The Unsung Heroes of the Travel Industry

October 15, 2009

The Paul Morrison Guide Awards ( recognise just how important the role of a tour guide can be in the overall holiday experience. The presence of such luminaries as bestselling writer Bill Bryson, wildlife broadcaster Mark Carwardine, Telegraph Travel Editor Graham Boynton, Rough Guides founder Mark Ellingham and co-founder of Wanderlust magazine Lyn Hughes amongst the award judges reinforces this view.

Whether you have a city guide for just one day, or travel with a guide for a month, their knowledge and passion for their home patch makes the difference between just a holiday and a truly inspirational travel experience.

Reflecting on the role played by guides made me think back to my own time as a tour leader some 35 years back.  It was then, as it is now, about making the whole trip enjoyable by juggling problems and priorities behind the scenes, so that guests simply enjoyed themselves and weren’t aware of the damage control scenarios enacted on their behalf.  But today, with their customers often having travelled extensively, guides have to know so much more.  They need an understanding of the different nationalities that they host, a good grasp of environmental initiatives and the political skills of a diplomat – plus a whole lot more.

My congratulations go to all the top three guides at the award ceremony this week  – Bronze award winner Tejendra Singh (India, working with Intrepid Travel), Silver award winner Yamaan Safady (Jordan, working with Walks Worldwide) and Gold award winner Diego Torres (Ecuador, working with Explore).  Diego himself, nominated four years running for the awards – a testament in itself to his guiding skills – summed up his overall win very sensitively.  To paraphrase, he said:  “This award is for all guides worldwide – and it is for everyone who cares about our world”.  He plans to use his £5,000 bursary to help support a charity ( working with vulnerable street kids in Quito – “it gives children the potential to take charge of their futures.  Instead of having to beg on the streets they can have a life with more dignity.”

Gold Award Winner Diego Torres speaks at the Wanderlust Awards

AITO ( is proud to have supported the bursaries awarded to the winning guides and congratulates all those who were nominated by their customers.  The importance of these awards is the fact that they recognise, uniquely – as the only such international guide awards – the unsung heroes of the travel industry. As such, they are a fitting legacy and memorial to Paul Morrison, co-founder of Wanderlust magazine, and to his passion for travel. Derek Moore – Chairman, AITO, and founder-director of Explore