For those of you with culture or heritage tour companies, I decided to put what I learned in "Research Methods 101" at university to good use. I went through hundreds of TripAdvisor reviews of culture and heritage tours all over the world to find out what makes a great tour.
Here's the result: four of the best tips to help make your tour the best it can be.
1. Hire great guides
From all the reviews I read, one thing that came across loud and clear is that your guides need to know their stuff. One of the best experiences I've had as a tour customer was on a Berlin free walking tour led by a guide who had a few degrees in German history - it was fascinating. You and your team don't need a PhD by any means, but you do need to know your speciality incredibly well.
The reviews I came across of one tour company in Delhi showed that it was also important to hire guides who are a part of the local community: this way, your customers are likely to feel that they are getting a more authentic and unique experience of the destination.
Another added bonus is to hire a guide with a great sense of humour. This seemed to really kick things up a notch when I was on my own travels around Europe during 2015.
2. Share your culture through great storytelling
The ability to tell a great story is one of the most important parts of being a tour guide. If your speciality is culture or heritage, this is even more so the case! Stories have been around as long as culture itself, so make them the centrepiece of your tour and the vehicle for sharing your heritage.
Create an engaging narrative for your tour and share tales that your customers won't be able to resist passing on. Practise, get it perfect, and tweak it to each group of people you meet. This will help you to generate great word of mouth too.
3. Think outside the box
The top tour in Rome is called "Rome in a Limo" and it has a whopping 3414 excellent ratings out of 3477 reviews on TripAdvisor. That's a lot of happy customers.
Adding a twist like this - seeing Rome in a limo, as it says on the tin - to a culture or heritage tour will set you apart from the competition. You'll also get noticed by travellers who are searching for a novel experience on their holiday.
4. Find a new angle to tell your story
Don't copy your successful competitor: find your own angle and make your story unique. Think about the best way to present your knowledge, educate the people on your tour, and provide the most memorable experience possible.
Also, don't forget to adapt your tour each time you set off on your way with a new group of customers. Take into account their ages and backgrounds, as well as the reason why they booked your tour, and you can get powerful results.
Delivering the same script each tour won't get you exceptional ratings on TripAdvisor, but providing a tailored and engaging story for each group is likely to.
What advice would you share with fellow tour operators that you've found valuable in your own business? Let us know in the comments!