astronomical experience like no other that will be unusually accessible to millions of people.

April's total solar eclipse will fall over more places in the U.S. than the total eclipse before and after it. And the broad length of the path of totality – where Americans have the best shot of getting a clear view – is "much wider"  than it was for the eclipse in 2017 , according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

A total solar eclipse is also far more impressive  than a lunar or an annular solar eclipse. During an annular eclipse, the moon covers the Sun but leaves an outside ring some call a "ring of fire" — it darkens the sky instead of plunging Earth into a night-like darkness, which is what happens during a total solar eclipse. And a lunar eclipse – the appearance of a red moon – happens when the moon passes into the Earth's shadow, according to NASA.

Total solar eclipses can have spiritual significance, too . Ancient cultures viewed as a sign of the gods' anger or impending departure. Some religions today are hosting eclipse viewings and services.

Historically, eclipses have left major marks on religious and spiritual civilizations. In Christianity, an eclipse has been associated with the darkness that accompanied Jesus' crucifixion and in Islam, the passing of the Prophet Muhammad's son Ibrahim.

When was the last solar eclipse?

The USA's most recent total solar eclipse was on August 21, 2017, and stretched from Oregon to South Carolina.

When will the next solar eclipse happen?

The  next visible total solar eclipse  to cross over the U.S. after April will come in more than two decades on Aug. 23, 2044, according to NASA.

And that eclipse won't be as accessible as the 2024 one: The path of totality in 2044 will only touch the states of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, according to the Planetary Society, a nonprofit involved in research, public outreach and political space advocacy. Another total eclipse  will pass over the U.S. in 2045  that will be more accessible to Americans, including for people who live in California, Florida and Nevada.


What are eclipse glasses and why are they needed for the eclipse.

Gazing at the bright rays from the eclipse without  protective eyewear  can seriouslt damage your eye, so wearing a pair of protective glasses is important.

There's a technical standard for eclipse glasses, which are designed to block out most light and let you safely see the moon pass in front of the sun: It's called ISO 12312-2 after the International Organization of Standardization.

While there's concerns that not all glasses marketed as eclipse glasses live up to that standard, experts say usually the shortcomings aren't significant .

But as the 2024 eclipse approaches, the American Astronomical Society  has warned that there are some counterfeit and fake eclipse glasses being sold from unverified vendors that would be unsafe to use during the eclipse. They recommend buying from a vetted vendor and testing the glasses before the eclipse.

How can you test eclipse glasses to make sure they work?

NASA shared an easy method to check eclipse glasses at home.

Buyers should put on their glasses and look at a bright light, like a flashlight. If the light is "extremely dim," or doesn't appear at all, the glasses are safe, Susannah Darling, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in an instructional video. Viewers should be able to see the filament of the lightbulb, not the glow surrounding the bulb.

Can you really go blind watching a solar eclipse?

You could severely damage your eyes . Directly staring at the sun before and after the total eclipse, or watching a partial eclipse outside the path of totality without proper eye protection, can result in permanent damage including blurred and altered vision.

While rare, eye damage from watching a partial eclipse happens in part because a person's natural response to squint when looking at sunlight does not get triggered. In the lead-up to the  April 8 solar eclipse ,  doctors and a rare set of eclipse watchers are warning about  watching this planetary event without adequate eclipse glasses or with the naked eye.

It’s hard for experts to know or even estimate how many people experience eye damage from solar eclipses. Since looking at an eclipse does not cause complete blindness, people with permanent damage may not know they have it or report it to a doctor. The 2017 eclipse , which passed from Oregon to South Carolina, is thought to have caused about 100 cases, according to the  American Astronomical Society .

How can I watch the eclipse without glasses?

If you don't have access to eclipse glasses do not use regular sunglasses — You need a more creative solution for safe viewing, like a pinhole projector .

Welding glasses, while a creative solution, are not recommended for eclipse viewing .

Should I take dogs or cats to see the eclipse? Is it safe for pets?

An eclipse itself isn't dangerous for domestic animals such as dogs and cats, but experts say it's probably best to not bring pets .

Experts' biggest concern is not what’s happening in the sky but on the ground as crowds of excited and anxious people gather, said Dr. Rena Carlson, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“Rather than the effects of the eclipse, I would be more worried about the excitement and all of the people,” she said.

Contributing: Ramon Padilla, Karina Zaiets and Janet Loehrke

Welcome to our inaugural ETA (Escapes. Travel. Adventure.) by L.A. Times. We’ve created a guide to vacations near and far, from Escapes (an easy getaway of a couple days or so) and Travel (the standard one- to two-week vacation) to Adventures (those bucket-list trips you’ve always wanted to take).

And, for our first issue, we’ve decided to (mainly) stick close to home with a distinct touch of the West, so below, you will find incredible stories about the latest and greatest destinations and all the amazing luxuries offered – all worthy of an E, T or A.

ETA magazine 3-28

A Perfect Pairing

Southern California’s Yaamava’ brings its ethos and amazing customer experience to Vegas’ Palms for a “California-to-Vegas” Experience

Utah Spring RV trip

On the Road … Again

A dream of wide open spaces and a revisit to youth evolve into an amazing Utah RV journey.

