Being a tour guide means wearing many hats; the ability to tell the story of a particular group of soldiers in the context of war is just one of them. There are many intangible qualities of a proficient tour guide that are less visible but equally important. A tour guide must be a good communicator; be flexible; deal with a wide range of personalities and experience levels; manage logistics; and possess the language and cultural skills and local contact base to handle problems in the field.
As an example, I was helping a recent tour sign-up understand flight alternatives to work in a visit to Paris, and was sharing basic French cultural tips to make the client feel more comfortable visiting Paris on their own. (See also: Episode SA16: “Insert Laugh Track Here:” A Cross-Cultural Conversation on Visiting France – Battles of the First World War Podcast.) A bit later today, I received a request from a tour client who wanted a private moment at the grave of her ancestor with the cemetery superintendent present only. That should be easy enough, and a local florist could even provide a wreath or flowers, if the client desires. But again, it is weaving one more piece into the logistics.
On a 2022 tour Markus and I helped one American get a sleeping medication prescription filled at a local pharmacy. This required communicating with the doctor and the local pharmacist with a six-hour time difference, while keeping the tour on schedule. In 2021, we sourced a local lab for Covid-19 tests for clients the day before returning to the U.S., making departure day easier for them.
We have invited well-known authors, historians and cemetery superintendents to be guests at dinner, when the opportunity presents itself, because this gives our clients yet another experience.
We believe we do a very good job wearing so many different hats, setting the stage for a memorable tour. Our clients say it best, so we invite you to read their testimonials.
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