Excursions from CG, Part III: ‘Travelers Are at the Risk of Purchasing the Services from an Unlicensed Guide’

The organization of excursions is really a kind of magic, immersing a person into a fascinating alternate reality.

That’s why it’s crucial that only professional magicians were involved in working the magic. Otherwise it won’t work out, there will be only disappointment, time and money wasted.

As a continuation of the talk with a specialist with many years of work experience in the tourism industry, the Tunisia Destination Manager (the mainland and Djerba island) in Carthage Group, Mrs. Irina Boukadida, we will find out which risks face travelers who book excursions from private individuals. We will also learn why tourists often have to listen to the same tales while going on different guided tours.

How are new tour itineraries arranged? Is it an initiative displayed by tour guides who want to show travelers some places where no ordinary tourists have gone before?

Our goal is to develop at least 1-2 tour programs every season. Specialists of our company suggest new tour itineraries, we check the locales and examine the infrastructure for restaurants, restrooms, etc.

One of the newest excursions is a tour to Sousse and Monastir whose program we drew up in 2022. It has become a bestseller almost at once. The tour program includes visits to two ancient Arab medinas but there’s also an added bonus. Since the famous Bardo National Museum that houses one of the largest collections of Roman mosaics in the world, has been closed for quite a long time, we decided to provide our guests with an alternative which is a visit to the Sousse Archaeological Museum that contains no less gorgeous artifacts. 

Moreover, the participants of the tour have a great chance to have a look at the house of the first president of Tunisia, which is now a museum in Monastir. On the excursion tourists can see Habib Bourguiba’s office and bedroom and find out how the head of state lived and worked, it’s always very interesting. This tour program was a result of painstaking teamwork, a huge part of which was really performed by Carthage Group guides.

Is it a unique tour program? There are lots of tourists’ complaints on the Internet that excursions in Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia have different names and itineraries but actually the same in terms of content. 

Unfortunately, it’s really quite a common situation when on different excursions tourists are told the same tales. Any company is interested in selling as many tours as possible but to develop a new tour program is a rather hard task that requires considerable effort and professionalism. That’s why tour guides often tell some common stories which may be interesting to listen to but only for the first time. When going on totally different excursions to their surprise travelers get absolutely the same information, it’s always rather disappointing and frustrating. 

For us the high quality of services that we offer is a key principle of work. There must be no repetitions and the tour guides of Carthage Group definitely don’t have a lack of topics. So yes, every tour is unique and the information provided on each excursion corresponds to tour itineraries. 

Our staff members are always well prepared and can answer any, even the most difficult tourists’ questions about Tunisia attractions. Moreover, most of the guides have considerable professional experience of working in different countries, as well as traveling on their own, and it has obviously broadened their outlooks. All these together make our excursions truly fascinating, informative and lively.

Familiarity is another characteristic typical of tour guides in Arab countries. For example, it’s a common thing in Egypt when a guide addresses a male tourist using the words ‘bro’, ‘dude’ or ‘man’, and not all the travelers really like it….

We find familiarity totally unacceptable. Respecting personal boundaries, addressing clients with respect are mandatory requirements for the guides of our company. 

However, politeness isn’t the only thing that helps to create a friendly atmosphere on excursions and establish contact with the audience. There’s another secret.

Our guides play different roles, they have different genders, age, temperament and manners. Furthermore, our team of tour guides is a multinational one, so we can find appropriate specialists taking into account the expectations and requests of certain clients. Once we decided to change a guide right on an individual tour when we realized that the guide and the travelers don’t suit each other perfectly. They were like pieces of different jigsaw puzzles, so, keeping in mind what we’d learnt about the tourists, we found an ideal guide for them.

Yes, an excursion with a guide who is on the same wavelength with you, means a lot. Every specialist probably has their own exciting developments. Do tour guides in your company share knowledge with each other? 

Yes, it’s a common practice for our employees, and before the start of a tourist season they often make kind of familiarization tours for each other. Such excursions are of great importance for both guides who have been working in the company for a long time, and new team members. We practice and cultivate mentoring in every possible way, and since 2003 we have already raised several generations of highly professional guides.

In general, I can say that the world of tour guides is a very competitive environment in which, unfortunately, they often elbow and go over each other’s heads. However, we’ve managed to form a team of like-minded people who have been playing a pass for many years. By the way, it means that they help and take care of each other not just as professionals but as ordinary people as well. For example, the tour guides of Carthage Group always inform their colleagues who follow them on the route about traffic jams and approaching rain clouds.

It’s good to know and it’s even better to realize that all these things, obviously, influence the quality of services provided by Carthage Group in a very good way. What can you say about excursions offered by private individuals?

In Tunisia, as in any other tourist region, there are private individuals who organize guided tours. There are many people who are currently marketing themselves and their services actively in social media and popular messengers. However, I don’t consider them to be our competitors. We’re a big company with long experience of arranging author excursions and individual tours. Moreover, we have more opportunities and resources. 

Furthermore, there’s another important nuance. While going on an excursion with a private individual, travelers are at the risk of purchasing the services from an unlicensed guide and using unlicensed vehicles. It means that such a trip can be stopped at any time by local police officers because laws and regulations in Tunisia are quite strict.

It’s sad not to get a prepaid service. However, many tourists think that private individuals are more flexible in terms of planning new tour itineraries, so it’s more interesting to go on excursions with them rather than the guides working in big companies. Is it really so?

Of course, if tours of private individuals are organized according to the highest standards, it deserves respect. But in fact, I haven’t seen truly attractive offers on the market yet. Regarding the above mentioned flexibility and, which is also really important, the depth and diversity of content, we can give anyone a head start. 

People who have come to Tunisia quite recently, often offer their services on the Internet. They liked something here, they’ve read or heard something about it and now they believe that they can disseminate information which they have got in such a way.

I’ve been living in Tunisia for over 25 years, I love and know the country very well but I don’t have such ambitions. I’m absolutely sure that like in any other jobs, only professionals should be involved in making excursions.

What about you, do you go on excursions? After so many years of living in the country, there’s probably nothing new for you here, you’ve been everywhere and seen everything, right?

Every tour is unique, every time it gives new emotions and impressions. Annually at the beginning of the tourist season we go on excursions, check tour programs and every time we learn something new. Our guides add some interesting facts to their stories, find new angles which allow us to have a look at well-known attractions from another perspective.

To be honest, we listen to and look literally with our mouths open. So I do not just go on excursions, I do it with great pleasure!