With all this downtime, I am starting to get back into the website and do some clean up as well as catching up on website projects. The one project I would like to start again is my series of “Ask The Vegas Tourist”. Answering your questions not only about Las Vegas but also about traveling the southwest, things to do, see, and experience. As well as the “why” and “how” of tours and travel.
I want to start off the series with a question I get a lot on tour as well as on the website.
Question: How did I go from being a Las Vegas Chauffeur to a Las Vegas Tour Guide?
I moved to Las Vegas from Minnesota in 2001. My first job was as a chauffeur on the Strip. At the time, Las Vegas was BOOMING. To understand what I mean, Las Vegas was founded in 1905. In 2001 we hit one million residents. It took us almost 100 years to get one million people living here. By 2006, we literally doubled our population to 2 million people!
The Las Vegas Strip was a steady boom as well. always building, adding, and growing. It was an amazing time being a chauffeur. I worked mostly nights from 4 p.m. To 2 a.m. In those hours, you see a lot of crazy things. I learned really early never say that you’ve seen it all, because the moment you say that you’ve seen it all, someone jumps into your limo and shows you that you really have not seen it all…
By 2005 I was starting to feel burn out. Just too much of everything. Remember, I’m a simple man from Minnesota!
So one day, a fellow chauffeur friend of mine told me that he had just interviewed for the perfect job for me. For Me? I asked. He said yes, for me. Why me? He said that I have a head full of useless trivia. That I would be perfect for this job! I took that as a compliment!
I went ahead and applied for the job that he had applied for and he didn’t take it, but I took it because it sounded interesting and got me off of the strip. Let me add this, I have always had a love for modern American History and this area is loaded with it!! I love everything that happened in the last hundred or so years and Vegas has packed a lot of stuff in those hundred and some-odd years.
As a chauffeur, I got to meet people from all over the world and that fascinated me. I’ve always wanted to know why people are where they are. How and why got to be where they are. How do things happen? So this gig as a tour guide was right up my alley! I knew people did tours, I just didn’t know people actually made a career out of it. Now, here I was, hired to do tours.
Tour Guide Mark
One of the first companies that I applied for hired me. The first tour that you train for is Hoover Dam. It’s a simple half-day tour. Easy! On a Hoover Dam tour, I was told “there’s not much there” to learn. Yea, maybe for you!!
This particular tour operator used buses and I was the step-on guide. It was the guides’ job to get everyone on board the bus then get them off the bus and on the actual Hoover Dam tour. They also did all of the narration along the way while somebody else drove.
But First, You have to do a ride-along. They send you out with an experienced guide and you observe them. Well, it really bothered me because the person that they sent me out with, I thought was a freaking moron. I mean, it’s about a 40-minute ride from Las Vegas to Boulder City to Hoover Dam. He talked for about 10 minutes then he played a video about the building of Hoover Dam. That was it.
I’m thinking that if we’re going to go see Hoover Dam, why are we seeing a video on the building of Hoover Dam? Then I find out that once you get there, on the actual tour, you see another video about building Hoover Dam. So this format made no sense to me.
Then on the way back, he’s talking about the concrete in the dam! We have left the dam and ar heading back to Las Vegas and the tour guide is talking about the concrete! Meanwhile, there’s a lot of stuff I want to know about along the way home that I am sure the guests were wanting to know about as well. I didn’t say anything I was just there to observe!
My Tour My Way
So when they assigned me my first Hoover Dam tour, they handed me the script and the DVD and I got on the bus. I talked to my coach driver and on the way out, I just put all of that stuff in my bag and I talked about what I wanted to talk about; The history of Las Vegas, Boulder City, and Hoover Dam. I talked about what brought people out to the middle of nowhere to build a dam in the middle of a depression.
I did the same on the way home. I talked about what THEY wanted to know about. More history, more information about what it’s like to live here and ideas on what they should do next!
After about four or five of these tours, my boss called me into her office. She says “look, I’ve been told that you’re not following the script on how to do the Hoover Dam tour. So I’m going to ride with you. I want to take your Hoover Dam tour and I don’t want you to change anything just because I’m on board. Ok?”
