Day 8: Motorcoach & Intermodal Tours
Today we spent the day discussing the history of group touring followed by the different types of domestic and international tours (coach tours, rail tours, cruising, etc..). We then talked about how to prepare once we are assigned a tour. I’m sure that when I get that first assignment I will be excited, relieved and also a bit scared. The point of today’s lesson was to calm some of those nerves by outlining the basic principles to prepare ourselves to lead a tour. We were given information about what to ask our companies for, how to route our journey on a map, tips on where to begin our research, and some frequently asked questions we should know the answers to. We put parts of this into practice by reading a company brochure and then routing that tour on a state map. We needed to take into consideration the places of interest the brochure highlighted (because you always need to give the guests what they are promised in the brochure), even if that meant we weren’t taking the most direct route. We also had to be concerned about where the motorcoach could or could not travel due to its weight and size. I think we are all so used to relying on our GPS to give us directions that having to work with a paper map and physically highlight the route was an extremely valuable use of our time. That will certainly be something that I do before each of my journeys. It really gives you the ‘big picture’ of the areas covered on a tour, not to mention being useful when your GPS isn’t working!
We ended this classroom session with a quick practical exercise where we were asked to read a short guide book explanation of a place in Colorado and then give a 30 second presentation about it. This commentary exercise helped me to practice recalling details I just read and how to paint a ‘mental picture’ about a place or point of interest. Often we will only have a minute or two to talk about any points of interest as we pass them on the coach, so it is important to be quick but thorough.
Day 9: International & Domestic Air Tours
Today was a continuation of yesterday’s lesson but we focused more on international tours than domestic. This was especially exciting for me, as these are the types of tours I would most like to lead. I am hopeful that my 6 years of living in England will help me to secure some international trips to Europe early on. A lot of the preparation for international destinations is the same as domestic tours, but you have the added dimension of traveling someplace that has a different culture and customs. These are the areas that a tour director needs to focus a little extra attention on while researching an international destination. At the end of the day we also chose our topics for the final exam. This assignment has us researching an international destination we have never visited and then give a five minute introduction about that country. We need to focus on background information such as the tour itinerary, destination highlights, ‘survival’ information (such as whether guests should drink the water, and safety information, etc…), and some fun introductory facts. I chose Morocco as my country and I am really looking forward to doing the research about this country.
Day 10: Overnight Field Workshop
Today we left San Francisco for our overnight field workshop. This was both an educational and sightseeing trip for the group. We all had to give presentations on pre-assigned topics and take turns acting as the Tour Director, but we were all also tourists on a tour of California. As the tour director, we had to do things like give directions to the driver, count the people and the bags, give commentary, and route the journey on a map and on our ‘technical’ (a breakdown of all the departure and arrival times). It was an exercise in multi-tasking and really allowed us to see first-hand just how much work goes into a single tour day.
We started the day by making a rest stop at a lovely little bakery in Davenport where I had the most delicious warm chocolate croissant. We then continued on to Monterey and Carmel before having lunch at the Big Sur Inn. We reached the Hearst Castle visitors center by 5:00 and that’s when I had to give my presentation on William Randolph Hearst (we had to wait until the following day to actually visit the castle). I was pleased with my presentation and I am certainly becoming more confident about giving commentary to the group. I really enjoyed doing the research on Mr. Hearst and I think that’s one of the main reasons why I am going to like this career. I love any opportunity to learn, and between my personal research and the information I gathered from the group presentations, I was able to learn a significant amount about not only being a tour director, but about this area of California. A life of learning while traveling is something that I don’t think I will ever get tired of…
That night we stayed in San Simeon and were treated to a wine tasting reception. This was a great way to relax after a long day of travel and enjoy being together as a group.
Day 11: Overnight Field Workshop
Today we started the morning by viewing the elephant seals along the San Simeon coast. There were hundreds of them just lying on the shore and it was quite a sight! We then returned to Hearst Castle for a guided tour and some free time to explore the grounds. The castle was truly spectacular and I felt as though I had been transported back to Europe. What I enjoyed the most about the castle was how Mr. Hearst built the home around his personal collection of art and antiques. He was able to use centuries old artifacts he had collected to create exquisite rooms that mirrored the of the great castles of Europe, but retained a sense of uniqueness that was quintessentially Hearst. The antiques gave the house credibility as a center of culture, even though it was conceived and constructed less than 100 years ago.
We then traveled back towards San Francisco via Mission San Miguel and Salinas. Overall I thought the overnight workshop was an important part of our education here because we were applying what we had learned in the classroom. Over the last two days it became clear to me that the role of the tour director was to be an organizer, a motivator, and an educator.
Day 12: Motorcoach & Intermodal; Cruise & Rail Tours
Today we started the day with an informational session on human trafficking. This subject, while sometimes difficult to address, is important to be aware of in our profession. We will be traveling all over the world and it is important to be aware for our own safety and to act as advocates of change. We then did a case study of the overnight field workshop and were given a chance to ask any questions about our experience out on the road. After lunch we discussed student tours and the cruise industry. I now think that student tours are something I could be interested in leading. I would love to be able to help inspire children to develop a passion for history, culture and travel. Travel has certainly changed my life, and I think it would be rewarding to pass along that passion to other young people.
Day 13: Skill Training
Today we reviewed an assignment that had us route a tour through Colorado (which I discussed earlier in this post). We had to figure out the arrival and departure times, the milage, where to make rest stops, and still see everything that was promoted in the company brochure. It was a challenging assignment, but helpful to understand the route and get a ‘big picture’ of that tour. Even though it is a time consuming project, I believe this is something I will do with each of my trip assignments. We then began the now infamous lesson 12, the lesson where we tie-up all the loose ends that we hadn’t been able to cover earlier in the course. This included things like emergencies and ethics considerations.
We then stayed after class to work on our take home exam, our cover letters and our final project. We were also able to watch the Chinese New Year parade from the windows, which was a nice distraction at the end of the day.
Day 14: International Destination Briefing – Final Exam (Written and Oral); Professional Development and Career Options
Today was the last day of the course! We started by presenting our final exam projects. My project was on Morocco and I really enjoyed doing the research for this presentation. We were encouraged not to use notes, but what I learned about myself was that my mind tends to race ahead of what I am saying, so I think having a checklist of key words and points will actually help some of my commentary while on tour. We then went over our take home tests and finished up class 12.
That evening we had graduation and a party at the ITMI office. It was nice to all be together one final time and celebrate our accomplishment.
Day 15: Individual Follow-up Interview/Evaluation/Strategy Session
Today we were given the opportunity to meet one-on-one with our instructors and receive individual feedback on our performance and on the types of companies we should now be applying to. It’s been a challenging, but a rewarding two weeks. I look forward to now getting home and starting my career.