World day of the tourist guides – a few thoughts about it

Last Sunday, February 21, was the World Day of Guides/Guides. We would like to use this occasion to publish a text by Linz Tourism Director Prof. Georg Steiner. In doing so, he thinks about our industry in a very critical but forward-looking way. We are currently working with him on a project about experiences based on narratives:

  • What are the minimum standards needed to make experiences unique?
  • What methods, encounters are necessary for this?
  • What is the role of the guide in this?
  • How do you initiate discussion processes?

We will be offering a series of seminars on this in the fall with online training.

“Today would be World Guide Day. But Corona has also brought this industry to a virtual standstill. Guided tours have not been possible for a year. What’s next?

Corona will also bring changes here, which I welcome and which we have been working on and experimenting with in Linz for many years.
Tourism will become more small-scale, more individual. Mass phenomena, many people, large groups have been talked about even before Corona. Now we need to think about how “guiding” can become more individual – this applies to the business model as well as to the processes and content of guided tours.This brings me to the second phenomenon that will and must have an impact on guided tours. It’s about the impact of digitization. Whether Alexa, Siri or all the other electronic companions – they now know more than any guide. So, in the future, will it still be a matter of explaining the city to our guests house by house and biographically, so to speak, as a “Wikipedia on two legs” (I borrowed this term from Sebastian Frankenberger)?
For far too long, guided tours have been characterized by the fact that guides and tour operators alike have taken it for granted that every guest is fundamentally interested in history. I would like to question this and call on people to think more about what else could interest and fascinate guests from near and far in a city.
“The people and not the houses are the city”, as the Greek statesman Pericles put it 500 years before Christ.Interestingly, the world day is still called “World Tour Guides Day”. We have long since left tourism behind us. Tourism became tourism and now we are at the next threshold: Who wants to be a tourist anymore? In the perception of many locals, tourists are those people who are little adapted to the respective destination – whether in their clothing, in volume, in cultural manifestations – in mass phenomena and tend to perceive rather superficially the destination as a backdrop shape more and more places/destinations of our world. The more “tourists” come, the more successful – so far, so far so good.
But locally, the acceptance of tourism in this form is declining.

And that is why, on the World Day of “Guides”, I think not only about these phenomena but also about what this could mean in terms of change for the care, for the entertainment of our guests.
More individual, more personal, more authentic, more playful, more hybrid, more poetic and more lively – these are my keywords to describe the future of guided tours.
It will be less about imparting knowledge and more about raising interesting questions.
A guided tour is not a school lesson with many facts and underlaid with didactic aids (keyword: historical recordings shrink-wrapped in slides).
Guests don’t have to become experts and too many details tend to distract from the main message.
It has to be more about narratives, about the why, about those messages that you personally take in as a gain, as a new insight, and what you can still enthusiastically tell others at home.
It will be about more authenticity. The guides are allowed to be perceived as personalities in their own right, with their own unique backgrounds.
And it will be about more experience orientation. Humorous by all means, but not as a clown. Experiences are created through encounters, through touch – with people, with regional products, during cultural experiences. Generating positive resonance – that’s what it’s all about. Guides are one of the most important ‘touchpoints’ of a destination.

I know that I am questioning a lot of tradition with these reflections. But our world is changing more than ever.
Our tours should both inspire our guests and make residents, locals proud of what we tell about our city, how we present our city. And tourism should merge more with the life of a city and act less as an additional stress.
This is possible and you should be guided by this. And the guides are those locals who act as an “interface”, so to speak, between the guests and the city – viewing the city as people, and less as a structural backdrop, as Pericles already noted.

With this in mind, we look forward to Corona allowing encounters again soon. From sightseeing to encountering: According to Corona, this need is greater than ever and will shape guided tours even more in the future.
I would like to thank all the Austria Guides who have taken this path in Linz together with the tourism association in recent years and which we want to continue to develop. On this World Day 2021, I wish all guides that it will soon be possible to serve and inspire guests again.
Linz continues to transform tours and tourism.”

Prof. Georg Steiner
Tourism director in Linz

He welcomes feedback and discourse:

Or why not visit Linz in the summer for an advanced training course with an interactive adventure city tour by us, a talk with Georg Steiner and a visit to the Wild Childhood exhibition at Lentos, the Museum of Modern Art. We will send out more information about this.