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Being a tour operator is challenging work. You and your guides(opens in a new tab) need to be intimately acquainted with the sights and locales you accompany your group through, while also taking their safety and satisfaction into account. This is where being a good storyteller comes into play. Great storytelling will help attract more customers to your agency and make the overall guest experience a positive one.

Based on published data(opens in a new tab), 92% of people admit to trusting word of mouth over traditional marketing, while 75% of marketers still fail to embrace storytelling. Tourism is primed for storytelling, and as such, we can discuss the different ways this can be implemented into your tours.

Storytelling Traits You Should Embrace

Who doesn’t love a good story? But when it comes to tours, storytellers need the ability to come up with relatable and engaging tales for their groups. There are certain traits that you should consider cultivating further to improve your or your guides’ storytelling skills:

Interact, listen, and engage – Your customers will always come on a tour with certain expectations, prejudices, and goals. Listen closely, and you will know which buttons to push to make their tours more engaging. By paying attention to their interests you can adapt your approach and provide a certain level of tailored information.

Show your humanity – Tour operators and guides should be casual and friendly toward their customers. Smile, make eye contact, and talk as if you would with a close acquaintance to brighten the mood. Tone is crucial in storytelling.

Always have a point – Every story you tell, whether verbally or through online presence whether that be on your website(opens in a new tab) or online marketing(opens in a new tab), should have a point. Ideally, you can also indicate a key takeaway or fact during a stop, or a call to action for your customers to follow up on afterward. For example use the story of how you started your business, or particular values your company holds to create that initial connection with your customers before they even take your tour by convincing them to book with you. After your tour, aim to collect feedback, reviews, or have customers sign up to your mailing list or follow you on social media.

Be decisive and unwavering – As a tour operator, your job is to take care of the group you are in charge of.(opens in a new tab) Communicate with your guides so they know and implement the rules that you’ve set so they can take the necessary actions if anyone is not following safety procedures and maintain the safety of your customers as well as their own.

The Tour Operator/Guide as the Anecdotal Historian

Whether you’re going on a trip to another country or a local wildlife reserve, you should keep the customers’ perception of you in mind. People see tour guides as authority figures, and like it when guides take charge and discuss interesting sights or historic tidbits to take notice of. Tour guides are inherently a form of an anecdotal historian, someone with the knowledge of how or why a certain historic sight exists, for example.

On the other hand, customers can sideline you with unexpected questions and ask for explanations in front of everyone, so proper preparation is a must. As such, you should always arm yourself with knowledge about the place you are about to visit with your group. As a storyteller, you will be able to weave historic facts with current trends and lingo to make for engaging storytelling(opens in a new tab). However, if you are not able to answer their question in that exact moment, offer to follow up after the tour, or even consider a special message in your post-tour email. This extra effort will not go unnoticed.

Making Use of Social Proof in Storytelling

In terms of making use of storytelling in the medium of digital advertisement, social proof(opens in a new tab) can and should find its way into your marketing materials. Luckily, tourism is an industry in which social proof in the form of testimonials, reviews, quotes, and other user-generated content such as photos content is abundant. Based on recent reports(opens in a new tab), 93% of customers say online reviews impact their decisions, with 68% of respondents who trust customer opinions posted online.

Given how tourists are reliant on tour operators and tour agency word of mouth online, this can help your business attract more customers. Satisfied customers, other businesses you work with, and special memberships can all serve as your social proof. You can implement said social proof into blog posts, social media content, video ads, and other forms of advertisement in tandem with your storytelling skills.

Practical Storytelling Techniques

There are different ways in which you can implement storytelling into your marketing and verbal presentations. As with everything in life, it all depends on whom you are addressing. Depending on your customers’ profiles, you should try out different storytelling techniques and adapt them to your personality. Remember – being genuine is always better than being calculated, which is why mutual trust between you and/or your guide, and the customers is essential. Here are a few techniques for you to check out:

Starting with the Hook

Starting your presentation with a “shocking” hook that will grab your listeners’ attention and then going back to the beginning is a great storytelling technique. If you are on a tour through Rome, you can tell your group about more eccentric or unexpected facts of Ancient Roman or Renaissance life. Or present a surprising statistic. Locations are filled with exciting anecdotes that help take the standard facts of what happened to the next level.

Real-Life (Anonymous) Tourism Scenarios

Odds are that you are not on your first tour, so you will have catching stories to share. With customer confidentiality as a given, you can talk about experiences, questions, and impressions your past customers have made about the same places.

Don’t Simply Monologue

While it’s true that you or your guide are in charge, you should still give your customers a chance to shine and speak up. Create a set of questions before embarking on the tour and try to quiz them about the places you visit. Similarly, you can try to get to know them as people while in transit – we are all human after all.

Mix History and Myth in Storytelling

Let’s not kid ourselves – history by itself can sometimes be too dry. Whether you’re visiting The Parthenon in Athens or The Moscow Metro, you can always mix historic facts with folklore and myth. Whether or not the myths are true or not, their inclusion will create a more immersive storytelling experience for your group and showcase just how well-read you are. And more often than not, these fun anecdotes tend to be the points that visitors remember more than what year something was built.

The Art of Telling Stories

As we move deeper into the digital age of instant access to information or voice-search through our devices, pure unfiltered storytelling starts to matter. People who go on tours don’t want to hear regurgitated information that they could simply read online themselves or in the tourist guide they have in their pockets.

Tour operators and guides are in a unique position where they can shape their customers’ narrative experiences with their own silver tongues and a bit of creativity. Get a feel for the group you are working with before you start telling stories – the looks on their faces will speak for themselves. Injecting the right amount of performativity takes a great tour and turns it into a fantastic one. Ultimately storytelling is about the overall and memorable experience that you can provide your customers.

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