Becoming a Tour Guide is the Path to Your Dream Travel Career

For six decades tour companies have been hiring ITMI tour guides and directors because they receive the most comprehensive training in the industry.

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Concert pianist, Olympic swimming finalist, game show contestant, fashion designer, practicing Los Angeles attorney, college student, history teacher, empty nester, Fortune 500 CEO, trapeze artist, retired police officer, minister, chef, film producer, gemologist, television producer, auctioneer, stockyard auctioneer and soap opera actress.

Answer: They are all professional tour directors and tour guides, graduates of ITMI.

It may appear that each of the jobs would be fulfilling in themselves. No matter what background they may have, there is a special bond shared by these people created by the desire to interact one-on-one with people from cultures and countries from around the world.

Tour directors come from all walks of life!

Does this sound like you?

There is no denying that the travel industry was devastated by the 2020 covid pandemic. Travel in 2020 was set to surpass globally 8.9 trillion in GDP revenue, reached in 2019, but because of variants that did not happen.

As the pandemic ebbs, most indicators point to travel bouncing back. People have a strong pent-up desire to travel again, see new places, meet new people and reconnect with friends and family. Some travel professionals are calling this ‘revenge travel.’

It is an exciting time to be part of the travel industry. We have not experienced this many travel jobs, both on land and sea, since ITMI began! For you, this means more jobs than ever before.

Now is the perfect time to get trained and get started! Apply Now

ITMI not only trains you how to be a travel professional, we train you how to get a job.

The ITMI brand is recognized throughout the world.

Over three decades ago, ITMI was the first organization to revolutionize how tour directors and tour guides were interviewed for jobs by tour companies at the ITMI Annual Symposium.

In 2021, ITMI partnered with NTA (National Tour Association) to create the ITMI Symposium/NTA Travel Exchange.

This is the industry’s largest gathering of tour directors, tour guides, tour operators, DMO’s, suppliers and industry leaders. You will reap the benefits of growing your portfolio by expanding your network, and destination knowledge, exploring specialized tours, educating yourself on industry trends, starting your own company, and finding both domestic and international job opportunities with key players in Travel and Tourism.

ITMI hosts a ‘Tour Guiding Jobs’ website, updated daily with dozens of jobs from all over the world. You will be sent a weekly email highlighting those opportunities. 

The website will help you discover thousands of exciting jobs with companies looking for professional tour guides, tour directors, tour leaders, travel directors, tour managers, travel leaders, adventure guides, tour escorts, cruise directors, lecturers, experience hosts and more.

Download the TourTrack App  to receive instant job notifications
and organize all your tour communication in one.

Many people wonder if tour director and a tour guide are the same; the answer is no.

A Tour Director is responsible for leading a group 2 – 14 days or longer with the same guests.

The Tour Guide usually spends a few hours a day with a group delivering more detailed local storytelling commentary. The tour guides normally live in or near the city they are guiding. You could also be referred to as a Step-on-guide.

The Tour Director can be called several different names depending on the tour company. They may be called a Tour Manager, Tour Leader, Travel Leader, Travel Director, Course Leader, Adventure Guide, CEO (Chief Experience Officer), and a few companies still use the term tour escort. The job is the same whatever the title.

The Tour Operator employs the tour director or tour guide.

Find out how to own your own business in our Tour Entrepreneur course.

Here are some things to consider.

Independent Contractor:

As an independent contractor, you have control over how many companies you decide to work for, and how often you work. You are paid a fee in the United States and receive a 1099 Form at the end of the year.

The choice you make will be anywhere from full time (250+ days per year), part time (75 – 100 days per year) or seasonal (2 weeks, 1 month or summer vacation). Companies will ask for your availability and try to provide tour offers that fit within your time frame and expertise. You can work for as many companies as you wish; the choice is yours! 

Employee:

As an employee you usually cannot work for other tour companies except during the off-season.

You will receive a salary and employee benefits that may include sick time, workers’ compensation, and other extras such as an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) for wellbeing, yearly meetings and training or shadow tours. All based on performance.

You have the flexibility to work different peak seasons. Fill your schedule leading student tours in the spring, multi-generational family tours in the summer and be cruising on international waterways in the fall or winter.

