Education and Training: High school; on-the-job-training
Salary: Median—$9.27 per hour
Employment Outlook: Fair
Definition and Nature of the Work
Tour escorts accompany groups of people on organized trips called "package tours." Most people who take escorted tours want the security and convenience of having transportation, accommodations, and sightseeing arranged for them. However, not all group tours are the same. There are tours for every budget, taste, and age group. Religious tours, cultural tours, reunion tours for veterans, and tours for professional and interest groups are just several examples of outings that require the services of a tour escort.
Tour escorts usually work for tour companies, which are as varied as their clientele. Some specialize in certain activities—archaeological digs or mountain climbing, for instance. Others specialize in certain markets such as students or retirees. Tour companies may be long established, internationally based, and highly structured; others may have a few operators at their head office and twenty or thirty escorts out in the field.
Tour escorts need excellent communication skills, organizational ability, and financial responsibility. They must be able to respond calmly to such crises as airline strikes and bus breakdowns. Clients expect their escorts to be both leaders and friends.
Education and Training Requirements
Summer camp counseling is a valuable way to get early experience in this field. Some colleges have started to offer degrees in tourism; however, most tour escorts learn their skills on the job. Many larger tour companies have intensive training programs in which escorts learn how to deal with potential problems. Trainees work alongside more experienced escorts until they are familiar with both company procedure and destination. Fluency in a foreign language or degrees in such subjects as art history or archaeology make it easier to find a job as a tour escort.
Getting the Job
Interested individuals can find out about the destinations and itineraries of tour operators by looking at travel agency brochures, consulting the World Travel Directory(available at most large libraries), or visiting tour company Web sites. Prospective tour escorts can also apply directly to tour companies that hire escorts. Jobs in other parts of the travel industry—as a hotel clerk or an airline booking agent, for example—may enable candidates to build up personal contacts with tour operators.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Their first year on the job tour escorts typically guide groups to one place exclusively; the second year, two places; the third, three. With seniority comes a better choice of itineraries and an opportunity to train new escorts. Some tour escorts become tour supervisors who put together all the elements of the trip—transportation, hotels, meals, and sightseeing.
Although the enormous growth in the travel industry guarantees a continuing demand for tour escorts, in the future they may need more advanced training. All travel-related job opportunities are tied to economic conditions that affect the amount of money people have to spend on travel. Some tour escorts will enter the field as replacements for those who leave, but many will find openings available as the industry expands.
The work of a tour escort is extremely demanding. It may involve fifteen to twenty-five consecutive weeks of work without a day off, and it requires lifting heavy luggage and making arrangements to keep even the most persnickety traveler in the group happy. Tour escorts apparently enjoy their jobs in spite of these factors, as there is a fairly low job turnover among workers in this occupation.
Earnings and Benefits
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, tour escorts earn a median salary of $9.27 per hour, but experienced escorts can make up to $150 a day, depending on the scope of the tour and the size of the group. They may also receive tips. Fringe benefits include free travel and hotel accommodations. There may be gaps between trips during which escorts do not receive a regular income. Large tour operators have organized benefits and incentive plans for office and field personnel.
Where to Go for More Information
National Tour Association
546 E. Main St.
Lexington, KY 40508