The second instalment of a two-part blog showing how a private London tour is arranged from beginning to end. Here, Your London Tours chief guide Kevin Molloy explains the process from job booking to successful tour. Click here for part 1 of this blog (The Operator).
My name is Kevin Molloy and I have over 15 years’ experience as a professional British Tourist guide. The first time I get to hear of a tour job is when I am contacted by the office to see if I am available for a certain date. If so, a job-sheet is e-mailed to me containing the basic details of the tour: date, client name, number of adults/children, pick-up address, and a brief itinerary of the tour service requested.
Next, I check to see if there is any special information, such as a booster seat request for a younger child. Also, for some tours the company books tickets to attractions in advance, so I need to make sure I have these printed to take with me on the job.
I live in the suburbs of London about 7 miles from the downtown area. If I am driving, I leave early (6-6.30am) to beat the rush-hour traffic. This allows me to get to the pick-up point in plenty of time, have a coffee, and just check any last-minute details, traffic bulletins, etc.
About 15 minutes before the scheduled pick-up time I usually call in just to let the clients know I am ready and where they can find me. After meeting and greeting the clients, and briefly running through the itinerary, the tour can begin in earnest.
The itineraries are not set in stone, they are a framework and we can flexible on the day if needs be. For example, if the children in a family group are more into technology than animals, a visit to the Science Museum might be more appropriate than to the Natural History Museum. In addition, younger children can sometimes get tired in the afternoon, so I am aware of how the parents or guardians may want to change track to help with these situations.
More than anything else, of course, the tour is about one thing: the clients’ enjoyment. Thus, I aim to make tours as fun and as interesting as possible.
From a practical point of view, the most important factor is timing. It is amazing how quickly an eight-hour day can slip away from you if you don’t keep on top of things. Years of experience ‘in the field’ have taught me to notice possible traffic problems, demonstrations to avoid, weather signs (where the clients made need an umbrella), etc.
Also, I have to remain aware if the clients are booked onto one of our highlights tours. I could easily spend a whole day in some places, such as the Tower of London, explaining all the history and culture there. But, of course, that is simply not practical.
The End of the Day
I finish the tour by dropping off the clients at their hotel or requested place. If I can help with tips and suggestions for the rest of their vacation I try to do so.
Then, for the return 7-mile journey back home: this time it takes about an hour through the legendary south London rush-hour traffic. Finally, and always the first thing to help me relax when I get back… a nice cup of tea!
Kevin is a professional guide officially registered with the British Tourist Guide Institute. In 2006 he was awarded the highest professional qualification in the tour sector, the coveted London Blue Badge, making him part of an elite team exclusively permitted to guide in London attractions and UK sites. In 2011 he became an accredited examiner for the Institute. In 2007 he qualified as a City of London Guide allowing him exclusive access to places of interest in the heart of the capital.