With travel apps delivering walking tours, historical information and other content right into the palm of your hand, it’s well worth asking why you should hire a tour guide when exploring somewhere new.
A professional guide provides a live experience and personal touch that just cannot be replicated with technology. A professional tour guide will show you their city through the eyes of a native, providing their unique insight and depth of knowledge that can be infinitely expanded depending on your time and interest.
A good tour guide is part teacher–sharing a storehouse of knowledge — part concierge –whisking you around the city efficiently and in comfort — part entertainer — engaging, personable and sometimes quite funny!
Only a tour guide can answer questions, discuss current political and civic issues, take you to out of the way places, add details that are not in the script and introduce you to vendors they know personally.
Most of the apps I have seen do not come close to delivering the same caliber of experience as sightseeing with a real, live, in-person-guide. With an app, the traveler is limited to the script or information that has been programmed into it, which is often not well-researched, edited or even grammatically correct. In addition, having to frequently stare at your cellphone screen to decipher a map or read the notes undermines your ability to fully take in and enjoy the sights around you.
For solo travelers on a limited budget I do think an app can be a useful tool: a guidebook that you hold in your hand, that can be accessed at any time of the day or night. But for groups, a tour guide is absolutely essential.
Looking back, I can still recall the exceptional guides who provided the most memorable travel experiences of my own lifetime. Today those experiences inspire me to share my knowledge and love of Toronto — one of the world’s great cities where I have lived for 33 years — with the travelers from every part of the world that I meet every day.