How to become a tour manager: Explore jobs and career paths

The holiday and tourism industry provides employment for a variety of professions showcasing a broad set of skills. One such profession is Tour manager. A tour manager is the person a holidaymaker or travel agency will hire managing and arrange a holiday trip. Outside this there may be other roles a tour manager must play to ensure a safe and comfortable trip for their clients. Although you can apply for a tour manager job with no specialized training it’s recommended you obtain certification through a tour manager training course before applying for jobs. It is to be noted that the tourism industry is currently in bad shape due to the COVID-19 crisis. However, it is expected to return to its full potential as most countries have started lifting the travel bans.

What does a tour manager do?

Tour managers, or tour directors, are people responsible for making travel arrangements for groups or individual holidaymakers. In many cases, tour managers keep track of details such as arrival and departure times and popular sites for the sake of keeping their clients updated and on schedule. Tour managers today may work on coach tours, rail or cruise ships with trips that could last anywhere between two or three days and over a month.

What you need to become a tour manager?

To become a tour manager, your first and foremost priority should be to earn the necessary qualifications needed. Although employers do not require specialised certifications in the tourism industry it still helps to have a relevant degree. Here are three steps you can follow to pursue a career in tour management.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Employers in the tourism industry may or may not require a bachelor’s degree. It solely depends on the type of organisation. However, a bachelor’s is considered to be a good addition for tour managers. The field of your bachelor’s degree is a fact to be considered. People with degrees in Archaeology, Language studies, Geography, History, Tourism & Leisure studies, Business Administration, Hotel Management and Marketing can all find work in the tourism industry quite fairly. 

You should remember that having a degree is good alongside practical experience and not instead. Employers emphasize on prior experience more than anything while recruiting. So if you have already completed your bachelor’s it is high time you take up practical work to gain experience.

Step 2: Gain Experience

When searching for work to gain experience it is important that you take up every viable opportunity that comes your way. Without any experience it is difficult for aspiring tour managers to find their dream job. There are concrete reasons for this inclination towards early experience. One of them being, tour management is a demanding job that requires honing your skill sets. Managing a bus or carriage full of eager holidaymakers is not easy. Each trip on the field provides a challenge tour managers need to overcome. In this regard, no degree can ever prepare you for the myriad scenarios that may arise. The only way to manage a successful and satisfying tour is to have your feet on the ground and paying attention to details.

To start off your tour management career you need to put in the hours at an organisation that specialises in tour management. Whether your first work experience is paid or voluntary is not important. The important thing is to learn, and getting yourself involved in as many tours as possible. Specialist knowledge, for example in the language, history or culture of a particular region/country, can also be considered as experience.

Step 3: Make Professional Contacts in the Industry

The tourism industry is a well-connected network of businesses and service providers that have to work in harmony. While being able to satisfy touring clients, it is important to liaise with the industry community to stay updated on the latest travel updates. Moreover, a lot of the agencies rely on supporting businesses to create a well maintained system of tourism services. As a tour manager it is your job to handle the communications with these supporting businesses to get the best deals for your clients. 

It’s also important that you are well-connected to the community to build a reputation for yourself as a tour manager. If you play your cards right, with time you will have developed a reliable network of your own that will help you expand your career and earning prospects.

Related skills

In addition to the formal qualifications a tour manager needs various other skills. These skills include but are not limited to,

Qualifications specific to leisure, travel, and tourism will also increase your chances of becoming a successful tour manager.

Responsibilities of a tour manager

The responsibilities of a tour manager is hard to draw on a list. As a tour manager your responsibilities depend not entirely but, to a large part on your clients. Although your clients aren’t supposed to dictate your duties, rather you will alter your responsibilities according to what your client may need. Here we’ve tried to gather what you can anticipate.

