In high school, I loved history, especially Caribbean History. After school I entered the Nursing Profession and worked my way up the career ladder to the top. During this time I was facilitated to further my education at University obtaining a BSC in Nursing, in addition to doing several short courses in Management, Project Management etc.
After my children were finished at University, I started thinking of my future plans, especially because the organization I was working with did not have a pension plan.
The idea of being an entrepreneur was born.
I enjoy working with people (staffing was one of my nursing assignments). I enjoy organizing, one of the projects I was involved in was organizing transportation for a staff of 600 persons working on several shifts.
I am fascinated with the history of the church, especially how it is entwined into the history of Jamaica.
I still marvel how early Jamaicans built these massive beautiful church buildings in the days when electrical and heavy duty equipment were not available.
Hence the idea of taking others to see these buildings and sharing their stories with them. So initially I started offering only tours to Worship sites. After a while I realized that I could include other heritage/cultural sites to enrich the experience.
How did you make the transition to becoming a tour guide?
Once I decided to become an entrepreneur, I asked for early retirement and started to investigate what was needed to operate a Tour Company. I approached the Jamaica Tourist Board and they advised me of the requirements to obtain a Tourist Board Licence, which included a trained tour guide. I enrolled with the Tourism Product Development Co. and successfully completed the basic and later the advanced Tour Guiding Courses.
What does a typical day look like for you?
One thing is certain, every day is different. I wear several hats; I now share my tour guiding duties with other guides. Most days I spend about half of the day on the computer researching, answering emails, planning tours. I am involved in marketing and so I attend a number of meetings.
When I am to conduct a tour, I spend the day(s) before preparing
- Finalizing plans with guests (time etc.)
- Confirming the bus(s)
- Confirming the visit with the tour sites to be visited
- obtaining souvenirs, water etc.,
- booking lunches where necessary
- Double checking the First-Aid-Kit(s)
- Reviewing the history of the sites to be visited as well as the sites we pass on our route.
- Financials- payments/vouchers/tips
Most of my tours are customized, although some are structured for marketing purposes. Even the structured tours may be adjusted based on the clients’ wishes; this is discussed before the tour, especially if it has implications for cost and time. After this the schedule is finalized which includes times for each tour site and stops (especially photo shots). I do give space for the unexpected. On tour, guests are usually given a brief history of Jamaica, and of Kingston, (or whichever parish the tour is located) and as we travel I give some information about the various points of interest. Travelling long distances or going into the mountains can be a bit scary for some guests & so we try to include some distractions such as jokes, stories, singing etc. I try to answer questions and explain queries about the country, culture etc.
What is the best part of your job?
The most interesting part of my job is the surprise and joy reaction of guests. A number of persons are scared of visiting the city of Kingston, which some people associate with crime. When they traverse the city, their usual reaction is that they do not see any difference with other cities. They are surprised about the variety of homes, attractions etc. Another pleasant reaction is after hearing the stories of say coffee, or visiting one of our historical worship sites- the stories and the architecture of the buildings usually amaze them.I enjoy taking the guests touring downtown(old Kingston) and then to the newer parts- the contrast blows their minds ( my best kept secret).
Every job has its ups and downs. Are there any aspects of your job that you don’t like or aren’t that keen on?
Yes. I do not like when guests are not prepared to cooperate with the guide, especially in terms of time. The tour sites are informed of the time my group will be visiting, so the time is reserved for me. When we are late we affect other groups who have also booked, and affect the delivery of the tour.
A Guide is very important because:
- If the guest is unfamiliar with the area they need someone who knows exactly where to go, where to get tickets, if not done before. This adds to the experience, and reduces the time locating sites. Yes the driver can inform the guest where to go, but it is much nicer to be escorted.
- Even if there is a guide at the site, a guide travelling with the group can share the various interesting points along the way.
- A guide travelling with the group can lessen or prevent the impact of unexpected occurrences. I have had experiences where a group is travelling, the driver is concentrating on his driving, and while talking to the guests, I observed that one was not looking well, so before he even complained I was able to render First Aid, which did not disturb the tour and the guest was able to continue on the tour. The guide enriched the entire experience.
- Some drivers know about some points of interest; however the guide is trained, and so will be more knowledgeable.
- As a guide I actually do the tours with the guests, even if the site has their own guide. There are times when I realize that the guests do not understand what is being told, especially when in a large group, and so I have to interject and ask that the point be explained or I will do it myself.
I once had a group of non-English –speaking guests who had booked to go to one of our waterfalls. At the hotel I reminded them not to take any valuables with them. When we arrived at the site, I informed them that they could leave their valuables in the bus because the driver would not be leaving the bus. On our way to the site, I enquired if they wished to rent a locker to lock away their valuables and the response was no. While climbing the falls they started getting wet with the water, (I was walking with the group on the steps outside the falls), they handed me some paper money and cigarettes that they had in their pockets-soaked!
- Kingston is a large city and I know that it has a reputation of crime. Most times our guests need to get cash from an ATM, they do not know where to locate one that dispenses US currency. When we stop by an ATM, the persons needing cash get out of the bus, while the others stay with the driver. I accompany the guests to the machine to make them feel more comfortable.
Tell us something about your area that only a guide would know.
- Tour guides do not have all the answers
- Not many persons are aware that the Kingston region (Kingston and the surrounding parishes) have the largest number of heritage sites within a small geographical area on the island.
- Only small areas of Kingston at times have a flare up of violence, the rest of the city operates as usual
In Shiraz I am not actually giving a tour but talking about me myself…you ask why?!!! because it is my hometown and I was born in an alley in the ancient texture of the city, so who can tell you about the place better than one who has lived there?!!!!
- The guide must enjoy working with people
- The guide must be knowledgeable about the tour site(s)
- The guide must be knowledgeable about the country’s history
- The guide must be knowledgeable about the country’s current affairs. (Often in the middle of a tour a guest will ask unrelated questions-e.g. What’s the GDP of the country, or the unemployment rate etc.)?
- The guide must be honest and not be afraid to admit that he/she does not know the correct answer to a question, but will find out and share.
- The guide must be observant of the guests, especially their body language.
- The guide must be flexible, understanding and not judgmental.
- The guide needs to have a basic knowledge of the culture of the guests.
- I find having an idea of the age range and interest of the guests assist me in knowing how to plan and pitch my tours.
And finally, have you got any tips for people who are interested in booking a guide like yourself, but aren’t too sure what to look for?
- Ask if there will be other persons on the tour and if so, how many
- Make sure you have been told the cost and the acceptable method of payment- cash only or card payment acceptable.
- Make sure you are clear whether lunch cost is included in cost or not.
- Get an idea of lunch cost where it is not included.
- If not stated ask about dress code, e.g. a trip to the mountains involving walking may need walking shoes and long pants.