This post is an extract from our Travel Trend Report 2019.
How do you find the right tour guides and keep them motivated throughout the year? If there is one person who can answer this question, it's CEO of SANDEMAN's New Europe David O'Kelly.
SANDEMANs NEW Europe is a young, dynamic and international company offering city tours in 20 European cities. They run over 100 tours daily, cater to thousands of guests every week, and connect travellers with over 400 full-time and part-time guides worldwide. We were delighted to interview him for this article.
As an established tour operator, do you have specific requirements when recruiting tour guides?
For us, the most important thing is to have someone who is engaging, can connect with people and can tell a story in an interesting way. We know that most people can learn historical facts, but not everyone can share history and stories in a way that keeps people completely engaged for 2.5 (or more) hours.
You offer tours all year round. How do you find the right balance of permanent and seasonal staff?
Generally, we’ve seen a ‘smoothening’ out of the seasonal curves over the past few years, which makes this less of a problem than it used to be. Our product portfolio is much more seasonally resilient and, moreover, pricing, crowding, and a more flexible work schedule have facilitated customers to travel throughout the year. Nevertheless, seasonality will always be a challenge that tourism businesses have to face.
With regards to the guides, like all companies that work with freelancers, it can be tricky at times to ensure that we have enough guides to cover a tour schedule. We are lucky however, because we work with around 450 freelancers, many of whom like to travel in the off-season, and so the system largely self-regulates. Quite a number of guides we work with have also worked with us in a number of cities. In fact, a good proportion of our staff have changed cities and found another job within the company.
With a large team in locations around the world, how do you keep your staff motivated throughout the year, not just in high season?
For our guides, we’re lucky to have plenty of work to offer year-round. We find that guides typically enjoy working on public holidays, as there are a lot of people around and so it’s a good time to make money.
We do however take our guides and staff out for social events, generally before and after the high season, and we have internal competitions for things like World Cup sweepstakes, where guides and staff can play against other guides and staff across
the network, with the winner getting a trip to the SANDEMANs city of their choice, for example.
What sets SANDEMANs NEW Europe apart from the competition?
As the pioneers of the free tour model, we believe that we have pushed the entire tour guiding industry to be better. We genuinely believe that we work with the best guides in
the business, because the free tour model is self-regulating – travellers can support and reward only high quality, engaging tour guides, while helping to ensure that low quality, low energy guides are forced to up their game. We feel proud that we have helped to put the power back in travellers’ hands with this model.
While there are now thousands of free tour companies around the world, we’re not only proud to be the originals, but we also work hard to remain on top!