It’s not intentional, but tours are usually created once and then passed on from guide to guide.
Rarely are tours re-evaluated and content overhauled due to the time needed to retrain everyone on the tour.
I argue that we SHOULD make that extra time commitment.
Revealing a more diverse history on our tours will not only paint a more accurate picture of your destination for guests, but it keeps tours fresh and more engaging to give.
One of my favorite tours I used to give was of the Statue of Liberty.
Trailed by a group of (usually) American tourists that were often in my city for the first time, and booked on my tour simply to get that Instagram photo…they were usually expecting a fun time, and maybe a few historical details about the Statue.
That is not the tour I delivered.
Years ago I read a book about the story of the sculptor’s journey to build the Statue of Liberty (highly, highly recommend) which gives a perhaps, less noble purpose to the iconic-statue.
On my tour (careful to be out of earshot of Park Rangers who were a bit more conservative with their teachings), I would regale guests with the somewhat tragic story of a ‘Mama’s Boy’, who really wanted to build an epic statue, at whatever cost.
Becoming a symbol of Liberty & the American Dream? That came well after.
I would also introduce them to the Statue of Liberty’s maintenance man whenever we passed him, who had the most amazing title; “Keep of the Light” as he was the sole person with keys to the torch (which most people don’t realize has been closed to the public since 1916).
My groups would always ask to take pictures with him (& he’d put aside his tools or broom, only slightly harassed that we interrupted his work).
Having been educated in the USA, I can tell you that the story I shared on Liberty Island was NOT what I learned in school.
I would often get school-aged kids on my tour and encourage them to go back and harass their teachers with this ‘radical’ knowledge (I can only hope that they did!)
Tour guides have the power (I’d even argue, ‘duty’) to share the true stories of their cities with travelers.
In this article, I outline different ways tour guides can source a more diverse history. Let’s take on the responsibility and raise the bar.