Portland Walking Tours

What makes a good tour?

March 22nd, 2011

We’re celebrating our ten year anniversary this year. We’re proud that Portland Walking Tours has been able to continue to provide excellent, engaging tours year after year. It’s a mark not only of having a great city to guide people in, but also a sign that we’re doing a few things right.

It’s a good opportunity to reflect on an important question regarding what we do:  What makes a good tour?

First, we have a great city to show off. Portland is full of interesting history, art, architecture, food, culture… and stories. Portland gives us great stories to tell and sights to see, and makes it truly enjoyable to walk around our pedestrian-friendly city.

Second, it’s about being engaging. There are a couple of important aspects surrounding this:

  • Having a dialog with the folks on the tour. No one wants to be talked at for two hours. It’s much more fun for everyone if it’s a two-way conversation. Our tour guides are selected in part based on their ability to interact with people, and then we train them to improve those skills.
  • It’s about the story. Anyone can walk around and find the architecture, great restaurants, terrific transit options, and so on. But the ability to weave interesting tidbits about these unique finds is what keeps a tour group hanging on a guide’s every word and looking forward to the next stop on the tour.

Third, it’s about the guide. We recruit people who truly enjoy walking around in whatever weather with a group of strangers and making them smile. Then we send them through intensive training – book-learning, observation, practice, classroom, live demos and more – for over six weeks, during which time guides have to prove they truly are Resident Experts who can wow a crowd. Then we treat them right by hiring them as W-2 employees rather than contractors, with flexible schedules and opportunities to try new things. They get hourly wages in addition to your generous gratuities. (Smile.)

Finally, we get feedback – and we listen to it. We are constantly working on ways to make our tours more enjoyable for you, based on suggestions you give us during and after tours. And when you tell us about things you’d like to see, we work hard to develop new tours to satisfy your hunger for more of Portland.

We’ll have new things to tell you in that regard… soon. For now, here’s a toast to ten more years of fun tours in Portland!