ETA magazine 3-28

The ‘Other’ West Coast

For Southern California residents, Australia’s faraway wonders feel familiar-yet-unexplored on its Western coast.

ETA magazine 3-28

See in the Dark: Stars Appear (In a Very Different Way Than in Hollywood) Just Hours From the SoCal Glow

Living in the environs of Los Angeles, like about 10 million of us, the dark night sky is something we rarely see.

ETA magazine 3-28

Two Days in... Palm Springs

A weekend in the original desert oasis is as beautiful as ever, and spring is the perfect time to head over.

ETA 3-28

Not Grandma’s Catalina

Southern California’s island of note gets 21st century upgrades to match its timeless charm

ETA magazine 3-28

Go it Alone!

Solo journeys are increasingly popular, and travel companies are taking note.

ETA magazine 3-28

Port of Call Long Beach

Setting off on a cruise? Here’s why it makes sense to come early – or stay late – in and around the seaport.

ETA magazine 3-28

The Vegas Minute: A New Resort, Some Spring Sports and a Sky-High Drink (of Sorts)

In a city that is always changing, Vegas is … well, full of change for 2024.

ETA magazine 3-28

Three Venues, Three Incredible Lineups

A-List acts abound at these dynamic locations on the Las Vegas Strip.

ETA magazine 3-28

Make a Splash – In More Ways Than One – At Silverton Casino Lodge

With newly renovated rooms and a stunning new pool, the Vegas favorite is ready for summer.

CW ETA 3-28

Crossword: Due West

ETA 3-28 cover

ETA: Read the Print Edition

Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge collapses after being struck by cargo ship.

How Baltimore’s Key Bridge collapsed – a visual guide

Photos and maps show how Francis Scott Key Bridge snapped after a vessel collision

  • Baltimore bridge collapse live updates

What happened in Baltimore on Tuesday morning?

A major bridge in Baltimore in the US state of Maryland collapsed after a container ship collided with it early on Tuesday, sending a number of vehicles into the chilly waters.

Rescuers pulled out two survivors, and were searching for more in the Patapsco River after reports that a 948ft Singapore-flagged container ship leaving port on its way to Sri Lanka had crashed into the 1.6-mile (2.57-km) Francis Scott Key Bridge, named after the author of the American national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner.

The state’s governor has declared a state of emergency to get federal resources quickly deployed. Joe Biden said search and rescue efforts were a “top priority” and that all indications were that the episode was a “terrible accident”.

What do we know about casualties?

Six people remain unaccounted for after the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse, authorities said – all believed to be construction workers who had been repairing potholes on the bridge. Two people have been rescued so far, with one of them in serious condition.

The temperature in the river was about 47F (8C) in the early hours of Tuesday, according to a buoy that collects data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Several vehicles were on the bridge at the time of the crash, including one the size of a tractor-trailer.

Equipment in front of people in yellow and black uniform next to a red truck at night

What do we know about the ship and the cause of the collision?

Ship-tracking data showed the Dali – a 290-metre (948ft) cargo ship with a capacity of 10,000 containers – was at the location of the bridge where the accident occurred at about 1.30am ET (0530 GMT) on Tuesday. The vessel had left Baltimore at 1am and was headed for the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, according to the maritime data platform MarineTraffic.

Maryland’s governor, Wes Moore, said a preliminary investigation into the Key Bridge collapse “points to an accident”, and the FBI in Baltimore said the collapse of the bridge was not a result of terrorism.

The ship’s crew reported losing power and issued a mayday call moments before the crash took down the bridge, enabling authorities to limit vehicle traffic on the span, Moore said.

Video posted on social media showed the vessel ploughing into one of the bridge’s central supports in darkness, causing much of the bridge to give way as a number of vehicles fell into the Patapsco River below and the ship caught fire. Synergy Marine Group, the manager of the Dali, confirmed it had collided with one of the pillars of the bridge.

The same vessel was also involved in a collision while leaving the port of Antwerp, Belgium, in 2016.

How important is Baltimore port and what will the impact be on trade there?

The bridge leads to the Baltimore port, one of the busiest in the country and an important hub for shipping on the US east coast, especially in transporting road vehicles.

It is also the largest US port by volume for handling farm and construction machinery, as well as agricultural products, and a cruise terminal, according to Reuters.

Aerial view of three structures in water

Port traffic was suspended until further notice following the bridge collapse, and there will probably be grave consequences on commerce in the region.

The bridge’s collapse has revived scrutiny not just of this specific structure but also the overall health of bridges across the US, many of which are considered to be in poor condition. Maryland’s governor has said the bridge was “fully up to code”, while some experts have pointed out that the span, completed in 1977, was conceived before an age of supersized container ships.

What are the implications for road transport in Maryland?

With four lanes, the bridge is part of Interstate 695 and serves as a major route along the ring road that encircles the city. The bridge carries 11.3m vehicles a year, according to the Maryland transportation authority.

Authorities have called the incident a “major traffic alert” and closed all lanes in both directions of the I-695 Francis Scott Key Bridge. Highway signs as far south as Virginia have warned drivers of delays.

  • Baltimore bridge collapse
  • Water transport
  • Shipping industry
  • Asia Pacific

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