1. What’s the difference between a Tour Guide and Tour Director?

Tour guiding and Tour Directing is a dream job that many people would love to have…we visit exotic places and have “once in a lifetime” experiences on a daily basis, while making a great living. Something magical happens on tour when people are away from their everyday lives. Tour Guides and Tour Directors have these unique and meaningful connections with our guests and take those experiences with them. All Tour Guides and Tour Directors have amazing stories of cherished moments with their guests on tour.

A Tour Guide may do walking tours, food & wine tours, regularly scheduled tours and more. Tour Guides provides local expertise and brings their city to life! They may also work as travel staff with local conventions and incentive travel. Some guides prefer to only work within their city, so they can do something they have a passion for and go home at night to their family and friends.

A Tour Director leads groups “over the road” and may also be called Tour Managers, Adventure Guides, Course Leaders and Tour Escorts. They travel with the group throughout the tour managing the details and enjoying the amazing sights and experiences.

2. Do I have to choose between working as a Tour Guide or Tour Director?

No, not at all. Most graduates do both and enjoy the balance of home and away. The rewards of working as a Tour Guide or Tour Director are beyond measure. Making a difference in the world and in the lives of the people with whom you travel is personally rewarding. Tour Guides and Tour Directors create bridges of understanding between people and cultures. They educate and inspire their guests to discover new perspectives. Isn’t it amazing when a passion and a career come together?

3. Can I work full time or part time?

Tour Guides and Tour directors have a passion for travel, enjoy being with people and want to make a difference. It is important to be in good health, have a high energy level and enjoy an active lifestyle. There are opportunities for all ages. Life skills, maturity and diverse experiences are respected in tour directing. You are hired because of your abilities and experience, not your age or gender. Some guides work more than 250 days per year and love being on the road. Most guides work between 75 – 150 days per year and integrate Tour Guiding and Tour Directing with other interests such as writing, music, teaching, etc.

4. What’s a typical tour schedule?

Tours range from 1 – 2 days to 3 – 4 weeks with the average being from 7 – 15 days. ITMI considers 150 – 250+ days per year full-time; 75 – 150 part-time and intermittent if less than 75 days. Some tour directors work seasonally, 6 – 8 months straight and then take the rest of the year off. Some integrate tour directing with their present job on a part time basis. Some just “follow the sun” and work throughout the year worldwide. Others work exclusively at a local level and never leave town. The choice is yours to work full or part-time.

5. Do I get any free time on tour?

Even though while on tour you are “on-call” 24 hours a day, it is important to find down time away from your group. It is healthy for both the tour client and you. A typical tour day begins at 8:00am and ends at 6:00pm unless there are evening activities scheduled. Often free time is scheduled on tours of two weeks or longer. The key to successful tour directing is balance.

6. I want to travel overseas as a tour director; do I need to have been there?

ITMI trains you to go anywhere in the world, even places you have never visited. We teach you how to work effectively with overseas guides and research the destination so that you are competent doing your job. No one should know it’s your first time there!

7. Do I need to speak a second language?

Fluency in a foreign language is not necessary but can obviously be helpful in certain destinations. When hired to lead non-English speaking groups coming to the United States, a foreign language is required. Languages often in demand are; French, Mandarin, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, Dutch and Swedish.

8. What age group will be on my tours?

There are a variety of tours for all ages. Students and 50+ dominate the package tour market but more and more families, younger couples and singles are traveling on group tours. Today, tours are shorter in length and more affordable. Many enjoy the sense of “community” that comes from traveling with a group.

9. Can I work on board a cruise ship?

Yes. An increasing number of graduates are enjoying life at sea or on the river on a full or part-time basis. Some tour directors and tour guides work as cruise hosts, destination lecturers, shore excursions and more. Others work with motorcoach and/or incentive tour companies that integrate cruises with land/tour packages and shore excursions known as inter-modal travel.

10. Does it matter where I live as a tour director?

If you are working as a tour director, leading groups around the world, most tour companies pay you to travel from your home to the starting point of your tour and back. These are called “positioning” expenses. It does not matter where you live, once you are “established” in the field. You take your job with you anywhere in the world.

11. Do I have to travel to work as a Tour Guide?

The benefit of the ITMI Certification is that you are not only trained to go “over the road” as a Tour Director but you can also work locally as a Tour Guide or in incentive travel.

