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Tour manager

  • Hours

    Variable

  • Starting salary

    £15,000 + per year

If you want to combine your love of travel with work, then being a tour manager could be an ideal career choice.

You would be responsible for managing the travel arrangements of holiday makers and business clients, making sure everything runs according to plan.

To be a good tour manager, you would need experience of planning and organising trips, excellent ‘people’ skills and foreign languages if working overseas. Personal qualities are often more important than formal qualifications. ​



 

The work

As a tour manager, or tour director, you would be responsible for making sure that travel arrangements for groups of holiday-makers run as smoothly and enjoyably as possible. You would accompany passengers throughout their tour, keeping them informed about details like arrival and departure times and places of interest.

You would usually work on coach tours that could last from two to three days to over a month. You might also work on tours by rail or cruise ship.

Your job would involve:

  • welcoming the tour group at the start of their trip and informing them of travel arrangements and stopover points
  • making sure all travel arrangements run according to plan, and that the accommodation, meals and service are satisfactory
  • helping with passport and immigration issues
  • giving spoken commentaries about places en route (local guides may also be used)
  • promoting and selling excursions to tour members
  • advising on sights, local restaurants and shops at each destination
  • recording issues that may require follow-up after the tour.

You would need to be available at almost any time to give advice, solve problems and deal with emergencies like loss of passports or money, illness or difficulties with accommodation.

You might also specialise in the business travel sector. This would involve managing the travel arrangements for people on business, which could include dealing with insurance, visas, vehicle hire and responding to itinerary changes.


Hours

You would be responsible for the group throughout their tour, working from early morning until late in the evening, including weekends. You could be on call 24 hours a day.

You could work full-time or become freelance, working from tour to tour. The work can often be seasonal, with more jobs available during holiday periods.


Income

Tour managers salaries can start at around £15,000 a year, rising to around £20,000 with experience.

Income varies considerably from company to company, and also depends on the areas and types of tour the manager covers. Earnings are often based on a daily allowance, plus free board and lodgings for the duration of the tour and other relevant expenses.

Some tour managers are self-employed and hired by travel companies to provide a tour service.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.


Entry requirements

You do not usually need any particular qualifications to become a tour manager, but you would need a good standard of general education.

You would also need:

  • experience of working with people
  • a friendly and approachable manner
  • a keen interest in the culture, geography and history of the locations covered by the tour
  • a good working knowledge of foreign languages if touring overseas
  • experience of working overseas if the job you are applying for is based abroad.

You could move into this job after gaining experience in a related role, such as a travel agent, tour guide or tour rep.

Qualifications related to leisure, travel and tourism are available at all levels through colleges and universities and you may find it useful to complete one of these, but it is not essential.

You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. To find out more about Apprenticeships, visit the Apprenticeships website.

People 1st is the Sector Skills Council for hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism and their website, Careers That Move, gives more information and advice about jobs in the passenger transport and travel industries.


Training and development

Once you start work your employer will usually provide an induction course. This will cover the company’s policies and procedures, destinations, tasks, and health and safety. Your employer may give you the opportunity to work towards qualifications in travel and tourism.

When you have worked as a tour manager for at least 12 months, you could join the International Association of Tour Managers (IATM). Membership gives you access to professional development opportunities and training, such as the IATM Certificate of Tour Management, and can help you to develop your contacts and knowledge within the industry.

See the IATM website for more details.

If you work in business travel, you may be able to work towards a qualification offered by the Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC) in partnership with the Confederation of Tourism and Hospitality.

Qualifications include:

  • Consultant Certificate in Business Travel
  • Leadership Certificate in Business Travel
  • Management Certificate in Business Travel.

See the Guild for more details


Skills, interests and qualities

  • the ability to get on well with people of all ages and backgrounds
  • self-confidence
  • a polite, tactful and tolerant approach
  • excellent 'people' skills
  • an interest in geography and historical sites
  • good working knowledge of one or more foreign languages
  • safety-consciousness
  • the ability to deal calmly with emergencies
  • good organisational and time-management skills
  • a smart appearance.

More information

International Association of Tour Managers (IATM) (Opens new window)
397 Walworth Road
London
SE17 2AW
Tel: 020 7703 9154
www.iatm.co.uk

Careers That Move (Opens new window)
www.careersthatmove.co.uk

Institute of Travel and Tourism (Opens new window)
PO Box 217
Ware
Hertfordshire
SG12 8WY
Tel: 0844 4995 653
www.itt.co.uk


 

Opportunities

You could be employed by any of the operators that organise group package tours, ranging from large, international companies to small, specialist firms. You could also find work with business travel management companies.

Vacancies may be advertised in the press and on tour operators' websites, or you could contact tour operators for details of recruitment. You can find contact details of many tour operators on the following websites:

With experience, you could progress into a management job

You may find your skills as a tour manager useful in other tourism-related areas such as travel agencies, tourist boards or offices, and tourist information centres.


 

Related industry information

Industry summary

The travel and tourist services industry is represented by People 1st, the Sector Skills Council for hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism. The hospitality, travel and tourism sector incorporates the following industries: contract food service providers, events, gambling, holiday parks, hospitality services, hostels, hotels, membership clubs, pubs, bars and nightclubs, restaurants, self-catering accommodation, tourist services, and visitor attractions. The sector accounts for a workforce of 2.1 million, most of which are based within the restaurants, hospitality services, and pubs, bars and nightclubs industries. The roles within the sector are extremely diverse and include managers, technical staff, front-of-house staff, back-of-house staff, and non-core staff.

