Get To Know Wellington Guide John Barry

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Capital Personalised Tours founder John Barry left behind the world of banking to embark on a new career that incorporated his love of nature and his appreciation of fine wine. Now he operates tours of New Zealand’s Greater Wellington region including the nation’s capital, as well as the nearby Wairarapa area, known for its wine.
How did you get into your field of expertise?

When I was working at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, one of my more interesting jobs was picking up visiting central bankers from the airport in Auckland and touring them through the North Island for a few days before their formal meetings began in Wellington. I decided there and then that when I finished my banking career I would look to move into personalised tours.

How did you make the transition to becoming a tour guide?

I worked on a project that outsourced my banking role to Sydney and set about getting the licenses and training required to become a tour operator.

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day involves collecting my guests from their hotel and spending the rest of the day with them showing off our city. When I don’t have tours to take I’m often promoting the company via social media.

Have you got a certain style of guiding, or do you just run with it on the day?

My style of guiding is professional but relaxed. By the end of the day, my customers have invariably become my friends.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is interacting with my guests during the day. It’s amazing where a conversation can lead and the knowledge that can be obtained.

And are there any aspects of your job that you aren’t that keen on?

The usual housekeeping required when running your own business can be onerous.

What’s the most bizarre request you’ve had from one of your clients?

One of the more interesting requests I had on a tour was from a Swiss man who insisted we drop into a liquor outlet to pick up a hip flask of whisky before he boarded the interisland ferry. He had heard the prices at the bar on the ferry were high.

As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain to our readers what the benefits of hiring a guide are?

I believe hiring a guide is particularly beneficial for visitors to a city who are on tight timeframes. This particularly applies to cruise ship passengers. A guide can take them to all the best places in a day plus impart useful information about the city and its people. A personalised tour guide is on hand to attend to any requirements they have and answer any question they may have.

Tell us something about Wellington that only a guide would know…

In Wellington, Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop tour is in great demand and if you want to avoid a lengthy wait on the day you should pre-book your tour.

In your view, what makes a good tour guide?

A good tour guide enjoys his job and is skilled at picking up on the interests and needs of his customers to ensure they get the most out of their visit.

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?

Personalised tours are a growth tourism area as many visitors prefer touring in smaller groups. Those seeking the personal touch should search for tour guides with star reviews.

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