What Makes a Good Tour
And what do we can learn about being a good leader
By Josie Usow
Over the course of my internship, I have watched many Rainbow Tours. Some of them have included engaged, wide-eyed groups that are excited to learn about Israeli Queer history. While others consist of tired participants, hungover from a long night out in Tel Aviv. Of course, tours are greatly affected by the willingness participants bring to it. What they get out of it will be directly correlated to the openness they bring to the experience. But many other factors go into making a great tour. Although I do not plan to go into the tourism industry, I see value in learning to lead and capture the attention of groups of people to get a message across.
Not only do the best tours include open-minded participants, but the people who get the most out of Rainbow Tours are not embarrassed to reflect and compare their own experiences to information on the tour. We as humans cannot help but see everything through the lens of our own experiences. Thus, the best tours push participants to grapple with their own backgrounds. With one youth group, I watched how teenagers engaged with the content through comparing what it is like to be Queer in their different high schools. Through pondering their experiences, they better understood how Queer experiences are greatly shaped by the place you live and community you belong to.
The nature of the environment greatly affects the tour. On a Rainbow Tour, the group walks around Nahalat Binyamin Street and near Shuk HaCarmel. Once called Via De la Ohcha (Gay road) in the Queer community, this street captures the fun, bustling, and artistic essence of Tel Aviv. Although difficult, I am always impressed with the way tour guides find little quiet nooks to stop with participants. For tours to go well, tour guides must find the balance of showing the excitement of the area while also providing spaces for participants to focus and learn. The Rainbow Tour route balances the commotion of Tel Aviv with focused conversations and games.
As with leading any group, the best leaders or guides use emotional intelligence. Meaning that they are aware of the feelings of the group and flexibly cater to the specific needs of the people in front of them. If participants come to the tour with biases, guides meet them where they are at to build understanding instead of shutting down their differing views. Good leaders do not have too much pride that they must say every piece of information planned. Instead, they are flexible and do not take others’ tiredness or distraction personally. They feed off of the energy of the group, engaging with them on subjects participants are interested in. They observe the people, perhaps cutting certain sections short or changing up activities to ensure the participants have the best experience possible. Ultimately, our goal at Rainbow Tour is to give people space to think deeply and learn about the Israeli Queer community in a fun, playful manner. Thus, good leaders and tour guides work to accomplish this effort even if it means changing up their planned activities. In addition to excitement about the content, tour guides must also flexible cater to the needs of each group.
Many factors contribute to a great Rainbow Tour, including ones I left out for brevity. During my internship, I have learned a wealth of knowledge about Queer life and history in Israel as well as how to use website-building platforms. But I believe the most valuable skills I gained are the effective ways to engage with a group. I feel grateful to have had this experience and it feels bittersweet to say goodbye to this wonderful company.