12. How much do tour directors earn & do I need certification?

Besides getting all the free travel benefits (hotels, meals) tour guides and tour directors make approximately $150 – $350 per day (that includes salary, gratuities and commissions).

Most tour companies prefer Tour Guides and Tour Directors to have certification which means that they have gone through an intensive two week program like ITMI to learn the skills and foundations of touring and hands on training. We believe that this is not something that can be learned on line. However, you do not need to be certified to lead a tour but most tour companies prefer it and if looking at two equal candidates will typically select the one with the certification. Finding work as a Tour Guide and Tour Director without certification can be challenging. Most Tour Companies do not post jobs, they prefer to contact ITMI to send out job leads or receive resumes personally. In fact, we send out job leads to our graduates practically on a daily basis.

13. How many tour companies employ ITMI graduates?

For more than 40 years, we have built relationships with more than 700 tour companies, some that even hire ITMI graduates exclusively because they know our training is the most extensive and respected in the industry. Here is a short list of a few of the companies we partner with: Adventures by Disney, Tauck, Rick Steves’ Europe, Collette, Globus Family of Brands, Worldstrides, Trafalgar, Abercrombie & Kent, National Geographic Travel, Princess Cruises, Gate 1 Travel, Viking Cruise Lines, Newmarket Holidays, Trafalgar and many more…

14. How Do I Apply?

The Online Application can be submitted directly from our web site. The application does not commit you to anything nor cost you anything. After receiving and reviewing your application, one of our team will contact you to answer any questions and set up a convenient time for a telephone or skype interview to discuss your qualifications and answer any questions you might have regarding tour guiding, directing or the ITMI program.

15. Do I have to make a special trip to the Administrative Headquarters for my personal interview?

No, most interviews are done by phone or Skype since our students come from all over North America and the World. Interviews are approximately half an hour. We recommend you take a look at our videos prior to your phone call, they answer many initial questions and may bring up additional questions you can discuss with an instructor.

16. May I audit one of your classes?

Yes, however we only allow one or two observers for certain classes. Please contact the ITMI office for more details.

17. May I pay to observe one of your two day/one night field trips?

Yes, in conjunction with the 15 day ITMI training program we conduct a number of customized overnight field trips to such locations as “Yosemite National Park”, “Carmel, Monterey, Big Sur & Hearst Castle”, “New England Highlights” or “Philadelphia, Gettysburg & the Penn Dutch Country”. You will get an opportunity to meet students, ITMI graduates and also Tour Companies that come to meet our alumni personally. Please contact the ITMI office for pricing and details.

18. May I speak with one of your graduates?

Yes, however we would need to have interviewed you as well as have an application on file. We then attempt to match you with someone with similar interests, background, and geographic location. We pride ourselves in keeping our graduates’ records confidential unless they have authorized their use for this purpose.

19. Do you help find housing for out-of-town students?

Yes, ITMI helps to secure housing and a roommate if it is desired. Often 90% of a class will be from out of town and many students find sharing a room actually enhances their experience. Students enjoy doing homework assignments together and having the built in support system that shared housing facilitates. Other housing options include AirBnB, local hostels and hotels, please contact the ITMI office for help and suggestions.

20. What is the significance of the ITMI logo?

Down through the ages, the spiral chambers of the nautilus have symbolized stages of growth, like the rings of a tree, to diverse cultures around the world. Its message is timeless. Oliver Wendell Holmes said “Let us take a lesson from the nautilus.” Each time the nautilus outgrows one chamber it must add another so that it will have room to live. Each new chamber becomes progressively larger. The chambered nautilus illustrates what ITMI’s vision and mission is all about. In analogy with the nautilus, we believe that the chambers represent the personal growth and development that often accompanies the magical experiences of travel. Our humanity expands as we stretch to understand the world we share. Like the nautilus, we cannot go back to our past. We must live in the present, and although we live in the present, we are a product of our past and must grow to remain vibrantly alive. The people that decide ITMI is the right path will experience growth and will find the Institute and tour directing both challenging and life changing.

21. Where can I get more information?

Send an email to travel@itmisf.com or call (415) 957-9489 Monday through Friday between 9:30am and 5:30pm PST.