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How to Make Any Tour Feel Customized

Read about three tricks to make any tour feel customized.

By
Nikki Padilla Rivera
|
August 3, 2021
Nikki Padilla Rivera
August 3, 2021

One of the most enjoyable tours I’ve ever taken was a free tour of Niagara Falls.

A friend and I had made a last-minute decision to rent a car and make a day trip from Toronto, where we were visiting. We had zero plans and zero idea about what to expect, so we checked out the tourism office when we arrived and saw there were free tours that ran every hour. And it turns out we were the only two to sign up for the next available tour.

The guide started with a slightly uninspired and memorized monologue. Then, at some point, she mentioned Queen Elizabeth, and my friend stopped her to sheepishly ask the question we’d been asking ourselves our entire trip; “What was the deal with the Queen being on the Canadian coins?”.

Our guide was a bit surprised and, very bluntly, asked, “What do you know about Canadian history?” Very honestly, we replied, “Literally nothing.”

And so our guide sat us down on a nearby bench with a view of the Falls and spent the next hour giving us a basic Canadian History 101. It was precisely the base knowledge we’d been missing despite having taken several walking tours in Toronto. Suddenly everything clicked, and we were able to understand better and appreciate the history that we’d learned and the culture we’d experienced over the past few days.

This is, of course, a very extreme example. The guide would not have been able to divert so far had other guests in the group. Yet she correctly read that we were much more interested in getting that needed history lesson than learning more about the Falls (as interesting as I’m sure Niagara Falls’ history is).

And we certainly gave her a much bigger tip than if our guide had continued with the standard tour, ignoring the fact that we were missing much of the core context.

Even if you don’t have the flexibility to change the tour on the fly for your guests completely, you can still make guests feel like VIPs with three easy tricks.


Three Easy Tricks to Customize Any Tour

(1) Listen to what your guests are interested in.‍‍

In an ideal world, guests have signed up for your particular tour because it’s exactly what they were looking for in terms of content.

But that’s not always the case. Sometimes guests think they HAVE to choose the generic history tour if it’s their first time in a place (even if they’re not really into history), or they choose the tour that fits best into their schedule.

In that case, spend time getting to know your guest (the 15 minutes before your tour is ideal for gathering information). Ask them directly what they’re excited to see on tour, or, more covertly, discover their interests by asking them what they’ve already done on their trip or what else they’ve booked.

Shared interests will pop up repeatedly, such as food, movies, music, pop culture, etc.… And no matter how specific a tour script you’re working with, there’s also room to add in more references and information in a way that’s relevant to the tour theme.

(2) Give controlled options. 

Giving guests options is a dangerous path to go down (‘decision fatigue is real, and the more options you give guests, the more chances for regret you give them).

However, in any situation where there are more options than reasonable (for example, a temple with hundreds of Buddha statues) or when there are low-stake options (for example, do we talk about A first or B first), you can leave it up to your guests to make them feel like they have some control over their experience.

On a fantastic virtual tour I took of the Lungshan Temple in Taipei, our guide had each group pick the god they wanted to hear about. An easy way to make the tour feel unique for our group (also a great trick for making a virtual tour interactive).


(3) Make it feel like the first time.

If you’re an experienced creator, always make sure to include some surprise stops not mentioned in your marketing. If you’re a guide without control of the itinerary, have a few easy add-on options whenever time allows (a nice view, an incredible piece of street art, a personal story about a specific location, a local business recommendation that you pass, etc.)

Then, whenever you can match one of these stops to your group’s interests, make it feel completely spontaneous;

“You know, this isn’t technically part of the tour, but I just feel like you would love this shop, and we’re ahead of schedule…should we pop in really quickly?”

Maybe you end up taking your guests into that doughnut shop EVERY time, but for this tour’s guests, it will feel special for them.

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One of the most enjoyable tours I’ve ever taken was a free tour of Niagara Falls.

A friend and I had made a last-minute decision to rent a car and make a day trip from Toronto, where we were visiting. We had zero plans and zero idea about what to expect, so we checked out the tourism office when we arrived and saw there were free tours that ran every hour. And it turns out we were the only two to sign up for the next available tour.

The guide started with a slightly uninspired and memorized monologue. Then, at some point, she mentioned Queen Elizabeth, and my friend stopped her to sheepishly ask the question we’d been asking ourselves our entire trip; “What was the deal with the Queen being on the Canadian coins?”.

Our guide was a bit surprised and, very bluntly, asked, “What do you know about Canadian history?” Very honestly, we replied, “Literally nothing.”

And so our guide sat us down on a nearby bench with a view of the Falls and spent the next hour giving us a basic Canadian History 101. It was precisely the base knowledge we’d been missing despite having taken several walking tours in Toronto. Suddenly everything clicked, and we were able to understand better and appreciate the history that we’d learned and the culture we’d experienced over the past few days.

This is, of course, a very extreme example. The guide would not have been able to divert so far had other guests in the group. Yet she correctly read that we were much more interested in getting that needed history lesson than learning more about the Falls (as interesting as I’m sure Niagara Falls’ history is).

And we certainly gave her a much bigger tip than if our guide had continued with the standard tour, ignoring the fact that we were missing much of the core context.

Even if you don’t have the flexibility to change the tour on the fly for your guests completely, you can still make guests feel like VIPs with three easy tricks.


Three Easy Tricks to Customize Any Tour

(1) Listen to what your guests are interested in.‍‍

In an ideal world, guests have signed up for your particular tour because it’s exactly what they were looking for in terms of content.

But that’s not always the case. Sometimes guests think they HAVE to choose the generic history tour if it’s their first time in a place (even if they’re not really into history), or they choose the tour that fits best into their schedule.

In that case, spend time getting to know your guest (the 15 minutes before your tour is ideal for gathering information). Ask them directly what they’re excited to see on tour, or, more covertly, discover their interests by asking them what they’ve already done on their trip or what else they’ve booked.

Shared interests will pop up repeatedly, such as food, movies, music, pop culture, etc.… And no matter how specific a tour script you’re working with, there’s also room to add in more references and information in a way that’s relevant to the tour theme.

(2) Give controlled options. 

Giving guests options is a dangerous path to go down (‘decision fatigue is real, and the more options you give guests, the more chances for regret you give them).

However, in any situation where there are more options than reasonable (for example, a temple with hundreds of Buddha statues) or when there are low-stake options (for example, do we talk about A first or B first), you can leave it up to your guests to make them feel like they have some control over their experience.

On a fantastic virtual tour I took of the Lungshan Temple in Taipei, our guide had each group pick the god they wanted to hear about. An easy way to make the tour feel unique for our group (also a great trick for making a virtual tour interactive).


(3) Make it feel like the first time.

If you’re an experienced creator, always make sure to include some surprise stops not mentioned in your marketing. If you’re a guide without control of the itinerary, have a few easy add-on options whenever time allows (a nice view, an incredible piece of street art, a personal story about a specific location, a local business recommendation that you pass, etc.)

Then, whenever you can match one of these stops to your group’s interests, make it feel completely spontaneous;

“You know, this isn’t technically part of the tour, but I just feel like you would love this shop, and we’re ahead of schedule…should we pop in really quickly?”

Maybe you end up taking your guests into that doughnut shop EVERY time, but for this tour’s guests, it will feel special for them.

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