The travel services and tourist services industry can be divided into:

  • Travel services – these support the wider travel and tourism sector and include, for example, Thomas Cook, TUI, Co‐operative Travel Group, and STA Travel
  • Tourist services – these support inbound and domestic tourism and comprise:
    • National and regional tourist boards e.g. Visit Scotland, London Tourist Board
    • Tourist Information Centres
    • Inbound and domestic tour operators

The industry is also responsible for a large number of tourist guides that can be found at visitor attractions and on coach and independent tours.

Key facts:

  • There are 119,800 people working in the travel and tourist services industry.
  • The majority of the workforce has a NVQ Level 4 qualification (35%).
  • 4% of the workforce has no qualifications.
  • The majority of the workforce is female.
  • The majority of the workforce is employed full‐time.

[N.B. Data derived from Labour Force Survey, 2009.]

Jobs in the industry range from: travel agent, tour guide, blue badge tour guide (level 4), business travel agency manager, home‐working travel consultant, tour operator, resort manager, tourism officer, and tourist board manager.


National and regional data

East Midlands – There are approximately 6,300 people working in the travel and tourist services industry in this region, of which:

  • 84% work full‐time
  • 53% of the workforce is female
  • 81% of the workforce is white
  • 22% of the workforce is 25‐29 years
  • 32% of the workforce has an NVQ level 2 qualification

As the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism sector as a whole, there are an estimated: 500 travel agency managers; 1,500 travel agents; and 400 travel and tour guides.

East of England – There are approximately 8,200 people working in the travel and tourist services industry in this region, of which:

  • 52% work full‐time
  • 64% of the workforce is female
  • 97% of the workforce is white
  • 20% of the workforce is 25‐29 years
  • 33% of the workforce has an NVQ level 2 qualification

As the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism sector as a whole, there are an estimated: 4,900 travel agents; and 1,000 travel and tour guides.

London – There are approximately 16,000 people working in the travel and tourist services industry in this region, of which:

  • 85% work full‐time
  • 52% of the workforce is female
  • 84% of the workforce is white
  • 24% of the workforce is 30‐34 years
  • 55% of the workforce has an NVQ level 4 and above qualification

Taking the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism sector as a whole, there are an estimated: 2,900 travel agency managers; 6,700 travel agents; and 1,400 travel and tour guides.

North East – There are approximately 5,700 people working in the travel and tourist services industry in this region, of which:

  • 52% work full‐time
  • The majority of the workforce is female
  • 23% of the workforce is 30‐34 years
  • 52% of the workforce has an NVQ level 3 qualification

North West – There are approximately 12,000 people working in the travel and tourist services industry in this region, of which:

  • 84% work full‐time
  • 65% of the workforce is female
  • 96% of the workforce is white
  • Equal proportions of the workforce are aged 20‐24 years (18%) and 30‐34 years (18%)
  • 31% of the workforce has an NVQ level 4 or above qualification

As the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism sector as a whole, there are an estimated: 5,700 travel agents; and 1,500 travel and tour guides.

South East – There are approximately 19,200 people working in the travel and tourist services industry in this region, of which:

  • 77% work full‐time
  • 68% of the workforce is female
  • 91% of the workforce is white
  • 32% of the workforce is 30‐34 years
  • 36% of the workforce has an NVQ level 4 or above qualification

As the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism sector as a whole, there are an estimated: 2,300 travel agency managers; 7,600 travel agents; and 3,700 travel and tour guides.

South West – There are approximately 5,100 people working in the travel and tourist services industry in this region, of which:

  • 75% work full‐time
  • 82% of the workforce is female
  • 18% of the workforce is 55‐59 years
  • 43% of the workforce has an NVQ level 4 or above qualification

As the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism sector as a whole, there are an estimated: 2,700 travel agents; and 1,700 travel and tour guides.

West Midlands – There are approximately 6,800 people working in the travel and tourist services industry in this region, of which:

  • 60% work full‐time
  • 74% of the workforce is female
  • 91% of the workforce is white
  • 24% of the workforce is 20‐24 years
  • 32% of the workforce has an NVQ level 3 qualification

Yorkshire and the Humber – There are approximately 7,200 people working in the travel and tourist services industry in this region, of which:

  • 56% work full‐time
  • 60% of the workforce is female
  • 23% of the workforce is 25‐29 years
  • 33% of the workforce has an NVQ level 3 qualification

Northern Ireland – There are approximately 43,900 people working in the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism sector as whole in Northern Ireland, of which 1,418 work in the travel and tourist services industry in 100 establishments. Details as follows:

  • The majority of the workforce is female and full‐time
  • 50% of the workforce is aged 20‐24 years
  • 63% of the workforce has an NVQ level 4 qualification

Scotland – There are approximately 183,500 people working in the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism sector as whole in Scotland, of which 6,847 work in the travel and tourist services industry in 900 establishments. Details as follows:

  • The majority of the workforce is female and full‐time
  • 28% of the workforce is aged 25‐29 years
  • 34% of the workforce has an NVQ level 4 qualification

Wales – There are approximately 86,100 people working in the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism sector as whole in Wales, of which 5,569 work in travel and tourist services industry in 500 establishments. Details as follows:

  • The majority of the workforce is female and full‐time
  • 32% of the workforce is aged 16‐24 years
  • 46% of the workforce has an NVQ level 2 qualification

Career paths


Further sources


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