Travelers are getting bored, they don’t pay attention to what you say, they lose focus… This happens because you’re too focused on “explaining” and not on “capturing  travelers’ attention”. And one way to wake up your travelers is to create an experience in which they can be involved.

After many hours searching for and interviewing our best gurus, we finally brought out this post with the best tips to create an interactive tour, let’s go!

1. Break the ice from the beginning 

Travelers may feel intimidated or a little shy to speak in front of a group of strangers they just met. So you have to break the ice as soon as possible.

It starts when they reach the meeting point. Welcome them, share some things you know about their country, show your interest by asking them what you can visit if you travel there or learn to say “thank you” or “welcome!” in their language. Make sure they feel comfortable

When the tour starts, invite travelers to introduce themselves to the group, saying, for instance, their name and something else, which could be their nationality (ideally you introduce yourself this way before, so they have an example to follow). If you do a food tour, you could ask about their favorite food, if you do a tour based on Harry Potter, you could ask their favorite character or the one they can’t stand.  This helps a lot to take away the fear of speaking in front of the group and invite travelers to bond with each other thanks to what they have in common.

Another option could be to ask who traveled the most to come here, or you can give them 2 options and travelers should split the group choosing one of these options. For example, you could split between salty and sweet people in the case of a food tour. This also helps you identify the kind of travelers you have on the tour to better focus your speech.

The first few minutes of your speech are also crucial to break the ice. Using humor is the best solution. In another post we will explain to you how to build the best introductory speech.

2. Bond with travelers throughout the tour

Take advantage of the whole tour to bond with travelers, especially when you are walking from one stop to another. It creates a feeling of trust for travelers to get more involved during the tour. It is especially important with:

  • People who travel alone: ​​the risk they’re getting bored is higher as they don’t have anyone to talk with during the tour. 
  • People who are not native speakers of the language you are giving the tour in:They may feel uncomfortable to speak in front of native people, so to get them more involved, try to empower them when talking with them, saying how great they’re doing speaking English, for instance.

3. Ask questions

It’s the easiest way to get travelers involved. Moreover, when travelers answer well, they feel very happy and cheerful travelers have a better time and give more tips!

If someone gives an answer, although it’s not correct one, it’s important they feel recognized. You can always say “thank you” and if he or she finds the right answer, you can even give him / her a high five.

There are many different types of questions you can ask travelers, such as asking them if they can identify something during a stop (search for something), based on the travelers’ own experience (does anyone know …?) Or about something you said during the tour (Does anyone remember …?). You can even do a quiz or use questions to animate the group.

We explain everything about the questions, with lots of examples and ways to encourage travelers to answer, in this post dedicated to the topic.

4. Let travelers ask their questions

“Does anyone have questions?” We advise asking it at the end of each stop. It’s important to give your ravelers the opportunity to ask their questions. Otherwise, they may feel frustrated.

You can encourage it using humor: “If I find out that someone didn’t understand what I just said, he or she will have to come again for the tour tomorrow.” There is also a guide who hands out small papers to his travelers with questions written on them and so when he finishes explaining, he makes sure there are questions. That allows travelers to be assured they’ll have a great question to ask.

You should also be available to answer questions when you walk between 2 stops in case a traveler wants to ask you one . If you notice that travelers always ask you the same questions, try to include the answer in your speech, so they don’t have to ask you anymore. 

If a traveler asks you a question that needs a very long answer and if it’s maybe not interesting for the whole group, answer it after the tour. But don’t do it between 2 stops because otherwise the group will have the impression of losing some explanations.

5. Include the group into your stories

When you include the group in your explanation, travelers will pay much more attention since you are connecting the history and the tour with them directly. For example in Porto, a guide divides the group into 2 small groups during a stop: one group was Brazil and the other one was Portugal. Then she explained the historical movements between these 2 countries moving travelers from one group to another.

You can also ask for the participation of a volunteer to hold a map, or your umbrella for example. But you can also use it to illustrate your explanations. If no one offers himself or herself as a volunteer, you will have to “choose a volunteer”, which creates a very funny situation.

A guide is playing with travelers during a stop of a free walking tour with GuruWalk in Malaga.

