As many of you know that when drivers, tour directors, and group leaders are not working in complete harmony there can be often hurt feelings and misunderstandings. Think about the situations that your drivers are often placed in: In many destinations the drivers are required to stay with the coach. They often can’t leave valuables unattended, and city ordinances require drivers to be with the coach at all times. If the coach does not have a restroom, the driver often has to go in search of a restroom, leave the bus, and potentially get a ticket. Often drivers are sitting on a coach, on a curb, or in a parking lot for hours. I encourage all group leaders and tour directors to think about your drivers. Exercise a bit of common courtesy; offer to bring the driver a cold drink, or a cup of coffee when you return to the coach. Most of the times drivers will say no, but remember often in crowded cities, on warm days when your driver finds a parking spot they don’t want to give it up. If you are in historic areas the drivers are grateful to find a parking spot and are often waiting for a bus to pull out and grab a space. This is only common courtesy, and if you think as your drivers as people with needs, your tours will always go smoother. I can tell you how appreciative I have been when I have been sitting in a parking lot on warm days and a passenger brought me an ice-cream. I could not have done enough for these passengers. Please remember that the more inclusive you are to your drivers the better your trips will be. Allow your drivers to say no, rather than tell them they are not welcome on a group activity. If they are not welcome make sure the driver knows well in advance so they can prepare for the day. Often Group leaders want to exclude tour directors and drivers on group events, this is never a problem, unless it is done at the last moment. At Tye’s Tours our drivers are treated as passengers, they receive the same opportunities for sightseeing and when a meal is not included we make sure they have a meal allowance. When a driver is excluded from a meal function for any reason, we ask our tour directors send food to the driver. It is a little thing but is all about showing the drivers respect and that we appreciate all that they do. Often driver’s can’t find parking close to a restaurant and has no choice but to stay on the bus or park miles away Tye’s Tours always includes tickets for our tour directors and drivers when possible, so that they become part of the group. Having the tour director involved is part of small group dynamics and what make our tours so popular. I was recently on a tour as a driver guide, where a non refundable $100 ticket was purchased for an exclusive event. I was told on the day of the event, I was not welcome or invited, (not a good way to end a tour). It certainly stings when you are uninvited on your own tour.
Every day tour directors, drivers and group leaders have to have either a morning conference or a
conference the night before, to make sure everyone is on the same page. This is the only way communication will ever be clear. If the group leader has a special need, such as someone with a Birthday and requesting a cake; or either tour director or group leader need to change times; or any event needs to be discussed with the driver, this is the time to do it. Driver’s only have so many hours in a day they can work, they must be off duty for a certain number of hours, and they must have sufficient sleep to be safe. Often group leaders are insomniacs and they worry about the next day and need to vent to those outside of a group. I can assure you that once drivers and tour directors hit the pillows, they only want to hear from passengers and group leaders if there is an emergency. They will discuss anything that needs to be discussed in the morning. You are endangering the groups’ safety if you wake your drivers up with text messages, phone calls, or any other communication not urgent. The purpose of having a conference with driver, tour director, and group leader is to take care of any tour business before bedtime or first thing in the morning. Message your group if you must, don’t message drivers or tour directors in the middle of the night.
Group Leaders, tour directors and drivers must be a team and work as a team. If a group leader has a challenge with anything that is taking place on a tour positive or negative, it must be discussed openly and clearly with all parties involved. There should be enough of a friendship between tour director and group leader that an open conversation can be had at any time. A group leader has spent a great deal of time an energy organizing a group and her comments and feelings must be respected; a tour director is working for a tour company and must deliver the products sold. Our tour directors and tour managers must manage the tour and often the information a tour manager has been updated where the information the group leader may have is different. You have paid to have a tour manager accompany your group, let them do their job. Often group leaders want to be in control and we encourage our tour managers to back off when they can. A tour is not a democracy; there is no voting on a tour. A tour is not a dictatorship and when a group leader tries to bully a tour manager to get their way this is not a team effort. Resentment always begins when a group leader begins to command and not ask. For example a group leader might say; “we have had enough sightseeing take us to the hotel.” This is a command not a request, the tour director will almost always comply and so will our drivers. The tour director must advise if an attraction is missed and if it is an advertised feature that the entire group is ok with skipping this attraction. A group leader might say something like one of our passengers is having difficulty with the bus steps could you find a step stool? This is a request and every one of our tour directors will go out of their way to accommodate a passenger. However if a group leader says something like we need a step stool, will we have one tomorrow? The response may be very different. Often group leaders request to change to a dinner hour, which is seldom is a problem unless it interferes with the hour a driver needs off. Let’s say a group leader wants to change a 7:30 dinner to a 9:30 dinner as the group wants time to socialize or take a nap, or go for a swim. The dinner goes until 11 PM and the driver gets back to hotel at 11:30 and takes a half hour to complete daily paper work. The driver can not start the engine of the bus until 8 am, if he is to be legal. If a group leader or tour director asks the driver, the driver will advise if he has the hours needed. When you command, instead of asking the driver may say no, or resentment may build up. When a group leader commands a tour director rather than asking the results are seldom positive. The same is true of tour directors they must not command but request. If a meal is included at a late hour in a hotel a tour director must often excuse themselves to prepare for the next day. They are not snubbing the group, they are doing their job. Every tour director if doing a new tour needs 8 hours of prep time for every tour day and an hour per day to review notes, maps and commentary for the next day. If a group wants to add an attraction or expense it has to be clear as to who is paying for it. This is all about effective communication, nothing else. We at Tye’s Tours value each and every customer and will do all in our power to make sure we give our customers a positive experience and excels at customer service.
I just returned from a trip where I was the driver / guide. This was a very stressful trip as I like to have a good time with my passengers and laugh and joke and enjoy each and every day of life. I love to discover
new things while on tour, new foods and attractions. When I am not having a good time I wonder if my passengers are?
I am writing this blog as we are in the busy tour season and I hope you will share these comments with the people that travel with you. Treat your drivers and tour directors with respect and they will treat you with respect. Remember a little common courtesy goes a long way. When traveling with a small group being inclusive and communicating with everyone is key.
If you ask and don’t command it is easier for everyone to get along. Your drivers and tour directors are dependent on gratuities and when you stiff your drivers and tour directors they seek other forms of employment.