Job as a trek leader

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Peter Shaw is a tour and trek leader. He leads groups of walkers and cyclists, helping them to get the most out of their holiday experiences around the world.

How would you outline your job as a trek leader?

I help organise and lead trekking tours. In addition, I am involved in researching and organising new tours, and taking photographs and writing text for the promotional brochures. I have led tours all over the world, although with my present company we work in Europe.

What are your main responsibilities?

Our tours might be on foot, by bike or using local transport. It is my job to keep people happy while they are on holiday – making sure they are safe, have all the information they need and can get help and advice if they need it.

On a commercial tour, I lead a group from place to place each day, often over mountains, and check them into a campsite or hotel each night. On some trips, I cook for them and prepare breakfast. Sometimes on others, the hotel does that, and I only have to give a briefing before we start.

What do you do in the winter?

Most of our tours are summer-based. During the winter, I am updating our literature and booking tours. In spring, I usually research some new tours abroad or perhaps lead a group of schoolchildren or students.

What hours do you work?

In the office, I generally work 36 hours a week, but on tours, I am potentially on the job all the time!

How do languages help you in your job as a trek leader?

Languages are useful for getting local information and for helping people on the tour. If we have any problems, it can speed things up to be able to speak a little of the local language. I speak French, Italian and Spanish and am developing Swahili, Russian and Nepali.

What is your work routine?

It varies depending whether I am in the office or on a tour. I spend a lot of time on the computer and telephone whilst in the office. A typical project would be setting up a new tour – researching it in the UK through tourist boards and guide books and contacting hotels. I then would go to the country, walking the routes, taking photographs and gathering information to write the tour book.

On a tour, my routine is tied to the tour schedule and can include cooking, walking, visiting sights, organising and overseeing activities and being on hand to help with any problems or questions.

What's your working environment like?

We have offices in Yorkshire and London and they are both cosy places. In the field, you take the rain and the cold and the sun. Sometimes, the hotels we stay in are three or even four star standard.

What special skills do you need for your job as a trek leader?

I had quite a lot of adventure training experience in canoeing, sailing and mountaineering. So I've done first aid courses and I have an interest in geography. Perhaps most importantly, you have to get on well with people and have a sense of humour.

What training have you done?

Apart from my language skills, I did a geography degree, which included expeditions, one of which won a Royal Geography Society Award. After this, I worked as an outdoor instructor and development training organiser in the YMCA.

Later, I worked as a mountain safari guide in East Africa and then went on to lead tours for Exodus in Russia and Nepal. I was then a voluntary project manager for Operation Raleigh in Southern Africa.

Peter's route to his job as a trek leader

  • Geography degree
  • Outdoor instructor for the YMCA
  • Adventure training and first aid qualifications
  • Mountain safari guide
  • Tour guide in Russia and Nepal
  • Voluntary work with Operation Raleigh

Peter's trek leader tips

  • Language skills are an important asset.
  • Leading tours can be a lot of fun, but also a lot of hard work.

Trek leader related jobs

Salary of a trek leader

  • Many tourist guides are self-employed and charge a negotiated fee and will work part time or during the holiday season.
  • Some work full time for a specialist company and will earn a starting salary from around £11,000, rising to £25,000 based on experience, specialist knowledge and language skills.

How to become a trek leader

  • Guides do not need qualifications, although good communication skills are essential. It helps to have some knowledge either of the location or of the particular focus of the tour – history or outdoor pursuits, for example.
  • Languages are needed to work with overseas visitors to this country or to lead tours abroad.
  • Guides and tour managers can work towards an NVQ in Travel Servicing (Guiding and Tour Managing) Level 4. Travel Services (Commentaries and Interpretation for Tourism) Levels 2 and 3 is for site guides, and tour managers. In Scotland, there is an SVQ in Tour Operations (Commentaries and Interpretation for Tourism) Levels 2, 3, and 4.
  • Most tourist guides in Britain train for the 'Blue Badge' qualification.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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