Small Meeting Secrets: Private Guides

As group sizes get smaller and budgets for individual incentive trips and foreign retreats shrink accordingly, it is essential for event planners to come up with new models for delivering service.

For small meetings and events, if you're not accompanying the group, using private guides at the destination is an affordable option to ensure that the trip goes goes smoothly.

What can Private Guides do?

Guides can:

  • pick up tour, excursion, and concert tickets in advance so that the group doesn't have have to wait inline
  • obtain local SIM cards to minimize mobile costs
  • greet your party
  • provide an orientation to the local transportation system
    My first experiences with private guides were in Tokyo. I had arranged to stay in Japan for 8 days and opted for accommodation at traditional ryokans. My first 2 guides were waiting for me after the airport bus pulled up at the Prince Hotel. They showed me how to use the subway system, went with me to my first ryokan, and then we toured all the places I wanted to see in Ginza.
  • Koishikawa Korakuen Gardenuncover hidden gems (e.g. attractions and dining establishments) known only to locals
    My 3rd guide in Tokyo took me to Koishikawa Korakuen Garden, the oldest in Tokyo, that I never have discovered on my own.
  • work with the whole group or take a few group members who have special interests on a private excursion
  • take groups on walking or public transit tours to attractions that are of interest
  • assist with translation or serve as an interpreter
  • Kamakuraprovide insight into the local culture and history
    After I took the JR train to Kamakura, my second guide was waiting for me. He had been in training to be a monk when he was younger so he provided great insight into some of the shrines, temples, and historical attractions in what had once been the home of the Samurai
  • provide information about local cuisine

How Much Can you Expect to Pay for a Guide

Paid guides will charge anywhere from $25 - $70 an hour, depending on location. For a simple itinerary and a small group, it's an affordable option.

In some instances, private guides are free. For example, Tokyo Free Guide consists of a network of  volunteers who want to either practice their English or help other expats who are visiting the city. The individuals or group using the guides pay their admission to the various attractions and for their meals.

Where to Find Private Guides

  • World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations (WFTGA)
  • LinkedIn: Global Tour Guides Group has over 10,000 members. If you are looking for a guide, it's a good place to post.
  • Guiding Websites: Examples: and
  • TripAdvisor: If you click on top attractions for major destinations, you will find some private guides listed and also small tour companies that are very familiar with the destination. Often these businesses are owned by an individual or a couple who would be pleased to work on a private basis with a small group.
  • There is a list of private guides.

Cvent Blog recently featured Small Meeting Secrets: Hotel Concierges.

Photo Credits: Anne Thornley-Brown, Executive Oasis International

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