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Herding Cats

What makes a good tour director?  Who are these people who enjoy the challenge of “herding cats” for a week in a foreign country?  While some of us can barely manage the human dynamics of traveling with our spouse, how can others be up for the challenge of handling two dozen strangers who meet each other in a foreign airport?

On my recent trip to the French Riviera with Collette, I met a very good tour director named Becky Regan, a young woman who fielded endless questions, used the native language without a trace of superiority, and who never let us see her sweat.

Collette’s Spotlight of Nice tour offered a more in-depth look into a single destination than traditional tours that move from city to city in Europe. I asked Becky if it drew a different crowd as a result.

“Absolutely,” she said. “These Spotlight trips are perfect for people who want more free time. You won’t get this much time in one place on a traditional tour.

“The travelers who do these are generally more experienced and may be returning to a place they want more time in. They’ve been to Europe before — probably several times.

“We have people on this trip who have done a lot of preparation and have an itinerary planned for all their free time,” she said.  “While this probably appeals to younger travelers, I think it’s actually more personality-driven than age-driven.”

Regan guides domestic trips as well, but she has a weak spot for France.

“I’ve always loved France,” she said. “It begins with the language. I could swear at you in French and it would sound beautiful!”

Regan came of age as a tour director this past November when Paris suffered terrorist attacks that killed dozens.

“I was in Paris with a group at the time,” she said. “Our office at home was in constant touch and let me make my best decisions on behalf of our travelers. I reassured them that we were going to be fine, and not one person left that trip.”

At the company’s request, Regan shared her experience at a staff gathering afterward.

“I’ve gained a lot of confidence in myself as a result, and I’ve always been supported by our company no matter where I am,” she said.

Then she smiled and said what you want to hear from your tour director:

“There isn’t much that fazes me now.”

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Mac Lacy

Mac Lacy is president and publisher of The Group Travel Leader Inc. Mac has been traveling and writing professionally ever since a two-month backpacking trip through Europe upon his graduation with a journalism degree from the University of Evansville in 1978.