I didn’t understand why I would change what I say just because she is on board, but Ok. Let’s do this!
The day comes and she gets on board, she sits towards the back with a notepad. I do my Dam Tour. We get back to the office and she looks to me. She said she had a great tour and loved how I did it.
Now she wanted me to write down what I said and make it into a script that she can pass to the other guides. Yea, right! That ain’t happening. It’s my tour. They need to deliver their own tours. She reluctantly agreed.
George and the West Rim
Next, I was trained on the Grand Canyon West Rim (home of the glass bridge!). My trainer was named George. He was a retired military man who spent most of his career in Japan. After I was trained by him, the boss wanted to ride along with me on that one too. So we do the tour.
We get out to the West Rim and she is talking to me about the format of the tour. Being a longer tour, there is a format on how the drive out and back is done. There is a photo stop at the Dam and there is a stop for bathrooms at a convenience store in the middle. George did a third stop. So I did the third stop.
She informed me that I was not following the format. She was curious about who trained me? I told her it was George. She looked at me and smiled. It now made sense to her. Why I did the third stop. George was the only tour guide who made three stops.
My boss tells me George has a serious nicotine habit and so when he needs a smoke break, he gets the driver to pullover, gets everyone out of the bus and he will go into a very well detailed and informative description of what ever we are looking at on this “special stop”. He spoke very intelligently about the mountain chain, the flowers, and the trees around us. The stop was not for information, it was George’s smoke break!
Hoover Dam Revelation
After a while of doing tours, I’m on a Hoover Dam tour. we get to the Dam, I get everyone off the bus and the driver and I are in the bus parking area just reading the newspaper and talking. Another driver walks over, looks up, and sees me. He smiles and says loudly “You Got Mark!” My driver smiles back and tells him in a matter of fact style that “Yes I do”.
This got my curiosity up and I need to know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Apparently, it was a good thing. In the morning, our office faxes over the trip sheets to the bus company. The drivers look to see what tours we have and who are the guides. When they see Mark Anthony, they begin to argue over that tour.
Why? Because they make more tips with me as the guide than they do the other guides. I am told the guest really likes how I tell them stories, the information, and how it seems more personal than other tours. So their tips are higher. I make them more money!
Finding My Passion
After a few months of being a Las Vegas tour guide, I found myself in San Jose, California for about six months. I discover that there is a school for International Tour Directors in San Francisco. In two weeks, I get certified and started doing over-the-road tours (multi-day tours). I can do tours from The Candian Rockies all the way down to Copper Canyon Mexico. My Specialty is the Southwest. National Parks. California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Right now, I am focusing on day trips or overnight tours out of Las Vegas.
I prefer the Southwest. I love the Grand Canyon. I love Yosemite and Yellowstone National Park. Utah has a ton of State Parks I love touring. Of course, being in Las Vegas, we have Death Valley, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Valley of Fire, Grand Canyon South Rim, Grand Canyon West, I can even do North Rim if you have the right itinerary.
I really love what I do and it has gone from being a job to being a passion of mine. I will explain this in a later video. I love what I do. I love to help people discover new things to see do and experience while visiting Las Vegas (and beyond).
To be honest, I wish more people who visit here, had the time to really experience the entire Southwestern United States. Not only for its beauty but also for its deep history. The whole West Coast is an amazing place to experience.
I always laugh when someone tells me “I’ve been to Vegas a thousand times, there is nothing new here!” Oh, Really? Take a look at my website and see the Vegas tours and tell me that you have seen it all. I’ve lived here for almost 20 years and I haven’t seen it all!
So that’s how I went from being a chauffeur on the Las Vegas Strip to be an international Certified Tour Director living in Las Vegas. I do some awesome tours up and down the west coast (so I am told). My specialty is the Southwest United States, Las Vegas, and the National Parks. And I love to show you them as we go along here.
Las Vegas is my home. I love it here. Over the last 19 years, I have seen a lot of changes in this city. Some I like, most I don’t. But it has never changed the fact that I love living here.
There are lots of things to see, do, and experience. As a tour professional, I love to help others see that as well. Just Ask!
Ask The Vegas Tourist