Tour guides: Destination management companies (DMCs) and tourists (Part 5)

Amongst a lot of guides, we feel protective, often saying that our detractors, mostly local, have never taken a really good tour. And while that is almost one hundred percent true, even within our own industry there is a disconnect between various moving parts. Tour guides don’t just work for a single company. Until you land a steady gig, it’s hard to make a living getting a tour here and a tour there filling in for a more seasoned guide who doesn’t want to go out in bad summer weather. Dave says, “You don’t want to give up your day job, especially if you’re young and got kids.”

Very often guides work for Destination Management Companies (DMCs).These are often local, sometimes national or international companies, that recommend everything from restaurants to hotels when a large convention comes to town. If they need to they’ll hire all the guides in town for bus, walking, segue, bike, swamp, haunted, music, literary, cocktail and restaurant tours. It’s a huge business. Dave points out, “You would think that a lot of the people that work for the DMCs, or local tour companies, people in sales or operations, would either be tour guides themselves, or at the very least, have taken the tours, huh? But they haven’t.” There is often a self-imposed barrier between the performer and the troupe, as it were.

Worse, however, is the cavalier DMC attitude towards clients. More often than not, they are just numbers; from dozens to tens of thousands. And there is a pervasive attitude among these DMCs about these visitors: “They don’t know what they want.” “My recommendations (about which hotel, restaurant, band) are wonderful.” “There’s nothing to worry about. Traffic isn’t a problem.” Thankfully, most of the hucksters don’t last very long. They get found out, possibly burn some bridges in this very small town where everybody knows everybody, and it’s off they go to do some damage to their next chosen profession.


Some tourists have been more than amply responsible for their negative image. Tourism is like skydiving. 99.99% of the time, it’s the safest activity in the world. It’s that .01% that is the problem. And like skydiving, those .01% can create some problems that happened long ago. Some stories are true, others are not but are still talked about as urban legend.

Take the Bayou Classic patrons at the Hyatt barbecuing in their hotel room bathtub setting off fire alarms throughout the hotel, the conventioneer who murdered a sex worker because she was really a he, the obnoxious party that returns every plate to the kitchen at a restaurant, or some salesman idiot trying to score drugs from a stranger on Bourbon Street at 3:30 in the morning and someone gets themselves in jail, or worse… ooops.

The other 99.99% of tourists are quite well-behaved and range from gutter punks to blue collar workers to multi-degreed professionals to private jet-setters. For the most part, they are very well informed as to what our city is all about: great music and food, fine hotels, public festivals, and they come back again, and again, and again.


Part 6: Shared passion and postscript

Editor’s Note: This story is one of a series reprinted from the book A Guide to South Louisiana: Stories of Uncommon Culture. Each author was a student in Rachel Breunlin’s “Storytelling and Culture” course for the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Orleans in the Spring of 2017. The Neighborhood Story Project sponsored the project as part of its mission to publish collaborative ethnography in high quality books in which the authors receive royalties for their creative labor.


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