Get To Know A NYC Tour Guide
May 16, 2016
My name is Sal and I’m a licensed New York City Sightseeing Guide. I’ve started this blog to provide information about New York City. I hope it will be a useful tool for tourists and travel agents looking to put together the perfect New York City vacation. No matter what your interests are, New York has plenty to offer, so I’ll be able to cover lots of topics ranging from food, New York City restaurants, museums, Broadway shows, music, special events, NYC sightseeing tours, and tips for getting around New York on foot, by subway, or taxi – and of course, I’ll share inside tips and local knowledge to help you out while you visit.
First, I’d like to tell you about me, how I came to be a tour guide and also share a bit about my approach and philosophy on what being a tour guide means to me.
My family has been in New York City for more than 130 years and I grew up in Brooklyn, one of the five boroughs of New York City. I’ve spent my whole life living and working here and just before becoming a tour guide I had been working in the financial district as a client service manager for some large brokerage houses.
One day I realized how I didn’t like my job anymore so I decided a change would do me some good. I started thinking about something else to do. I began by considering my skills, interests, education, experience and my professional background. I made a list and narrowed it down to the things I could actually use to earn a living.
The short list was:
- I have a history degree.
- I had perfected the art of customer service and the customer experience.
- I’m good with people.
- I’ve got a good sense of humor, and personality & I like telling stories, jokes and entertaining people.
So now I had this inventory and I was trying to figure out what to do with it. Right off the bat that history degree is screaming, Teacher!!! No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t think of any other practical way to earn a living with a history degree so I keep circling back to teacher. Nothing against teachers, but I didn’t feel that trading in my office for a classroom do the trick, I needed to do something big, something very different to shake things up. It’s funny how sometimes the simplest, most ordinary things can suddenly be life changing because what I’m about to describe could have been any day, but this one stands out in my memory because it led to that something big I was looking for, something I could have never seen coming.
One day I was on my way to work and I’m standing on a subway platform when someone came up and asked me for directions, I didn’t consider it unusual, it happened most days. I rode in to Manhattan, reached my stop and got off the train. I was walking up Broadway toward my office when someone asked me for directions to Battery Park because they wanted to see The Statue of Liberty. I helped them and continued on, before reaching my building I was asked once more for directions, this time to the New York Stock Exchange. Still, I never gave it a second thought, as I said, it happened almost daily, especially during the peak travel season. In fact, I commented to a co-worker that spring had sprung and tourist season was upon us.
During my lunch break that day I helped someone with directions to The Brooklyn Bridge, a lady asked me if I knew where there was a public restroom nearby and I gave a family directions for getting to Times Square on the subway. I was still in the process of trying to figure out how I could make the change I needed so I guess that was on my mind when I thought jokingly to myself – maybe I’ll just go upstairs tell my boss I quit and come back down here and open an information booth and start charging for directions – and that’s when it hit me… Maybe I could become a tour guide. I did a little research and it was settled I decided I was going to give it a try.
When I announced my plan, the people who know me best said with my personality, sense of humor, love of history and how much I enjoy talking to anyone who will listen that a tour guide is exactly what I was born to be. So I got licensed by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs and started guiding.
I immediately knew it was the right move and I enjoy being a tour guide so much that in 2014 I decided to start City Tales Sightseeing & Private Tours. I wanted to share the city that I know and love with the millions of visitors that come here each year. With so much to do in New York I decided the best way to do that would be to focus on helping visitors do, and see, as much as possible. To me, that meant doing things quickly but WITHOUT sacrificing the quality of the experience… but how?
Since I would be offering guided tours I started there, and I asked myself, What Makes A Guided Tour Valuable?
I decided there are 2 essential elements that every tour must include:
Every group is different in terms of age, gender and level of interest in history but one thing is universal, people like to have fun and be entertained. So I focus on keeping things fun and interesting. For example, when we visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which by it’s very nature has a lot of history to talk about, I use humor, tell jokes, share funny and personal stories and just go with the flow of the group while I sneak in a little bit of that history to highlight the iconic National Landmark. Those guests that are interested in getting more details are encouraged to ask questions, and they usually do.
2. Insider TIPS, Tricks & Secrets.
If guests don’t get a benefit that they wouldn’t if they visited on their own then why take a guided tour?
I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve to speed things along and keep guests one step ahead of the other visitors. The experience and knowledge that comes from doing these tours daily lets me help guests save time without missing out on anything. I know where the great views and photos are and I want to share them. Guests will know where to be and when and they will see things they wouldn’t otherwise find. This is what really makes a guided tour valuable.
It also turns out that this, experience and know-how is the key to doing things quickly WITHOUT sacrificing the quality of the experience. It made me think about what happens after the tour is over and the guest is on their way to their next NYC adventure and I asked myself, why can’t visitors still benefit from what I know about New York even after their guided tour with me is over? The answer, I am glad to say, is that they can.
Thats why I encourage my guests to take advantage of their time with me by asking as many questions as they like, about any and all things they need, or want, to know about New York City. I also actively engage them, I ask what else they’ve got planned, what they hope to do, and what types of things they are interested in. Then I can share recommendations, suggestions, directions, advice, or any other useful information, including what to avoid to help them experience more activities and enjoy a better quality experience.
To sum it all up, I really enjoy what I do now and I know that by offering great guided tours and sharing what I know visitors will experience the best of what New York City has to offer, and more of it. So here in this blog I’ll be sharing what I can to help visitors save time and get to do more.