Healthy Tips for Healthy Trips

 Phil Rennie, Professional Tourist Guide, Tour Manager and Educator


Big picture tourism involves the interaction of many interrelated parties including:

  • wholesalers
  • agents
  • transport
  • governments
  • accommodation,
  • food and beverage
  • general suppliers
  • banking
  • administration
  • destinations
  • venues
  • tourists, managers and guides. 

    All are equally important and necessary to provide and make the products work - ultimately leading to happy customers and satisfied clients, good referrals and repeat custom.

    But as the guide and manager who is the most important person on your tour? 

    Diagram 1: People on the tour
    Irrespective of the tour type
    e.g. walking, museum, site, coach etc. 
    the answer is always the same.. YOU!
    Of course everyone is important but if the guide or manager is not functioning and performing at their best it will impact on the total tourist experience

    We all know the feeling when we are not 100 percent on the day and the result our ill-health had on the group and the tour. As a professional you ensured that it was not apparent to the pax - but you knew. Excellent planning, time management and work practices are essential (pre, during and post-tour) so that good and robust physical health and mental strength are amongst your touring companions 

    How to protect oneself against the possibilities of coming down with a malady?

    + By observing safe health practices such as - getting plenty of rest, good food, dressing to suit the environment and weather conditions, minimizing stress and appropriate exercise.

    Early to bed
    Early to rise
    Makes a man (everyone)
    Healthy, wealthy and wise

    Many of us learned this rhyme which rings true as a general health guide.

    + By detailed timely planning plus keeping administrative and other necessary documentation up to date, promoting good group dynamics by the delivery of clear, concise, precise, relevant and timely pax information.

    One of the most important tools we have is the voice and it needs to be protected. By using appropriated equipment and props, medication, avoiding smoky or dusty atmospheres, measured and limited voice use, its projection etc. techniques and other supportive communication materials - we keep it healthy, strong and vibrant.

    Constant hydration is essential so the use of appropriate and safe liquids such as bottled still water is crucial. Suitable throat soothers may also be handy when the throat is raw or sore. Both should be standard travel items for use as needed. Talking duration, volume control and location (ambient noises and visual disturbances) are subjective variables we also control.

    Resting and switching off is especially important on extended tours. We all have our special ways of realizing ‘our time’ - whether it is by listening to music, active sport, taking a long hot scented bath, working out in a gymnasium, suitable regular exercise*, reading, meditation or train spotting. Make sure that you get plenty of sound sleep as late nights and early mornings are very draining. Beware of alcohol, drugs and excessive eating along with activities taken to excess - everything in moderation and lead by example. 

    Wearing appropriate clothing and footwear is also critical to comfort, pleasure and safety and it will vary depending upon the activity and weather. Accordingly one needs a flexible and practical ‘wardrobe’. If you are involve with the handling of baggage then practice safe lifting techniques to protect ones back. Heavy items should be moved on trolleys and only with the assistance of others. 

    Appropriate and safe footwear also includes protective socks, stockings and cushioned inserts – all resulting in improved comfort and convenience. 

    Visiting culturally sensitive sites and venues such as churches, mosques and temples may necessitate the covering of ones head or body, the removal of footwear and the observance of special customs. Playing tennis, bushwalking or boating will have different equipment and protective needs. Prepare and use personal checklists** of items carried in your briefcase, backpack or suitcase (wheeled if necessary). Have a list for equipment and personal effects** ensuring that important items are not overlooked – especially when touring. Include the approximate size and weight of each item (helpful when flying) and use the ‘head to toe” principle for listing personal clothing and footwear. 

    Briefings and administration are often part of any job and it is crucial that one gets accurate and timely information. Note taking and diarising is essential and contact details, addresses, policies and procedures - must be carried along with mobile phone and charger. 

    * See P.12 Exercise and Diet
    ** See P. 13 Personal Checklists

    Self protection from the twin dangers of fatigue and stress is - critical. Prevention is better than cure.

