It’s all about the people – a tribute to guides!


I sit here finally thawing out after the snow has passed, and the UK’s current cold snap is finally coming to a close; but rain follows snow and there seems to be no let up now for days to come. It is times like these that I yearn more than ever to be back in Asia under the hot sun – and that is exactly where I should be right now and I wish you were too. Right now Asian travel companies are meant be right slap bang in the middle of the winter sun travel season and the most profitable time of the year.

I absolutely love meeting new people when they arrive in Asia for the first time, with a smile of excitement on their faces but also with a little bit of underlying trepidation about what to expect on their holiday to come (many travelers will book months in advance and then completely forget about their incredible travel itinerary until arriving on the ground). However, this quickly disappears once they are introduced to their wonderful handpicked local guides that will look after them during their holiday; as who wants to be shown around Asia by and Englishman!

It’s all about the guides

Guides are the life blood of any successful travel company and, like both Simon Reeve and Michael Palin, two travelers that I highly admire for their travel philosophies, I hold the exact same travel ethos. Travel is not always about the places you go to but the people you meet along the way. This is ever more topical as Simon Reeve has concentrated on the people he meets in the series ‘Incredible Journeys’ that is currently airing on TV. Don’t worry if you have missed it as you can also catch up on BBC iPlayer. I highly recommend that you catch up on this series if you are not currently following it as it’s a must-watch for intrepid travelers.

My admiration for Simon Reeve continues as he also talks about his mental wellbeing and at one point he was so low that he was ready to throw himself off a bridge. All our personal stresses mount during these extremely tough times, by being confined to our homes and for those of you like me with children, the added complication of having to juggle the home schooling and constant questions. It is ever difficult to try and find any sort of quality ‘me time’ at all.

We must all stay positive and trust in the vaccine rollout process and believe that we will all start travelling again and soon. Not only do we owe it to ourselves to get away and take a break, but we also owe it to the people in the countries less fortunate than our own, where there has been no government help or furlough scheme to get them through. After allowing myself to wallow in my own self-pity, it is not long before my thoughts turn to all the wonderful guides and their families that we have left behind. What are they doing now and how are they coping?

It is then that I feel motivated again. We must start travelling again and it must happen soon. I hear of stories of guides going to work in the fields to earn enough money to make ends meet. Without tourists many parts of the world cannot survive, this especially goes for South-East Asia as many people just live a hand to mouth existence.

So, this year when travel is allowed once again, please think of where your travel money should go and who and where you want to travel with once you can spend your hard-earned money. This decision will be especially important to the stimulus of the world. I am not saying don’t travel locally as that is greatly needed but also think of the world as a whole and look at countries that have the largest portion of the GDP (gross domestic product) reliant on tourism. The three main regions around the world that could do with the largest impetus are: the Caribbean, the Pacific islands and South-East Asia.

Please also look at travelling differently too so that all the of the amazing people and guides that we love can get back to work, provide for their families properly and show you their home country with smiles on their faces.

Peter Jones is the Company Founder of See Asia Differently. See Asia Differently is an independent travel company specialising in unique, truer travelling experiences and holidays to South East Asia.

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Comments (6)

  1. Jez Brown says:

    You are absolutely right. Guides are vastly underrated. When you think about your most memorable travels there will probably be a guide at the heart of your adventures who took you to the right places at the right times. When you look back on your trip you will probably realise that most of your information came from the guide.

    • Peter Jones says:

      Yes Jez, that is absolutely right.

      There is also one extra layer in the process. I keep on going on about picking the right Independent travel company whose guides are like family. As the travel company should through the itinerary building stage get to know you. The better they do the better they can match the guide to your needs.

      For example: I have a teddy bear of a guide who has young children and is the most charming and thoughtful person. So we put him with families. On the other side of things I have a cheeky chap of a guide who is very witty and fun and we put him with more adventure type people.

      So yes it is about the guide, but also matching the guide with the traveler!

  2. Beth says:

    Especially in Asia, guides are essential. For most of us westerners we know so little about Asian beliefs and culture that we really need a guide to make sense of it all for us. If you just wander round on your own you are going to miss so much of what is important. I’ve always found that investing in a guide, particularly a private one, makes all the difference.

    • John says:

      I’ve always given guides a cash tip if they’ve done a good job. I think this year it ought to be a more generous tip to help guides catch-up on all the income that they’ve lost over the last 15 months.

    • Peter Jones says:

      The guides would definitely benefit from a generous tip. However like I have said in previous posts if you choose a good and independent travel company that is based in location like we are. Then ask them how they have supported their guides through the pandemic.

      With us we have paid a small furlough payment out of our own pockets. So also ask what schemes companies have done as there may be better ways to support. For example we are also looking at supporting a local scheme set up by a friend of mine that is collecting donations to buy rice in bulk and then distribute it to the poorer families.

    • Roger says:

      Very encouraging to learn that you are looking after your guides. It’s important that they are still there when travel resumes. The sort of knowledge they have takes time to develop and they are not easily replaced. The brightest person in my year is now a guide in London and I can see why it takes her sort of intelligence to marshal all the knowledge and answer all the bizarre questions too.

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