Arival 360 day 5: “Guiding is a form of art”

A different approach on the final day of Arival 360 brought candid, funny and important stories

And so the final day of Arival 360 came to pass with a tour operator bootcamp. Douglas Quinby got a night off as Mitch Bach from TripSchool took over to focus on guides, storytelling, diversity, and, of course, some fun during the final party. As one person said in the comments: “Arival 360 gave me a boost and reminded me why I LOVE this industry!”

The day started with a panel on how to “empower guides and engage guests”. The co-founders of TripSchool, Bach and Alan Armijo, led a panel about how to really use tour guides and how that has changed through this crazy year. Constant evolution of products to use storytelling sessions, switching customers’ focus from dry, academic history to a vibrant city around them, and allowing guides to drape their own personality over a skeleton script were some of the ideas brought up.

But it was really Luciano Bullorsky, president of ToursByLocals that hit the nail on the head: “Guiding is a form of art, and our guides, for me, they are artists. And if I have to provide a specific example, they’re rock stars.” It was a good foreshadowing for the next session — a workshop on how to use storytelling techniques to create that wow moment for tourists.

Finishing with a flourish

Guiding Arival 360
Bach used an abandoned, bombed-out church on one tour as an example of how to build anticipation — Sergio Souza / Unsplash

Bach took us through different ways of building anticipation and finishing with a flourish with a range of colourful examples. From simple things, such as adding moments that aren’t in a tour’s description, to creating the illusion that it is the travellers leading their way by using a fidget spinner to decide the next direction of travel, this was packed full of useful ideas of how to stun.

An entrepreneurship panel could have ended up being rather dry. However, Shane Whaley, who really has the voice for a podcast, guided his guests through their inspirations, mistakes, funding and their nightmare situations. What could have been a boring discussion on investment strategies and risk assessments was refreshingly funny and candid. I now know that I can learn (some) accountancy from YouTube.

Time to change the “same voices, delivering the same narratives”

Guiding Arival 360
“The travel industry has a diversity problem” — Womanizer WOW Tech / Unsplash

“The travel industry has a diversity problem.” These were the words of Leon Burnett as he opened an important panel on diversity with Stephanie Jones and John Tanzella. The need for the travel industry to step away from the “same voices, delivering the same narratives” has been increasingly discussed through 2020, and this was full of concrete steps on how to make these authentic. It could be updating the imagery used in marketing materials, finding new stories to tell, and providing training to staff on how to share and deal with issues of discrimination of whatever sort.

Arival 360’s final session was on how to tell stories — not deliver information. Even if it wasn’t used, at its core was the quote from playwright Anton Chekhov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Travellers will build connections and gather memories if they receive a story behind the location they’re visiting, rather than the dry facts. It’s an opportunity for guests to really get to know their guides and to be taken to another emotional level.

A closing party has become an odd thing over Zoom, or SwapCard in this case. This was a bit more like a panel quiz from the evening telly. But it was pulled off well, each of the participants dialling in and having a barrel of laughs. And, by the end of Arival 360, Bach’s cheeks must have been tired. The last words to drift through my laptop speakers: “I’m going to stop smiling.”

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