As part of our Sector Spotlight on Tourism, we have spoken to Jo Jones, a self-employed Tourist Guide who has her own business - Personalised Orkney Tours. Her career journey has included Teaching, Finance and Tourism. Jo speaks English and French fluently and is qualified to give tours in both of these languages.
Can you describe a typical day as a Tourist Guide?
“No two days are the same!
“I can be leading a coach as a Step-On Guide, these tours can be in English or French or they can be multilingual with an interpreter. I could also be working as a Driver Guide in my own vehicle.
“According to my guest’s requests when booking, I will have organised an itinerary tailored to their specific interests, for example Neolithic, World War, wildlife or Orcadian culture.
“The minimum time I will be with my guests is usually four hours. Often, I am with them for eight hours, so have to co-ordinate refreshments too in addition to organising travel times and site visit appointments in advance. Sometimes, I have families staying in local accommodation who have booked me for a series of tours, and so each day will have new delights. When available, I escort them to other islands for a day trip. As every island is different, in terms of both landscape and historical sites I am never bored!”
How did you end up in your current role as a Tourist Guide?
“I arrived in Orkney in 1979 as an Itinerant Music Teacher, having completed a music degree and teaching qualifications.
“We moved to Dorset in 1987. Our children were born there and I worked from home as a Financial Consultant. When I returned to teaching, I was a Director of Music and then Deputy Head of a large school. From these roles, I was used to talking to people of all ages and dealing with large groups of people.
“When we retired back to Orkney in 2013, I did some part-time music teaching again, but retired again in 2016. At that time, various friends had been visiting us and were taken around historical sites and said that my passion for Orkney’s history and culture should be put to good use.
“I had friends who worked for Shorex (shore excursion companies for cruise liners). They told me there was a shortage of guides and linguists in particular. Being fluent in French, I was offered a place on a training course, which ran in two parts from Orkney College. The theory side was two evenings a week from October to December and the practical side were a half day or full days of visiting sites from January to May.”
What is the best thing about being a Tourist Guide?
“The variety of folk from all walks of life from all over the world who want to know more about Orkney! And what is more I get to share my passion for Orkney with them…”
What is the worst thing about being a Tourist Guide?
“I’m at the mercy of the Orcadian weather! Last Summer was generally fantastic but there was the odd occasion like being sand-blasted at Skara Brae in a storm was less than pleasant!”
What skills do you need to be a Tourist Guide?
What qualifications do you have?
“As well as my teaching qualification, I have an Advanced Certificate in Financial Consultancy and a Green Badge Tourist Guide in English and French which was awarded by the Scottish Tourist Guides Association. I also have a First Aid Certificate, which I renew every three years.
“When you are self-employed, you need a good head for figures and the ability to cope with paperwork!”
Visit Personalised Orkney Tours on:
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/TouristGuide.JoJones
Orkney.com - https://www.orkney.com/listings/personalised-orkney-tours