Is there still room for tour guides in today's travel climate?

Charlene  |  Singapore
Published 2015-11-09 15:45:31

Ask any modern traveller, and you’ll find that most of them don’t favour group tours anymore. Sure, they’ll take the odd day trip with 20 others on a bus, even concede to a week-long guided vacation if they’re going somewhere off the beaten track, but no one’s going to visit London or the US with a guide in tow.

Part of this shift away from guided tours is due to the cost and time involved — having to fork out tips and waiting around for other travellers can put a real dampener on your mood. You also never know what kind of guide you’re going to meet until the day you fly: you might get a local who shares with you nuggets of advice you’ll keep forever, but you could also end up with one that essentially reads off a Lonely Planet guidebook.

So it’s pretty surprising that a site like GuideAdvisor exists at all.

GuideAdvisor’s homepage

The Singapore-based platform was launched in 2013, and calls itself an “online marketing platform for Guides.” It allows travellers to get in touch with tour guides directly, and find out more about each guide through their dedicated profile pages. These profile pages are pretty comprehensive, and include information like the languages spoken by the guide, their areas of expertise, as well as the years of experience they have.

There’s also a section which lists the trips a guide has successfully completed. This comes with a detailed itinerary of the trip, which gives travellers an idea of what they can expect should they decide to hire a particular guide. You can also check out reviews that previous travellers have left, so you don’t end up with, say, a human trafficker in disguise.

The profile page of a guide on GuideAdvisor.

One of the main selling points of GuideAdvisor, according to its Facebook page, is that they “[connect] travellers with guides directly to custom tailor their experiences…Our trip planning website allows guides and explorers to connect and then together create the most incredible experiences possible.” It’s a great feature, especially for those who know where they want to go, but don’t have the time to figure out the details like how to get to specific places of interest. And judging by the pictures some of these guides have taken with their guests, it seems GuideAdvisor is delivering on its promise.

Another feature which GuideAdvisor is using to its advantage is its Travelogues section, which is a curated selection of articles relating to travel. It includes in-depth interviews with guides listed on their platform, which not only helps assure travellers that they’re in safe hands, but serves as a source of motivation for guides to provide better services.

Travelogues on GuideAdvisor
Travelogues on GuideAdvisor

Verdict: 3.5/5

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Overall, GuideAdvisor is a pretty handy travel tool to have in your arsenal, especially if you’re planning to go somewhere less well-documented or are worried about language barriers. The layout of the site is pretty clean and easy to navigate, which is helpful in relieving some of the stress that can come with holiday planning. That said, I do wonder if the market for guided tours will still be present in a few years’ time.

Is social media replacing real tour guides?

Technology has made it such that almost all of what we need can be found online, and this is especially clear in the travel industry: Got lost on the streets in a country where you can’t read a single sign? Use Google Translate. Need suggestions on where to go for dinner? There’re TripAdvisor, Triposo, or Lonely Planet for that. And when nothing else works, Instagram and Facebook are fail-safe options — key in any hashtag, and you get a flood of suggestions from travellers worldwide.

In a sense, social media channels have become the modern-day tour guide. It doesn’t necessarily make the human aspect of travelling any less important, but it does replace a lot of what we relied on humans to do. But if you’d still prefer talking to an actual human than to Siri, well, there’s always GuideAdvisor for that.

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