    Preparation and good relaxation techniques This can be facilitated by good group management practices including: 

    (1) research and knowledge
    (2) accurate, timely administration 
    (3) practicing company Policies and Procedures plus a full briefing
    (4) flexibility
    (5) a sense of humour
    (6) observing Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S), legal requirements 
    (7) regular structured self exercise, meals and rest. 

    When guiding one will work with many different group types’ each with differing dynamics - leading to varying demands. Their composition will be different as will the techniques employed to provide them with the ‘promised’ (i.e. published) tour content, timings and features. Consider some of the differences between site, day or extended touring and group types. 

    Pax groups vary (e.g. their age, fitness levels, special needs etc) and include:

  • Special interest
  • Families
  • Free and independent travellers
  • Mature
  • Disabled
  • School
  • Non English speakers
  • Visiting relatives and friends
  • Clubs (e.g. sport etc).

    Their general physical and mental health, safety and wellbeing (along with that of any support crew) is critical and part of the Guide’s or Tour Manager’s overall responsibility. We need to observe OH&S and practice our Due Diligence and Duty of Care.

    When working on extended tours the company briefing provides a wealth of important data which should include: group details (including next of kin), manifest, route, accommodation, sight seeing, itinerary, pax diet and health needs, company and supplier contact details, vouchering, expenses, general (plus organization specific) policies and procedures (e.g. paperwork, incident reporting, injury, theft, death etc), insurance details, any special matters, insurance and span of control.

    Consider the responsibilities of:

    (1) using ones current first aid qualifications and skills in other than ‘simple’ accidents, the availability of a first aid kit and making its contents accessible and available.
    (2) working with the frail aged, people with dementia, those who are wheel chair bound or otherwise physically or mentally challenged or small children.
    (3) Non English speaking groups.

    People do have accidents e.g. a fall, twisted ankle or scratch - all with varying severity and potential to delay a group. In the event of an accident, once assistance and basic first aid has been rendered then seek additional help if required. Note that there may be others in your group better qualified (eg a nurse or doctor) than you are and can help. Document (include time, date, location, witnesses, description of accident etc) and advise your company and accord with their procedures.

    Pax need to warned about general ‘local’ considerations such as:

  • sunburn (dress appropriately, cover up with hats and sunglasses, sunscreen, shade)
  • dehydration (carry water and drink lots of it)
  • heatstroke (hydration, dress, rest, medical help)
  • take care when walking to avoid tripping or falling (holes and other obstacles)

    If the accident occurs at a venue, for example a restaurant, theme park, hotel etc then the sites’ facilities, personnel and responsibilities need to be recognised and their legal duty of care and ownership acknowledged. 

    When touring with other than fit and healthy pax then request dedicated and trained helpers - to be responsible for those group members and any ‘special’ needs required. One cannot safely and successfully conduct and manage a tour if constantly pushing a wheel chair, lifting, helping with any personal needs or physically supporting some members of a group. When the trip was planned, who reconnoitred the sites and locations for level easy grade access (walking frames and sticks, wheelchairs, prams etc) lines of sight for any height challenged pax, suitable toileting opportunities?

    Loss or theft of pax documents such as

  • tickets, passports, visas etc or possessions such as
  • cameras, purses or wallets

    or assault or injury or non receipt of baggage at an airport carousel or the overlooking of personnel effects at the previous accommodation or death

    Requires the immediate reporting of the facts to the:

  • tour company
  • relevant authorities

    including the police, consulate, airlines or hotel staff and next of kin.

    What are the secrets of a long and happy life?

    They vary for each of us but the mix no doubt includes family, friends and learning - along with diet, exercise and rest. The latter are arguably the easiest three to control.
    A big meal of fish and chips washed down with a diet cola drink. Possibly a typical meal for some but if regularly consumed how would the body react?

    During some recent coach work as a Tour Manager I was amazed at the variety of ‘dietary’ constraints the pax had and subsequently accommodation and restaurants providers had to cater for. This certainly kept me on my toes with the constant need to pre-advise and physically confirm at all venues providing set food and beverage - that they had catered for those with special needs. Individuals also need to address any allergies they are aware of plus personal medication requirements.

    The tour company provided this detail at the trip briefing as part of the passenger list. The manifest also covered additional diet and health etc. details for clients with special conditions, medication or other needs.

