20 April, 2022 | Posted by Jim Dempsey

Why Tour Guiding is a Great Retirement and/or Semi-Retirement Option

Employment as a professional tour guide is mostly a seasonal opportunity. Many people who come on our courses are semi- or fully retired, usually from large corporate or public bodies. Existing professionals in the industry also enrol and this gives a great team spirit during the academic term. Tourist guides are usually part-time with few in full-time employment. The work is often on a self-employed basis, so this offers great flexibility. Employment is available on a full-time basis also, usually through sites and sectors like the day tour industry that run all year.

There are many skills required to be a guide; communication, leadership, problem-solving and mediation are among the leading ones. Some coming in choose to work with large groups whilst others will go towards smaller more personal groups. It suits all personalities in this way.

There is a steep learning curve for some coming in as the training program is broad and the subjects covered span technical, cultural, historical, and social contexts. It is also a profession that draws people who like to learn new things and consistent learning is a requirement. For this reason, it is an ideal profession for the latter years in life; the mental faculties are stretched and kept very active.

It is highly social; people are the very lifeblood of the business, so it gets you out of the home and into social interactions as a matter of course. You need to be a people person. Working alone but as part of a wider team of stakeholders is very common.

Once you begin it really is an adventure, that you get paid to go on. The clients are on their holidays so developing that sense of adventure is a key attribute to a successful experience for the tourist guide/client relationship. Being light-hearted whilst remaining knowledgeable and capable is a balancing act.

The customer or client relationship is by its nature short term. You develop long term relationships with those providing you with the work, but once out in the field, you have a short time with each person and group. Making an impression is a skill set I teach at Portobello Institute as a priority. It is the most important aspect to get newcomers up and running.

Gaining a professional licenced qualification and recognition via Failte Ireland is essential going forward as higher standards are also being demanded. Tour operators are also now requiring this as without qualification it is very difficult to get insurance cover. This is much of the technical aspect of the education process that we employ

I have been working professionally as a tourist guide since 1999 and in full-time self-employment since 2011. This industry requires on-site guides, experience managers, tour managers and directors, and extended coach tour guides to name just a few of the areas you may find yourself in.

The industry is growing rapidly with demand for guides soaring in the last ten years alone. All you have to do is observe the number of walking tours you see, and you quickly realise how this has proliferated over those years. The Covid-19 pandemic has seen many leave the trade so demand, as we recover, is very high now. It is an ideal time to start.

Read More

Jim Dempsey on The Art of Being a Tour Guide

Get in Contact

If you are interested in any of our Travel and Tourism degrees, masters or qualifications you can book a consultation call with our expert advisor Brandon McLean here, email brandon.mclean@portobelloinstitute.com or call 01 892 0035. 


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