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How To: Organize a Walking Tour

Some historical tours of Manitoba

1. Before beginning

It's a good idea, before work begins on the details of the walking tour, to have a clear idea of the kind of tour being planned, rather than having to stop in the middle of the planning process to re-define the concept. Some of the plans may change as research moves along, but on the whole, the basic outline of the tour should be in place before planning begins. For example:

Scheduling

Is there sufficient time available in which to do the necessary planning? At least 10 to 12 months are required for a properly researched tour.

When will the tour take place? (At what time, how often, on what days, how many days? Will the tour run throughout the summer, will it be a "once only" event or will it be an annual event?)

What provisions can be made in case of bad weather?

Will tours be booked in advance (and where), or at the tour locations?

Tour Site

How many streets will be covered? Are there sufficient points of interest along the route? Can these be covered in the recommended time (1 1/2 hours)?

Are there adequate parking places? Where will the group assemble? Will refreshments be offered? Is there a telephone nearby, if required?

Purpose

A walking tour may be organized for many reasons, and this may affect the planning. Some of these are:

To increase historical awareness, both within the area toured and outside it,

As a means of recruiting new members to a historical group and increasing that organization's visibility within the community;

As a fund-raising event;

As a training process - in doing research work, conducting interviews, preparing publicity, or acting as guides.

Human Resources

Are there sufficient volunteers available - within the organizing group or the community - to do the work involved?

Expenses

If the walking tour is not being sponsored or the costs underwritten, some thought should be given to how the expenses will be met. While money will be obtained from the sale of tickets, there will be costs associated with the production of the tour booklets and publicity for which funds will have to be available. Possibilities include grants, donations, fund-raising events.

2. Planning stage

Once the above items have been considered and the group feels comfortable with concept of a walking tour, detailed planning can proceed.

Central Planning Committee

The first step would be to form a central planning committee. This group will take charge of the overall planning of the tour and leave the specific responsibilities to smaller sub-committees.

The central planning committee should be composed of people with a wide range of backgrounds and skills. Its nucleus would be the original organizing group. There should be someone familiar with the history of the area serving on the committee, preferably a local resident or former resident. Other people from the area who should be approached to serve on the committee might include the local banker, librarian, school principal, storekeeper, insurance agent, etc. Perhaps a representative from the local, ward or district could be persuaded to serve. It is important that the community become involved in this event, since its success, will be to the benefit of the community.

Research Committee

The work of this committee will likely be the most time-consuming and should therefore begin at once. It will involve reading local histories, scanning local newspapers, collecting photographs, interviewing residents, checking tax rolls, consulting directories, and generally finding out all that can be discovered about the area.

Tour Material

Members of this committee will work closely with the researchers in putting together the tour booklet and the material for the guides. The tour booklet will include a map showing the route of the walking tour, a description of the buildings, and illustrations (photographs and sketches). Even though the tour may not stop at all the buildings along the route because of time restraints, information should be included for as many as possible. It may be interesting to have photographs of some of the buildings as they originally looked along with photographs showing how the buildings look at present. Extracts from newspaper articles or family diaries might add interest to the booklet. It is recommended that an architect be asked to serve on this committee to identify architectural components of the buildings and possibly assist with sketches.

Material for the guides should consist of a map of the route, the scheduled stops, further detail about the buildings' history, architecture, construction, or anecdotes about the occupants.

This committee will be responsible for all aspects of the production of the tour material: format, text, graphics, typing and reproduction. It should consult with the central committee regarding cost, time requirements, number of copies to be printed, etc. The tour material should be available at least one week before the scheduled tour.

Publicity

This committee will be responsible for publicizing the walking tour, using local newspapers, radio and television stations. Members should be available for interviews, if required. They should consult with the research and tour material committees in producing an attractive poster, perhaps using an architectural drawing or an old-time photograph of the area. About 3 to 4 weeks before the tour, posters should be placed in prominent locations - shopping centres, museums, libraries, schools, hotels, and shops in the area.

This committee will also look after all directional signs which may be required for parking, assembly, sales and refreshments.

Finance

A committee will be required to look after the expenses of the walking tour. Some of the costs which might possibly be anticipated include:

  • Postage
  • Photocopying
  • Long distance calls
  • Photo reproduction
  • Printing of tour booklet and guides' booklets
  • Posters, ads
  • Equipment rental

Possible sources of revenue are booklet sales and refreshments. Other sources which should be investigated include grants (local or provincial), sponsorships (local organizations), and donations (hotel restaurants, insurance companies, real estate companies, printers, etc.)

Pre-Tour Preparation

The tour material should be available at least one week before the tour begins. The tour guides should familiarize themselves with the route and the details of the buildings. At this point, changes may have to be made if the tour appears to be running too long. (The tour will not likely be able to cover all the buildings, and people should be encouraged to repeat the walking tour on another occasion, at a more leisurely pace.)

All the elements which may be required for the tour - tables, chairs, sale items, membership applications, cash box, etc. - should be available. If necessary, volunteers should be booked to look after sales, membership applications, etc.

All the details with regard to the walking tour should be in place - point of assembly, number of people in each tour, tour intervals, etc. It is recommended that the tours not exceed 20 people; anything larger will require the guides to shout or use a microphone, which is undesirable both for the guides and listeners. The guides should be encouraged to add their own personal remarks to the tour commentary, and questions and comments from the visitors should be encouraged. Consideration should be given to the residents of the area - they should not be annoyed by traffic, noise or litter.

Post-Tour

After each tour day, the cash will be recorded and deposited, any litter caused by the tour should be collected. At the conclusion of the tour, rented or borrowed items should be returned, and all invoices paid. Letters of thanks should be sent to all donors, sponsors, committee members, volunteers and guides. A written assessment of the walking tour should be made, noting what went well or what could be improved.

Some historical tours of Manitoba

Page revised: 13 May 2013

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