There are so many opportunities to enhance the experience of a group tour by utilizing the many devices, smartphone applications, and web tools available today. Having spent years teaching workshops on tour, technology has made me realize how frustrating the learning experience can be. So, I’d like to inspire you by sharing just four of the dozens of the opportunities that exist today to create a truly engaging (and well-run) tour.
Share photos together
Everyone loves a good photo, but not everyone is a fantastic photographer. Taking photos from a moving vehicle like a bus is extra hard: everything flies by so fast, and what if you’re on the wrong side of the bus for that great view? One of the best ways to make everyone happy is to create a shared group photo album where everyone can post their photos and like and comment on each other’s great shots. My favorite app to do this is TripCast. A group leader can create an album, and share a code with everyone to join the private group and add their own photos. Then with one tap of their phones, a traveler can download a photo they missed or a particularly good shot.
Set up group messaging
Location misunderstandings, late guests, and sudden changes can all cause a group tour to suddenly turn chaotic. It’s why communicating clearly is so important. It happens: sometimes plans change while your group is enjoying the free time and you need to send a message to everyone quickly. You might set up a group text message, but then everyone in the group will bother everyone with each message. Instead, try an app like Remind or GroupMe. In both cases, the administrator or teacher can set up a group messaging thread where every traveler can message the group leader but can’t message each other.
In addition, those apps allow you to share photos, locations, files, and so much more. I love to use it for fun activities like taking song requests for music on the bus, or playing fastest-finger trivia games, or holding photography contests where everyone submits their best photo for a prize.
Connect your phone or tablet to the motor coaches
With a few cables and a stroke of good luck, you can connect your smartphone or tablet to the motor coach’s screens and unlock a world of wonderful possibilities for keeping the group engaged. You’ll want to start by knowing which connector your phone has (iPhone Lightning or USB-C common to Android devices) and then purchase adapters that convert it into HDMI or RCA connectors (the two most common types of video inputs on a bus). Imagine playing short YouTube clips that make a sight come alive: watch Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech before visiting the Lincoln Memorial, or watch historical footage of how the Golden Gate Bridge was built.
But beyond videos, you might create Powerpoint presentations and share your insights about a place, take interactive polls using Slido.com, or play an interactive trivia game with Kahoot.com as a group! The possibilities are endless and can transform a group tour experience.
Create a group farewell video
The end of the tour is always bittersweet. Even if it feels like time to return to normal life, travelers are going to miss the variety of experiences they all just shared. I always like to end my tours with a surprise wow moment, and for me, that means sharing a video with short clips of all the places we’ve been together as a group. I call it the Farewell Video, and it’s easier to make than you think. Simply remember to film short 3-5 second clips while the group is enjoying a variety of activities.
At the end of the trip, use a free smartphone app like iMovie for iPhones or InShot for Android, to add those clips together, add a title at the beginning, and some music over the whole video. In a surprisingly short amount of time, you’ll have a fantastic video you can play on the motorcoach screens (or share afterward) that reminds everyone of just how wonderful the trip was. (Be sure to leave out any less-than-stellar moments.) Then, upload the movie to YouTube as an unlisted video, and share the link with everyone so they can go home and rave about the trip to their family and friends.
These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg. But with anything, practice is key. Choose one idea, and make it your project with your next tour. Practice it in advance, and then watch as you expand just what you can offer your travelers!
About Mitch Bach
Mitch is the co-founder of TripSchool [thetripschool.com], a learning organization that helps tour guides, tour operators and other travel professionals grow their skills and pursue their travel career dreams. TripSchool offers courses ranging from tour technology to storytelling and guide certifications. Mitch has worked in the group travel industry for 20 years, since his days as a tour guide in Paris, France. Today he is an international speaker, author, tour guide trainer, and consultant for the group tour industry.