  • Accompany the clients for extended holidays.
  • Welcome holidaymakers and update them with the tour plan and stoppage details.
  • Check travel tickets, seat allocations, accommodations.
  • Tend to any special requirements and help with passport, immigration issues and other relevant documents.
  • Assist with checking in at the accommodation.
  • Inform clients about itineraries, destinations and culture.
  • Inform passengers of arrival and departure times at each destination on the itinerary and ensure.
  • Ensure all members of the group are back on the coach before departing from each stop
  • Answer queries and make arrangements for clients' needs.
  • Ensure everything falls according to plan. This includes quality of accommodation and food services as well as transport.
  • Plan out the where's and when's’ to visit tourist attractions.
  • Check-in on individual members of the group to ensure satisfaction.
  • Arrange for any medical support if clients fall ill. You might even have to arrange for early departure or communication back home.
  • Maintain liaison with hotels, coach companies, restaurants and tour guides.
  • Attending Tourism events such as, conferences, workshops, seminars and exhibitions.
  • Maintain reports on costing and other associated expenses.

Salary of tour manager

Tour managers pay is usually calculated on a day-to-day basis, with rates and expenses varying between organisations. Salaries vary a considerable amount based on location/country visited and the type of tour. Commission and tips from satisfied clients increase the overall income prospect. 

Starting salaries for tour managers or supervisors in full-time employment typically range from £15,000 to £20,000, excluding board and lodging when on tour. Salaries for senior tour managers who have extensive experience can be in excess of £50,000.

According to GlassDoor national average salary for tour managers in the UK is  £46,147. Indeed puts daily rates of tour operators/managers at £11.4/hour.

Career prospects

After completing tour manager training, you’ll typically start in a related role, i.e. tour representative or tour guide, before becoming a full time tour manager. These initial work opportunities are often seasonal, so you may need other sources of income. With time more lucrative deals will start coming your way given you earn the proper experience.

Working for a large tour operator provides opportunity to progress further as tour manager/leader/supervisor, or in office-based managerial positions within the company. If you have valuable expertise in a particular tourist destination or country you can utilise that to establish your own tour management business.

Where to work as a tour manager

For a tour manager there are a range of places in the tourism industry to work in. A few examples include:

1. Hotels and other Holiday accommodation

Hotels employ your managers to manage massive numbers of people that visit in holiday seasons and to advertise the accommodation facilities with professionalism.

2. Travel Agencies

In contrast to hotels, travel agencies employ tour managers to set up prospective holidaymakers trips and ensure they find everything they look for.

3. Transport Charters

These include transport based tours such as cruises and train trips.

5 key resume tips for landing a tour manager job

If you’re looking for employment opportunities dropping a resume is the first step. Here are a few tips on what to include in your resume for the post of tour manager. Use these tips to make a resume that reflects your abilities and enthusiasm to the fullest.

1. Relevant Experience

Only include jobs, experience, and accolades that are relevant for the position you’re applying for. Describe your responsibilities within these experiences as concisely and accurately as possible.

2. The Right Skills

Look up the qualifications required by the recruiters and make sure to add it as a skill. Although it would not be wise to include skills that you know nothing about.

3. Quantifiable Achievements

Having a high GPA in your bachelors is good, but want to know what is better? Quantity of revenue generated. If you can display accomplishments that generate value for you and the business you are involved with carries way more weight than grades you got on some exam before your career even started.

4. Your Unique Qualities

Try to feature your unique capabilities. Recruiters have to sift through many applications and only including something that makes your resume stand out betters your chances.

5. Strong Content

If you’ve had a lot of jobs, your resume doesn’t have to contain all of them. Only include experience that is most relevant for the post you are applying for.

Ending notes

Tour managing is a demanding job would be an understatement. A tour manager has to work regardless of working hours. When supervising tours overseas you may have to work day and night to ensure your clients are taken care of. The profession will demand long stays away from home and family. If you are good at managing people and logistics, while having no problems with being homesick, then becoming a tour manager may just be your thing.

Tour Manager Training

September 2, 2020

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