5 Core Hidden Elements of An Amazing Experience

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It’s hard to impress me on a tour.

I love taking tours, and it never gets old. I’ve just taken so many between work and my travels. And while there’s rarely a tour I don’t enjoy; there are very few tours/guides that have blown me away.

So people will often ask me, what makes an incredible experience? One that blows me away.

Often, it’s the things you can’t see. The invisible work that a guide does results in an incredibly smooth tour that feels spontaneous and fresh.

Below are 5 of the main elements that, when pulled off, can result in an above-average tour that will easily rake in the 5-star reviews.


Core elements that result in a phenomenal tour.

There is a clear overarching theme to the experience.

If you want to give your tour meaning and depth, listing facts will no longer cut it. Any excellent experience has a theme, an overall point to make.

Your theme should be what you want your guests to think about or realize for the first time. And any information you give during the tour should connect back directly to your theme, making the content much more accessible for guests to understand.

A good tour theme should be powerful and personal, “At the end of my tour, my guests should understand that modern-day NYC culture is a mix of all the immigrants that built this city.”.

Or, it might even be a call to action “At the end of my tour, I want my guests to be an eager example of a respectful tourist in Venice”.

No breaks in the tour for logistics.

Any logistics or transitions should feel smooth and incorporated into the overall rhythm of the tour.

For example, the sometimes-awkward transition from check-in to the tour start, or that weird gap where the guide attempts to pay the bill in the middle of a food tour.

Phenomenal guides either make these moments hidden to guests or disguise them as something else.

For example, one guide I knew ran a tour that involved a ferry ride. This meant getting the guests their tickets, having them line up in time to catch the ferry, and then entertaining them during the actual ferry ride.

Instead of telling a story and then taking a break to hand out tickets, the guide did a fantastic job of incorporating the logistics into the tour content and disguising them. She did this by making that part of the tour an instructional lesson on ‘how to ride the local ferry’, talking them through each step and having them scan their tickets to ‘practice’.

On the ferry ride itself, she had her group play a trivia game (with prizes!). It made it feel as if that was part of the tour, the trivia game, and it just happened to take place on a ferry.

The tour guide shares personal stories/opinions.

This one might seem obvious, but it’s a straightforward way to make the tour feel special.

When a guide shares something as simple as their daily routine, their favourite local meal or points out a spot where they hang out with their friends on the weekend, all of a sudden, the tour feels incredibly inclusive.

After all, had you not had THAT guide, you would have never heard that specific information that was personal to them.

The tour group gets along well.

Sometimes a group DOES get along well. But not always. And the best guides know how to cover this up.

One way to do this is to allow guests to create their groups (either with the people they enjoy or the people they’re travelling with) instead of trying to get everyone to interact.

In these instances, the guide can alternate sitting next to or walking alongside different mini-groups so that everyone feels included, even if they aren’t interacting much with other guests.

The tour or activity has a clear ending.

The ending of the experience is one of the most important moments, yet it’s often the least prepared portion of the tour.

Not only is your lasting impression often the only impression guests will remember, but it is effortless to craft a tour ending that will have guests leaving happy, no matter how the rest of the tour went.

Make sure your guests understand that the tour is ending (it’s not always as apparent as you think!) and finish with a fantastic story, sum up the tour or call to action.

The best measure is applause. If your guests burst into applause the moment you finish, you know you’ve nailed the ending.


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