Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

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Tour Guides

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Job prospects for tour guides are slightly below average. Employment numbers are expected to be stable, and as older workers exit the industry, there should be work for new ones. Income is below average and it is hard to find work outside the tourism season.

How to become a tour guide

What they do

Tour guides advise, direct, and guide visitors in museums and on tours. They explain the background of, answer questions about and point visitors to the most interesting sights and objects.

Their tasks may include:

  • meeting and greeting visitors
  • controlling visitors' access to exhibits
  • ensuring safety of collections
  • maintaining attendance records
  • planning and rearranging schedules and itineraries
  • planning, organising and conducting tours
  • arranging transportation and accommodation for visitors following planned itineraries
  • arranging entry to places of interest
  • answering questions, providing commentaries, issuing brochures and tour literature, showing audiovisual presentations, and explaining features and procedures at tour sites
  • assisting with installing and dismantling exhibits.


There are no entry requirements to become a tour guide, except if the job involves driving a vehicle. Most skills are learned on the job.

If the job involves driving, a driving licence for the relevant vehicle type and a passenger endorsement is needed.

Tour guides can complete on-the-job training to obtain the New Zealand Certificate in Tourism (Visitor Experience) Level 3 or New Zealand Certificate in Tour Guiding (Level 4). This qualification is managed by the Industry Training Organisation (ITO), Service IQ.

Alternatively, many polytechnics and private training establishments offer qualifications in tourism.

Tour guides also have a professional association that they can join. For more information see the ProGuides NZ website

Cost of study

On the job training

The cheapest way to become a tour guide is to simply start without qualifications and learn on the job. If the tour guide role requires a driving licence, there will be costs involved in obtaining this. There may also be fees for workers who complete a qualification through Service IQ.

Many polytechnics and private training establishments offer qualifications in tourism. There are usually fees involved in doing these, although some polytechnics may also have zero-fee schemes. First time students may be eligible for  fees-free tertiary education for their first year of study, which will reduce the total cost. For more information about fees-free eligibility, go to feesfree.govt.nzCheck directly with training providers for details about fees.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students who are studying through polytechnics, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy services website.

Tenancy Services: 

Where to study

Tour guides can complete on-the-job training wherever they work. These qualifications are managed by Service IQ.

Polytechnics and private training establishments in all parts of New Zealand offer qualifications in tourism.

Service IQ:

Completed qualifications

The number of students completing a Level 4 certificate in tourism has been steady in recent years. The pool of qualified potential employees has grown.

Qualification completions chart

Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


The annual income for tour guides is estimated to be around $34,000. This low income reflects the low salary, level in the industry. Also, few tour guides work full-time all year, which contributes to the low median income.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index

Employment and skill shortages

Tour guides’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
2,031 2,046 1,970 2,030
  0.1% -0.7% 0.5%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
* Growth projections are based on the category “Personal Service and Travel Workers”.

The number of tour guides in employment was stable from 2006 to 2013. Employment is projected to decline slightly until 2023 but increase slightly to 2028. This means there should be some opportunities for new tour guides as older ones leave the industry.

Tour guides often work inconvenient hours such as weekends. Because there is more tourism during the summer they may also work more than normal working hours during the summer, and could struggle to find work during the winter.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Outcomes after qualification completion*

OverseasIn further studyReceiving a benefitIn employmentMedian Salary
9% 23% 5% 60% $37,000

Source: Tertiary Education Commission.
*Three years after completion of L4 Certificate - Tourism.

Three years after graduation, most tourism graduates were either in employment or n further study, while some were overseas. The median salary was around $37,000 three years after graduation.

Tour guides are not on Immigration New Zealand's skill shortage list

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

Tour guide vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs and Seek websites.

Trade Me Jobs: 

Career path

Tour guides can start their own businesses, or become consultants, managers, or marketers of tourism businesses.

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level tour guides.

  • Gallery or Museum Attendant
  • Gallery or Museum Guide
  • Regional Guide
  • Tour Escort
  • Tour Leader
  • Tourism Worker

Other information


More information on tour guides is available on the Careers New Zealand website and through the "Just the Job" videos.

Careers New Zealand:
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Tourism - Maori Tourism
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Tourism
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Eco Tourism
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a Museum Host - Te Papa
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a Visitor Information Consultant


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of tour guides has been coded to the following ANZSCO code for the purpose of this report:

4514 – Gallery, Museum and Tour Guides