Friday, July 14, 2017
And to your right, you’ll see how tour guides are the storytellers of New York City!
It is far from a secret that the tourism industry is essential to New York City’s economy. A little fact that may not be so widely known around the boroughs is that New York City is expected to cater to approximately 62 million visitors in 2017. (Which is approximately one million more than last year’s record-breaking number of tourists in 2016.) While one of the biggest draws to tourists is the arts and culture scene, tour guides are utilizing art-based skills to enhance visitor experience.
Some of the best tour guides in New York City will tell you that storytelling skills are essential for guides to accomplish such a task. Michael Dillinger, who serves as the vice president of the Guides Association of New York City (GANYC) says that “guides should have a knack for performance and storytelling.” Tour guide Matthew Cummings of Levy’s Unique New York would agree: “It’s all about the story, [you have to] be entertaining, engaging, and funny!” Fellow Levy’s guide Megan Marod recommends that all New York City tour guides should take improv classes. Marod explains that “every [tour] group will have different interests. … Additionally, you never know what you will encounter on the streets of New York. … You [have to] roll with it.”
In a city where so much is happening all at once, tour guides are responsible for keeping tourists engaged and entertained. Some techniques that guides can learn from storytelling include: balancing the inclusion of convincing details with brevity when composing stories; defining what would appeal to your target audiences; delivering stories with a confident but modest tone, and modulating your vocal tone to enhance delivery; exuding excitement as you relate stories; and producing alternative versions of stories for different situations. Tour guides need to be able to assess which storytelling methods to utilize depending on what the situation calls for. The most effective guides are able to weave their storytelling skills together seamlessly.
Along with storytelling, there are other arts-related skills that allow for a quality tour experience. Performance skills learned from acting or improv classes, knowledge about the variety of architecture across New York City, insight into the choices of cultural institutions that the city has to offer, and general creativity equip tour guides with the tools necessary to facilitate an impactful tour.
Through storytelling, and other arts skills, tour guides control the narrative of New York City for the millions of visitors who anticipate an unforgettable experience.