Steve Jobs once famously said he wanted to put a ding in the universe: an infamously high standard that has the rest of us scrambling just to put a ding in the ding. Such micro-dinging is hard work, and the last thing I want to see is technology making that work harder. As I said, I expect technology to become a slave useful for creating jobs, opportunity, and wealth in your community. I want each and every professional tour guide who is making money in your community to view smartphone tours as an asset to his or her business, and not a liability to it.
“But won’t automated smartphone tours take away jobs from our professional tour guides?” you might ask.
The confidant answer is, “No, they absolutely won’t,” and here’s why.
The best professional tour guides are natural story tellers. They are fun, funny, engaging, and they know how to succinctly convey information without being a bore. They answer questions. They keep things moving along. But they have a three drawbacks.
One is they only work certain hours, so if your tourist wants to tour when the guide is not working, then both are unsatisfied. The tourist cannot tour on their preferred schedule, and the guide loses an opportunity. By capturing that guide’s command performance in a digital recording, his tour then becomes available 24x7x365 to a wide variety of mobile devices and web based streaming channels. The result is that guide now has a new source of revenue. His smartphone tour simply becomes another of his offerings, but one that never takes a day off, never has an off day, and never gets sick. If the guide is clever, then she will use the smartphone tour to funnel tourists to her live tour, because nothing beats live. And if he or she is really clever, she will script her command performance in such a way that it has a very long shelf-life and continues to sell long after she has retired, generating residual income for her beneficiaries. Everyone wins!
The guide’s second drawback is that he lacks the economy of scale. Tours are most affordable when there is a group splitting the cost of the guide among its members. Conversely, a guide becomes less affordable as the group scales down, until at a group size of one or two, the guide becomes prohibitively expensive. The guide must either incur the cost and hassle of assembling a group or risk losing the business of the solo or coupled traveler, of which there are many. The smartphone tour is perfectly scaled for the solo traveller, but as I will show you later in the book, it can easily be adapted for groups as well. Think of it this way: You can buy Coke in a one liter bottle for groups, or you can buy Coke in a single serving for the individual. Same Coke, just packaged differently. The exact same principle of scaling applies to tours.
Third and final, a good guide is by necessity a generalist, which is mostly a good thing, until tourists demand very specialized information, which they increasingly are doing, especially if the destination attracts foreign tourists. Imagine our guide is giving a tour of an American Civil war site to a couple from France. Does the guide speak French? Does the guide know about and appreciate the role France played in the Civil War? As they move from a Civil War site to a Revolutionary War site, will the guide’s expertise about France’s role in that war be sufficient? How strong is the guide’s knowledge of American history in general, up to an including France’s role in the Vietnam War? I once took a tour where the guide had to repeat everything she said five times: in French, German, Russian, English and Norwegian. Whew! It’s a lot to ask of one person, and it is a rare one indeed who can perform at that level.