If you want more time at home with your friends and family, or have another job, you could do local city tours, walking food tours, a couple of multi-day tours…the possibilities are endless!

Great question!

Compensation statistics are taken by yearly ITMI survey with tour operators and tour directors.

As tour guide or tour director you will be paid a fee or salary by your tour company. Gratuities are a major part of your compensation depending on a number considerations. Many people choose to work as a local guide for part of the year and then spend a few months traveling over the road. You can do both. 
Local tour guides normally receive a daily or hourly rate plus gratuities from guests. The average day rate for full or half-day tours can be from $30 – $100 per hour plus gratuities.

Tour directors, normally receive a daily rate plus gratuities and sometimes commissions.

Generally speaking, the overall compensation for a 2-week tour conservatively ranges from $4000 – $6000+.

Expenses Covered:

The majority of companies will cover the cost of airfare to the starting point of the tour, your own private room, and food while you are on a multi-day tour as a tour director.  For example, a company may give a credit card to pay for your meals, while others will provide you with a daily cash per diem allowance.

Tour Guides are able to balance their careers and their personal lives in a manner that few other jobs afford.

One of the attractive features about tour guiding and tour directing, is that it may actually complement your existing profession and become an integrated career. At ITMI we have found that over the years, many of our graduate have actually preferred to work on a part-time basis.

Which means you can work with a tour when your schedule permits, such as weekends or summer vacations. There are part-time gigs, full-time, seasonal – you name it. You’ll find no shortage of opportunities.

Don’t forget you can choose your assignments based on your interests: If you’re a history buff, love architecture, walking tours, wine and food, motorcycles, sports, agriculture the list is endless. With so many travelers desiring so many different types of niche and specialized tours, you will find an opening that will suits you to a tee.

No. A large percentage of our students have already been tour directors or guides. They have come to ITMI to increase their job opportunities, become more professional, learn new tips and tricks, learn how to become a better storyteller, work on their confidence and leadership, and join the join the largest international community of travel professionals in the world.

Since ITMI began, tour companies have been hiring ITMI graduates because they have invested in themselves to be professionally trained, mentored and supported in their future growth and success. We are proud to say that many companies exclusively hire ITMI graduates.

The question you need to ask is really “Can this course help me get a job more easily so I can earn money faster than trying to go it alone?” The answer – a resounding “YES!”

Most tour directors & tour guides earn back the cost of the course in two weeks of touring!

We believe that travel is the passport to peace. We believe that when we expand our perspectives of people, places, and cultures, we deepen our connection, compassion, and appreciation for all that is around us.

The way ITMI elevates travel and expands our worldview, is by identifying and training our students to become world citizens and ‘ITMI Ambassadors of Goodwill’. These leaders will inspire their travelers, weaving history, customs and culture into unforgettable experiences.

They understand their responsibility of respecting cultural differences, values, social norms, language barriers and overcoming stereotypes and racism. 

We believe that sustainable tourism must embrace concerns for the environment, social equity, the quality of all life, cultural diversity, and prosperity for all. ITMI is an advocate for responsible tourism to prevent the negative effects caused by over-tourism.

ITMI is a founding member of Tourism Cares and also belongs to Unity Travel, Future of Tourism, World Footprints and Airline Ambassadors.

Human Trafficking Awareness became part of the ITMI curriculum a decade ago. ITMI became the first educational institution to sign ECPAT’s The Code. By signing The Code, ITMI committed to educate our students and graduates about human trafficking awareness.

We invite you to take our Human Trafficking Awareness self-study e-course.
ITMI core values:

  • We value kindness, compassion, love, hope and joy united.
  • We cherish and celebrate the diversity of all life on earth.
  • We value the wisdom of our elders and our ancestral/family heritage.
  • We promote stewardship for the benefit of present and future generations.
  • We honor and respect the interconnectedness of all life on earth.
  • We value integrity, honesty, and authenticity in every aspect of one’s life.
  • We promote an environment that works toward shared harmony,
  • responsibility and accountability for ourselves and future generations.       

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Some of the Hundreds of Tour Companies That Hire ITMI Graduates