    These included people with:

  • intolerance to gluten (coeliac)
  • vegetarian (vegan etc.)
  • lactose (dairy)
  • beverages and other allergies.

    Issues with food and beverage suitability such as peanuts and cordials are often mentioned in the news and we need to be mindful of their impacts.
    Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition that has been in the news in recent years. Long periods of sitting (especially on airplanes) without exercise impacts upon blood circulation and can lead to serious complications. When flying one is warned about the potential via the use of audio and visual materials - with many companies printing illustrated exercise recommendations in their in-flight magazines.

    In planning a tour program and route we need to allow sufficient off-coach opportunities. Include frequent planned breaks – movement, toileting and hydration are important; especially if there are some long coach days in the itinerary. 

    This will give the passengers a chance of frequent all purpose comfort stops along with movement and stretching opportunities; thus aiding circulation. 

    Coach cabin environment conditions:

  • seat types (belts, head and foot rests, recline control)
  • lighting (overhead cabin and individual plus curtaining)
  • temperature zones (drafts, heating and cooling, AC)
  • audio volume and mix (radio / CD / video / commentary).
  • storage (seat pocket, overhead racks, under seat)

    All items should be in safe working condition and a nominated receptacle and procedure included for passengers to place any rubbish in. Adequate stowage space and lockers for small personal items will make movement around the cabin easier and safer. 

    The Coach Captain will have been given the opportunity on day one to advise his cabin rules regarding confectionary, beverages, food, stowage of individual effects, the use of the on-board chemical toilet etc. 

    Your support by the gentle reinforcement of these requirements will do wonders for a cordial professional relationship and the overall group dynamics. Passengers must also understand the hierarchy of cabin control along with other important emergency protocols, issues and equipment such as the location of the first aid kit etc. Be very aware of general pax sensibilities when selecting and playing suitable radio stations, tape cassettes, CD, VCR and DVD material.

    A useful idea picked up during my travels is having a handy current list * of local toiletries and non-prescription items available from shops and supermarkets for common complaints and disorders:- e.g. throat, head, bowel, stomach, motion sickness, sunscreen etc. If needed then pax may make their own purchase of such items or visit a Doctor or Chemist for professional advice. Very handy when working with non-English speakers. 

    Similarly people with a range of challenges, disabilities or non obvious special medical conditions such as being hard of hearing or appearing disorientated - often carry a card or wear a blood group etc bracelet to inform those they communicate with of their challenges.

    Poacher turned Gamekeeper - is what I thought during a recent overseas holiday trip, some private local field research and observations on a couple of recent coach jobs.

    Imagine my surprise at the Tour Manager in Japan - commentating, whilst standing with her back to the driver, at the front of the coach as we sped along a busy freeway.

    * See P.14 T. & Non-Prescriptives

    Consider the concern for pax safety in Perth - as the local tourist driver navigated his twelve seat manual bus around the sights, whilst providing running commentary using a cabled microphone in one hand and a steering wheel in the other.

    What pleasure it was as a local ‘step on’ Tourist Guide - working with visiting interstate self-managed tour coaches (conducting six week trips around Australia) to be told by the coach captain and his second in charge; that it was such a relief to be able to concentrate on “just driving” under the guide’s navigation and to safely enjoy the sights and commentary.

    How challenging and stressful it is on a tour without a full time Tour Manager / Guide for a coach driver and assistants carrying out their range of roles. The primary responsibility is for the safe and timely transport of their passengers between agreed points. 

    Additional official and non-official duties often include:

  • Ticketing and vouchering
  • Luggage stowage and handling
  • Commentary
  • Passenger harmony, diets, general health, safety and satisfaction
  • Entertainment (radio, tape, CD, video etc.)
  • Paperwork
  • Liaison with accommodation, food and beverage suppliers
  • Coach condition and hygiene
  • Handling monies, budgeting and contact with head office

    How much more challenging and stressful is it for a non-local coach driver who has never been to or not visited locally for a long time. 