Also use contrasts. If you are looking for someone to make a mean Viking warrior, use a little kid or an elderly lady. That will make people laugh as people did not imagine a Viking warrior like that. But of course, be careful not to fall into stereotypes that can be misinterpreted.

Let everyone have their part. In the case of volunteers, try not to use the same person twice. People identify a lot with the role they played during the tour, and sometimes they even write it in the reviews of your tour.

So here’s are some examples:

  • Re-enact a historical scene. For instance in Valencia, a guru illustrates the process of the Spanish inquisition by making a mini-play. He goes back in time and becomes a judge. He takes a volunteer, who will be guilty of a thousand things during the inquisition, and the group thinks they are in a courthouse, attending a trial. Travelers like it a lot because they are living History and they will remember it better too. Also, it creates a funny situation because of the poor volunteer who didn’t ask for it  but ends up being the center of attention. Another example, in Athens, could be explaining with a volunteer what the Olympic Games were like in the old days. 
  • Imitate what the guide says. For example, you could tell a love story and take 2 volunteers to imitate what you explain to the group, which is very funny. You could also explain the whole process of a recipe that a volunteer would try to reproduce by imitating what you say, or it could even be imitating the life cycle of a very iconic animal from your city along with many other things. 

Try to also play with kids since they tend to quickly lose attention during the tour. If they have a good time, their parents will be very happy too and this will be positively reflected in your tips and the review they will write you. 😉

Guide of free walking tour in Amsterdam holding hands to kids.

6. Teach something

The goal is to teach travelers something to feel like locals. We recommend introducing it with a story or legend. Although you are not explaining any famous monuments, travelers like it because they also want to know about the lifestyle and traditions of your city.

So for example:

  • Teach a dance. For example, you could teach the basics of flamenco in Spain, or salsa in Colombia, … Teach it in a fun way. For instance, in Madrid, they explain flamenco as “take an apple in your hand, smell it and throw it on the ground and crush it with your foot.”
  • Teach a custom from your country. For example, if you live in Turkey, you could teach how to negotiate when you buy something and you could try doing it with travelers. Or another example in Milan, you could teach how to use your hands as it’s very typical to speak with your hands in Italy.
Travelers taking a group picture doing a very typical italian gesture on a free walking tour in Milan, Italy.
  • Teach typical words. It’s something very popular on free walking tours. For example in Amsterdam, the guru teaches 2 words related to the topic of the tour, which is food (so the words are lekker and gezellig), which he repeats throughout the tour, and also asks travelers to repeat them. So it makes it very funny and useful for travelers. They are usually words that don’t have an exact translation in other languages. Another example is the famous Danish “hygge”.
  • Teach a typical game from your city. Ideally, all travelers can play it and it doesn’t take long. For instance in Mexico, you could play a simplified version of the national lottery. 
  • Teach a typical song. We have for instance a guide who gives a piece of paper with the lyrics of a famous song for travelers to sing along with between 2 stops. It’s also possible that what you explain during a stop is related to a song, like in Dublin when the guide shows the statue of Molly Malone. No need to sing the whole song of Molly Malone, but you could sing the main part for instance. Of course, it’s easier if travelers already know the song.

If you see that this kind of activity may not please everybody, you could always use it when you decide to make a short break in the middle of the tour. While some travelers go for a coffee or water, the ones that remain could spend the time doing your activity. 

7. Take a fun group picture

The majority of gurus take a group picture in one of the most beautiful places in their city. Instead of taking a normal group photo, think how it could be a fun memory for travelers.

Selfie with a group of travelers during a guruwalk in Hanoi.

The group could take the picture as if they were representing a painting, a tradition, a sport, a meal, an event, a statue, etc. For example, in Paris, it could be taking a picture with everybody imitating the Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Or in Athens, travelers may pose as if they were athletes in front of the Olympic stadium… Also think about what could be said when the picture is taken: so maybe the name of your city, a special word… You can find more ideas in this post about the best pictures.

You don’t always have to take a group picture. It depends on the chemistry you have with the group. There is nothing worse than taking a picture when people don’t want it. If you took a good picture, you can send it to the travelers and also remind them to leave a very good review.

And what’s next?

Now that you know how to involve travelers during the tour, we highly recommend reading this complementary post on communication tips to be the best guide!