Tourist Guide or Tour Operator

Pondering whether to become a Tourist Guide or Tour Operator, or both ? Let’s immediately give the simple Merve definitions of each, as applicable to South Africa:-

Follow Me and understand what a Tourist Guide does

Tourist Guide Legalities – a person who has successfully completed a recognised study course, and has been legally registered with the relevant Registrar of Tourist Guides.

What they essentially do – cutting through the bureaucratic, too verbose for words definitions, Tourist Guides essentially accompany and impart information to Tourists whilst travelling.

Tourist Guide training is conducted by many registered Trainers throughout South Africa. A list of all accredited Tourist Guide Trainers and Assessors can be obtained by calling the telephone number on the official Cathsseta website.

A Tour operator designing a Tour schedule and making the required bookings

Tour Operator Legalities – simple – NONE ! – a serious legal weakness, but there it is.

What they essentially do – design, and arrange Tours including booking the required component parts such as, accommodation, meals, attractions, transport, and yes – Tourist Guides.

Tour Operator training is offered by SATSA in both Johannesburg and Cape Town. Click here for more information.

There have been many Tourist Guides I have known who prefer to call themselves Tour Operators merely because they own a vehicle, which is definitely not the sole criteria for actually being defined as one. Likewise, a Taxi emblazoned with the signage “Sipho’s Tours” doesn’t automatically imply that the Company is a Tour Operator, or the driver a registered Tourist Guide.

At best the Guide with the vehicle is just that – a Tourist Guide with a vehicle. That may well be beneficial when seeking freelance Guiding work, but on its own, such a person is definitely not a Tour Operator.

Confused lady not knowing whether to be a Tourist Guide or Tour Operator

Tourist Guide, Tour Operator, Both, or Whaaat ?!

Construction of a Business Plan is an ideal way to confront this type of dilemma

Both roles can indeed be fulfilled by one individual, I did myself for many years. However, they are two distinctly separate functions and should be recognised as such, particularly for those wanting to develop a growing and sustainable business. I learnt that through the “school of hard knocks”, and is the subject of other posts on this site.


I have been a South African registered Tourist Guide for some 24 years, and also developed my own Tour Operating Business in keeping with sound business principles. I can help you with all of this.

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