    They will not be familiar with the local roads, time of day flow conditions, any unique local weather patterns, accommodation,, venues, parking arrangements, sights and such. Traffic may be busier than one is familiar with, road rules may vary and there may have been many physical changes since they last drove in the area. Imagine them compounding their situation by attempting to provide any serious or in-depth commentary or local touring.

    Staying on top in our busy lives is a sure way to prevent fatigue and stress.
    In commercial situations we can minimize anxious and draining moments by observing company policies and procedures, abiding by set rules, not being ‘creative’ and practicing good time management 

    Keeping up to date in any profession is a constant challenge in our busy world.

    Have you ever been on a trip or tour and not been satisfied with the guided presentation? Why? 

    Possibly its:

  • accuracy
  • content,
  • duration
  • relevance or such like?
    Were you unhappy with the quality of the interpretation, professionalism or service?
    The industry associations of many 
    Professions including Accountants, Architects, Doctors and Engineers require members to have appropriate qualifications and to maintain their competencies. They must keep abreast of and be up to date with the latest in methods, technologies, trends etc. relevant to their professional roles to maintain membership. 

    A major essential component for on-going membership and / or change in member category of many professional organizations is the process known as continuous professional development - abbreviated as CPD. Its annual scoring requirements, application, and components are formally documented then logged by members for future reference as their CPD record *. 

    The practice of CPD helps members maintain their knowledge and skills; keeping them at the leading edge of their profession; ensuring that when they are employed one gets the best. The setting of benchmarks and quality issues also impact on fees. 

    How does all this fit into guiding and tourism and effect me - you wonder? 

    As tourist guides we constantly have Association and private opportunities to be up-to-date. Our - famils program, reading relevant books, visiting tourist attractions, private travel and touring, site inspections, subscribing to industry publications and journals, research (including the web), taking courses such as speaking or customer service, trade shows, networking opportunities, movies, seminars, workshops**, talking with clients, focusing etc. 

    By keeping up to date in our busy world and being actively involved with colleagues, attending relevant meetings or functions, reading, study and such like - we tread the path of and are practicing CPD. We are better able and more capably prepared to ‘exceed our customers expectations’. 

    Someone once said that life is the greatest university and universal teacher of all and there are no hex fees! Many of us are mature, rich with ‘life skills’ and still finishing our degrees. 

    Often when individuals do not have specific paper education qualifications required for membership then industry organizations consider their years of relevant experience and background. This is known as recognition of prior learning - abbreviated as RPL. 

    * See P.15 Sample CPD Record
    ** See P.16 Case Studies 

    Diagram 2: Australian Climatic Conditions
    Australia is around:
    * 4 000 km from East to West 
    * 3 200 km from North to South
    * 7 700 000 square km in area with a
    * 37,000 km long coastline

    In world terms Australia is: 
    * the largest island
    * the smallest continent
    * occupied by a single nation 
    * the driest and
    * least populated country

    Australia comprises five mainland and one island state plus two Territories.


    There are three time zones within Australia

  • Eastern
  • Central
  • Western

    Eastern Standard Time (EST) – is observed in the eastern states and territory of:

  • Queensland
  • New South Wales
  • Victoria
  • Tasmania
  • Australian Capital Territory

    and is 30 minutes ahead of :
    Central Standard Time (CST) –is observed in the central state and territory of

  • South Australia plus Broken Hill
  • Northern Territory 
    and is two hours ahead of:
    Western Standard Time (WST) - is observed in the state of:
  • Western Australia 
    N.B. Western Australia is eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

    Daylight Saving
    From October to mid-March the time difference in:

  • New South Wales
  • Victoria
  • Tasmania
  • Australian Capital Territory 

    is increase by one hour and in

  • South Australia
  • Northern Territory
    is increased by 30 minutes.

    N.B. Daylight saving does not operate in Queensland or Western Australia

    Regular physical activity helps to reduce many effects of ageing such as limited mobility, balance, flexibility and muscle strength and reduction in risk of heart disease, stroke, colon cancer and diabetes.

    Source: Healthy Ageing and Physical Activity, NSW Health, January 1999.

