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

Last Sunday, February 21st, was the World Day of Tourist Guides/Tourist Guides. We would like to use this occasion to publish a text by Linz Tourism Director Prof. Georg Steiner. He thinks very critically but future-oriented about our industry. We are currently working with him on a project on the subject of experiences based on narratives:

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

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

“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 about changes here, which I welcome and on which we have been working and experimenting in Linz for many years.
Tourism will become more fragmented and individual. Mass phenomena, many people, large groups were already talked about before Corona. Now it is time to think about how “guiding” can become more individual – this applies to the business model as well as to the processes and content of tours. This brings me to the second phenomenon that will and must have an impact on the tours. It’s about the effects of digitization. Whether Alexa, Siri or whatever all the electronic companions are called – they now know more than any guide. So in the future, will it still be about explaining the city to our guests biographically and house by house, so to speak, as “Wikipedia on two legs” (I borrowed this term from Sebastian Frankenberger)?
For far too long, tours have been characterized by the fact that guides and tourism professionals have taken it for granted that every guest is fundamentally interested in history. I would like to question that and encourage people to think more about what else could interest and fascinate guests from near and far about 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 Day of Tourist Guides”. Tourism is long 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 the volume, in cultural manifestations – in mass phenomena and tend to perceive the destination as a backdrop rather superficially more and more places/destinations in our world shape. 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’s why, on the World Day of “Tourist Guides”, I’m not only thinking about these phenomena, but also about what changes this could mean 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 the keywords I would like to use 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 lots of facts and supported by didactic aids (keyword: historical photos shrink-wrapped in foil).
Guests don’t need to be 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 gains, as new insights and which you can continue to tell enthusiastically at home.
It will be about more authenticity. The guides can be perceived as their own personality with their very own background.
And it will be about more experience orientation. Quite humorous, but not as a clown. Experiences are created through encounters, through contact – with people, with regional products, with 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 with these reflections I am questioning many conventional wisdom. But our world is changing more than ever.
Our tours should inspire our guests as well as the residents, the locals, to be proud of what we say about our city, how we present our city. And tourism should merge more closely with the life of a city and act less as additional stress.
That is possible and you should orientate yourself on that. 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 seeing to meeting: After Corona, this need is greater than ever and will shape guided tours even more in the future.
I would like to thank all Austria Guides who have taken this path together with the tourism association in Linz in recent years and which we want to develop further. On this World Day 2021, I wish all guides that it will soon be possible again to look after and inspire guests.
Linz continues to transform tours and tourism.”

Professor George Steiner
Director of Tourism in Linz

He welcomes feedback and discourse:

George Steiner on Facebook
George Steiner on LinkedIn

Or visit Linz in the summer for a training course with an interactive city tour through us, a conversation with Georg Steiner and a visit to the Wild Childhood exhibition in the Lentos, the museum of modern art. We will send out more information about this.

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