‘Best job in the world’
Group tours are popular across the globe, so the world really is your oyster. Whether you’re keen to wander around cities, sail the Nile in a dhow, go on safari, lead a mountain bike group or party hard at worldwide festivals, there’s something for you.
“There is no better job on the planet,” Contiki tour manager, Nick Boyes, 29, from Hertfordshire, says.
“You are a part of people’s holidays of a lifetime, and get to know parts of countries as if they were home. It’s not
a job, it’s a lifestyle.”
It’s not all fun and games
The job is perfect for anyone with a sense of adventure, and you don’t need previous experience. But, despite the obvious perks, it’s hard work. Hours are long, people can be difficult and you could find yourself in a pickle with your boss 12,000 miles away.
“You are always having to adapt to ever-changing situations and make quick decisions, all the while keeping
a cool and calm exterior,” Boyes says.
“You are constantly planning and watching timings, as you hit delays. You have to think quickly and rework schedules, there are lots of phone calls, and you spend a lot of time learning about places, talking and listening to passengers.”
Survival of the fittest
Large tour companies get inundated with applications, but thorough vetting processes ensure only the best succeed.
Topdeck Travel places a strong emphasis on an interest in European history and culture, and, initially, applicants must write about the continent’s most important characters.
Subsequently, there is a group interview stage and a one-on-one interview. Shortlisted applicants must then issue a number of written assignments before attending a seven-week training tour covering Europe’s major cities. “It’s a draining process,” admits Barry Mahon, Topdeck operations manager. “And if you don’t come prepared, it’ll bite in the first week.”
The exhaustive process is justified when you consider organisers must weed out the best from some 1800 applications a year.
But if it all sounds a bit boot camp, apply for the role of ground crew or cooks. They’re good stepping stones.
Companies such as Travel Talk employ mostly local guides, but tour leaders on its Croatia sailing trips are led mostly by antipodeans.
“We need party animals, and Kiwis and Aussies are good at that,” Eyup Guven, the company’s operations manager, says.
“But they must be able to communicate well and know how to create an atmosphere where everyone feels safe and is having fun.”
Successful applicants are interviewed once, then are put on a plane to Turkey to join a tour, shadowing an experienced guide.
The pay varies wildly. It can be £300 a week, or just your food and accommodation paid for. But the reward is not just monetary.
Topdeck trip leader, Grainge Phillips, 27, from Melbourne, says: “When you’re camping in the Swiss Alps, or riding gondolas in Venice, you don’t even feel like you’re working.”
Give and get back
To be considered for a job, you must apply by September the previous year. Most companies want you to commit to at least two summers, and working in winter is optional. You might also be required to pay a bond for the training trip, refundable when you graduate.
Take Boyes’ advice: “It’s not about what you get, but what you can give. I truly believe that all the hard work is worth it.”
Also try these companies:
On The Go tours around the world and recruits locally, but not always. See onthegotours.com
First Festival Travel recruits about a third of the 150 applications it receives. See firstfestivaltravel.com
PP Travel covers European festivals and recruits leaders and ground crew year round. See pptravel.com
Fanatics tours festivals, sporting events and Croatia. Leaders and ground crew are recruited year round, usually through referral.
Busabout runs a hop-on-hop-off service and tours Europe. Recruits about 30 people each year. Apply
in September. See busabout.com