    Finding or making the time available to take structured exercise at say a gymnasium – is increasingly difficult for most of us due to busy schedules, workloads and family commitments. How about turning your workspace, be it a car, coach or office into a gym. In your private space you can exercise without the need for expensive facilities or equipment. As most of spend considerable time sitting then let us consider the 

    There are many exercises such as gentle head, shoulder and arm rotations plus associated breathing and concentration. Some find the use of changed lighting and music also helps their focus and mood variation. Other more body part specifics are

    BOTTOMS UP (for shaping and toning) – standing with legs shoulder width apart:
    At chest level rest hands against a wall. Extend alternate straight legs and hold for five seconds. Move legs slowly. Perform in sets of 5 – 10.
    With relaxed shoulders and straight back. Tighten buttocks, breathe in, push hips forward, hold for ten seconds. Release tension. Breath out. Perform in sets of 20 – 30.

    STOMACH (for toning) – seated upright.
    Tighten abdominal muscles, breathe in and hold for ten seconds. Breathe out and relax muscles. Perform in sets of 20 – 30.

    Based on an article from: The West Australian, Wednesday April 7 2004.

    The major airlines also publish a range of ‘cabin exercises’ that are particularly targeted at countering DVT on long trips. They are excellent in promoting healthy flying and also vary the ‘drink and eat’ routine on medium and long flights.

    Travel often involves consuming beverage and foods prepared by others. Unsafe practices may result in a nasty bout of loo and bed time due to food poisoning, traveler’s diarrhea or even Hepatitis A. Tips for safe eating and drinking include:
    + Ensured cooked food is hot all the way through. as thorough cooking kills germs.
    + Eat fruit you have peeled – thick skinned pieces are best so you do not contaminate as you peel.
    + Check that utensils, plates and cutlery are clean. Beware of wooden chopsticks.
    + Avoid raw or undercooked food , including eggs in mayonnaise, sauces & desserts.
    + Beware food left at room temperature for some time and food cooked and reheated.
    + Raw oysters and cooked prawns are risky. Avoid raw seafood.
    + Milk should be canned. Never drink unpasteurised milk.
    + Buy bottled water with seals in place. No ice in drinks or cocktails. Boil water for 1 minute and treat with chemical disinfectant such as iodine.

    Based on an article from: Backpacker Essentials, Nov 04 – Feb 05 

    Pax can purchase these items from shops and supermarkets for common complaints and disorders. Always visit a Doctor or Chemist for professional advice.

    * Australia has the highest incidence and rate of skin cancer in the world.
    NOTE: Generic and propriety brands in supermarkets include

    Black and Gold
    No Frills

    CASE STUDIES These exercises are a good fun way of interacting with colleagues and fellow students.
    Please remember that there is seldom a totally black and white answer - but shades of gray. Each participant plays a part and brings various experiences to any discussion and outcomes. The exercise outcomes can be presented in many creative ways and this should be encouraged - as an aid to enjoyment, memory and reinforcement.
    The Case Studies are hypothetical and are not based on any persons - they are only contrived scenarios.

    You are guiding on a tour with a mixed range of pax including families with children, male and female singles and some university students whose first language is not English. During your presentations some of the single males have been very noisy and disruptive. Their language is loud and inappropriate and you are told by other group members that they have seen some of them 'bag' drinking.
    What are you going to do to maintain control, group harmony and ensure a good time for all?
    Discuss, prepare and present the group consensus response to this situation.

    On a recent extended coach trip, you as Manager set the 'house and ground' rules on day 1 of the trip. This included seat rotation and nobody queried that procedure at the first night stop. On day 2 the elderly keen photographer sitting in the front seat the previous day again occupied the same seat and refused to move. His wife has moved.
    How are you going to establish your control and maintain group harmony?
    Discuss, prepare and present the group consensus response to this situation.

    Many retired pax inform you as the Tourist Guide that they cannot concentrate on or take in what you are sharing over the PA due to an excessively vocal and noisy group of four older women. They further disrupt and exasperate the main group of tourists with questions about items and subjects already covered by you.
    Outline some methods and techniques that can be used to bring harmony back into the tour party. Who is the best person(s) to effect any change?
    Discuss, prepare and present the group consensus response to this situation.