Postprint of: Weiler, B & Walker, K 2014, 'Enhancing the visitor experience: reconceptualising the tour guide’s communicative role', Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Management, vol. 21, pp. 90-99.
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This paper reviews and synthesises research findings to date on (1) the role of the tour guide as experience broker, (2) the relevance and efficacy of guide communication, and in particular the application of nature and heritage interpretation principles to enhance the guided tour experience, and (3) visitor demands and expectations of a tour guide’s communication. These collectively provide a basis for deepening and reconceptualising the communicative role of the guide beyond a one-way commentator to that of an experience broker. With this as a foundation, the authors report on how the content of one tour guide training program, the Tonga Whale Guide Training Program (TWGTP), was selected, developed and delivered in a specific developing country context. Based on pre-post differences reported by training participants, the training was successful in impacting the guides’ self-reported capacity to broker physical access, encounters, understanding and empathy of their tour groups. The training also improved guides’ understanding of and capacity to apply the principles of interpretation to their tours. Perhaps most importantly, participants shifted the importance they placed on enhancing the tourist experience and their capacity to do so. This case study demonstrates that, when informed by theory and research, training can successfully equip guides to engage visitors, impact their understanding and empathy, and enrich their experience.