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Tour Directing: A Great Career After 50

 National Tourism Week, May 10 to 18, highlights the contributions of travel and tourism to the U.S. economy

(ARA) - If you’re considering a career change, there’s no time like the present to embark on an adventure in the travel industry. If you’ve always loved to travel, and wondered what it would be like to trade in your desk job for one that would take you to some of the most beautiful, exotic places in the United States and around the world, then a job as a tour director may be for you.

“Even in today’s uncertain travel climate, tour companies are on the lookout for good people. Group tours are a secure way to travel and there are many opportunities for our graduates to lead these tours as professionally trained tour directors," says Ted Bravos, CEO of the International Tour Management Institute (ITMI), one of the few schools that conducts state-certified training programs for professional tour directors and guides.

Tour directors are the people who take care of all the details that make for a successful trip. They oversee airport, bus and hotel check-ins, handle customs and airline delays, schedule meals and side trips, and act as a congenial host, melding a group together into a happy “traveling family.”

“These are individuals who want to make a difference in people’s lives, to help them get a deeper experience out of travel, a deeper appreciation of people and cultures,” explains Bravos, who pioneered the first state-certified training program in the United States for professional tour directors and guides 27 years ago.

Tour directors range in age from 20 to 70 with many over age 50 who have either raised families or had other careers before taking on the new challenge of leading tours. Joanne Connors, an international tour guide for the last 16 years, began her career after raising three children.

“Life begins in your 40s and 50s,” says Connors, who first learned she could pursue a career as a tour director during a trip to the Grand Canyon. Her assignments have taken her to Africa, Iceland, Russia and throughout the United States and Canada.

Work as a guide can be a rewarding and flexible career that can be tailored to complement other vocations and responsibilities. Tour directors can choose how much they want to work, from full-time to just a few trips a year.

Connors spaces out her trips so that she will have plenty of time to spend with her family, including her grandchildren. “Everytime I get home from a trip I get together with my grandchildren and we stick pins in a map so that they can talk about all the places I’ve been to,” says Connors.

It’s a career that can literally take you anywhere and one that values life experience. “It’s important to know how to study, how to learn, and to be a quick thinker, and know how to handle emergency situations,” says Pat Earl, who was a teacher, and owner of a bed and breakfast, before embarking on a travel guide career in her mid 50s.

“Five days after I finished the training I was leading a group of miners from Pennsylvania on a high school reunion trip to Nova Scotia,” says Earl.

Former tour director Beth Blackwood says work as a guide opened up a lot of other opportunities for her in the travel industry, including work planning national and international tours and a job with a destination management company. “As your life changes, you never know what your experience will afford you in the future. It was a tremendous opportunity that opened up my world and prepared me for all kinds of things.”

And for Blackwood, the flexibility has been a great benefit. “There is no age limit. When my kids are grown I fully expect to go back to tour guiding again.”

And for people considering whether they should plan a trip in the near future, Connors has the following advice: “Let’s face it, travel is what freedom is, to lose one is to lose the other.”

For more information on the International Tour Management Institute, visit or call (800) 442-4864.

Courtesy of ARA Content,  e-mail: 

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