International Tour Management Institute (ITMI)

The Premier Training Institute for Tour & Travel Professionals Since 1976

Making the World a Better Place Through Travel

Tim Shaffer

Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

ITMI graduation year: 2011

Travel bucket list: Europe

Tour essentials: Smart phone, maps, interesting and fun facts.

Experience and live the trip with gusto and a sense of wonder...see, feel, smell, and taste each destination anew....
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tour director

What or who inspired you to become a tour director?

I love teaching and did it for 31 years. I was inspired by tour directors on trips that I chaperoned with my school. Being a tour director gives me the opportunity to combine my love of teaching with my second love, traveling. 

How do you balance your personal life with your travel career?

I am fortunate to have been able to find and combine work on the road with local work (walking tours, step-on, day trips for seniors) in Cincinnati that requires little or no time away from home. This combination has allowed me to enjoy my travel career without the stress of worrying about my family at home.

What qualities do you feel make for a good tour director?

A good tour director creates a bond with the passengers by anticipating and serving their needs. Each group brings their own agenda to the trip, and I feel part of my job is understanding their wants and needs and attempting to create for them the trip that they want and have been promised. Communication, knowledge, preparation, and flexibility are some of the most important assets that a good director brings to any tour.

What advice would you give to a first-time traveler?

Experience and live the trip with gusto and a sense of wonder. Take the time to see, feel, smell, and taste each destination anew whether it is your first time there or a repeat visit.

What destinations are on your travel bucket list?

Europe. Anywhere and everywhere...Paris, London, name it and it's on my list!

What are three things you must always take with you?

A smart phone, paper maps, and a list of fun and interesting facts.

If you could design your own customized tour to reflect your passions what would it look like?

My customized tour would include an opportunity to explore nature through some outdoor hikes, opportunities to learn the history of the locale, and an opportunity to play golf at beautiful golf courses.     

Name someone famous you’d like to travel with and where you’d like to take them.

Abraham Lincoln. He was a world class storyteller and I would have liked to listen to his stories as we traveled from Illinois to Washington D.C.

How has tour directing impacted your perspective of the world?

Directing tours has broadened my perspective of history. What I find most interesting is how decisions were made within the society which existed at the time, and how there are so many similarities between the 1700s, 1800s, and the present day from a societal and political perspective 

What advice would you give someone if they wanted to become a tour director or guide?

Approach this career decision with an openness to the many roles and responsibilities of directing a tour on the road. Travel is an enjoyable experience often because of the skillfulness of the planner and executor of the trip. The job involves long hours, lots of preparation, dealing with a wide variety of personalities, often making decisions in a sometimes stressful environment, and seeing the same place over and over again. With all of that said, the joy of being a tour director is the thrill of having the opportunity to help travelers experience their once in a lifetime opportunity. Taking the time to understand the traveler's hopes and dreams will allow them and you to experience the joys of new adventures.      

Do you agree that a tour director is actually an ambassador of goodwill? If so, why?

We are absolutely ambassadors of goodwill. We are not only the face of the tour company, but in many ways we are the face of the new city or national park to our guests. Creating that sense of wonder and awe for the guests allows them to open themselves up to the specialness of each and every new place. We are ambassadors for every place we take our travelers, and as such, our job is to bring to life the glory of each locale.