2017: Towards equal tourism participation and inclusive working environments: access, security and wellbeing  >  Tourism as work: Exploring the worker perspective


The Emotional Labour of a Tour Rep: a study

Written by: Uusitalo, Saana

University: Lincoln


The tourism industry has grown in the last years and today it is the largest service industry in the world (Duncan et al. 2013). With more than 266 million workers within the industry, the job descriptions vary greatly (Du et al. 2016). There are lower paid jobs, such as hotel receptionists and cleaners to higher paid jobs such as manager positions. The research paper was focused on working as a tour rep in different destination around the world helping tourists travelling to the specific destination and the emotional labour aspect of the job.

Key words: Tour rep, emotional labour, tourism as a work, seasonality


Working as a rep in breath-taking destinations is seen as a glamorous job, but it is not always like that. The work a rep does in destinations is at times extremely stressful, the hours are long and irregular and the reason the rep is at the destination is to help the guests, so you are expected to do all you can to fulfil the guests holiday wishes. (Guerrier and Adib, 2003). The work of a rep takes a lot of emotional labour and one needs to be ready for whatever situation possible, no days are the same when working as a rep.

Tour rep life consists of moving from one destination to another every six months to be there for tourists travelling. Tour reps often work in touristic destinations for tour operators from their home countries. When it comes to tour reps, they are often the only person from the tour operator the guests meet, so it is important for the rep to represent the organisations values and embody the organisation (Guerrier and Adib, 2003). Tour reps often have the same type of personality, they are easily approachable, social and happy. Tour reps are often considered to be the most valued worker in the organisation since they are at the destination for the guests (TUI, 2017).

The term emotional labour was first introduced in 1983 by Hochschild. Hochschild defined emotional labour as ‘the management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display.’ Employees wear a mask to show the guests only the emotions they want them to see (Torland, 2012). Looking at the emotional aspect of tour reps work, it is clear that emotional labour is required. The guests are the most important for the reps and the reps should be genuinely interested in the guests (Muru, 2016).

In addition to looking at literature review of the specific topics, primary research was conducted. The researcher conducted an interview to an ex-tour rep, who had been working for one of Europe’s largest tour operators in a number of destinations around the world; Egypt, Gran Canary, Cyprus, Thailand, Mallorca and Crete. The interview consisted of questions asking on why the participant had been working as a guide, what kind of situations had she faced during her career, whether or not she could be herself whilst at work and if in her opinion she saw the work of a tour rep as emotional labour.

Often when it comes to emotional labour, the true personality of the employee may be hidden under a mask. This can also be the case when working as a tour rep. When guests come on holiday, they expect that nothing goes wrong and even the smallest of problems may ruin ones holiday. This might mean that even though there might be something going on in their personal life, this cannot be shown in front of the guests. In some cases, the tour reps can’t be themselves in front of the guests, but the participant did not see that this was the case for her.

When working as a tour rep, one never knows what kind of situations you might have to face. The most difficult situations the participant had to face was drunks, drugged people, illnesses and even deaths. Handling these situations is extremely difficult for the tour rep, you have to be the shoulder to cry on to the guests. Even though, tour reps have to handle difficult situations, there are also a number of rewarding situations a tour rep gets to face. According to the participant, the most rewarding aspect of her work was the friendships she formed and the social part of the job, not only with guests but also with colleagues and locals.

There is no doubt about the work of a tour reps being in the emotional labour categories. When one is at the destination and at work, you are there to serve the customer. There is no room to be unhappy. Tour operators often expect their tour reps to go beyond the guest’s expectations, the rep should be able to give the guests something that they are not even expecting to receive. Working as a rep is where one’s personal skills are put to test.


Du, D., Lew, A., Ng, P. (2016) Tourism and economic growth. Journal of Travel Research. 55(4). 454-464.

Duncan, T., Scott, D.G. and Baum, T. (2013). The mobilities of hospitality work: An exploration of issues and debates. Annals of Tourism Research. 41. 1-19.

Guerrier, Y. and Adib, A. (2003). Work at leisure and leisure at work: A study of the emotional labour of tour reps. Human Relations. 56(11). 1399-1417.

Muru, T. (2016). Matkaoppaan työstä: Millainen henkilö sopii oppaaksi? [Blog]. 19 May. Available from: http://www.rantapallo.fi/murumou/matkaoppaan-tyosta-millainen-henkilo-sopii-oppaaksi/ [Accessed on 5 May 2017] (Finnish)

Torland, M. (2012). Emotional labour and job satisfication of adventure tour leaders: Does gender matter? Annals of Leisure Research. 14(4). 369-389.

TUI. (2017) Hae oppaaksi. Finland: TUI. Available from: http://www.tui.fi/tietoa-tuista/tyopaikat/hae-oppaaksi/ [Accesses on 5 May 2017] (Finnish)

Tour representatives in Emotional Labor

Written by: Sevon, Liisa

University: Lincoln

I have chosen to comment on this paper due to my interest in working as a tour representative and my general interest in the concept of emotional labor. This paper examines the expectations towards tour reps in the job, how emotional labor is an essential part of the work. Employees are required to be friendly and kind towards customers, as it adds value to the product which they provide (Schneider & Bowen, 1985). The added value relates to customer satisfaction and loyalty (Albrecht & Zemken). The paper examines some of the problems which tour reps face during their job, such as long hours, the strain of maintaining a certain facial and bodily display and difficult customers. The author makes a clear link between tour reps and emotional labor but it is quite trivial at times. Perhaps more academic discussion about emotional labor and the long term strain of the job could give more insight of the subject.

The structure of the paper is logical as it starts by introducing the tour reps and what is expected from them as employees. The focus then shifts to the concept of emotional labor and how it links to tour reps. The author used an interview as primary research and it was concluded how even though the participant sees the work as emotional labor, she did not find the facial display generally troublesome. The difficulty of the job derives from the challenging customers as tour reps need to handle the situations in a professional and respectful manner, forgetting their own wellbeing.

In emotional labor the rewarding depends on the personality of the employee. As the author mentions, tour reps are usually easily approachable, social and happy, in other words, they could be considered as extroverts. The rewarding aspects usually differ depending on the personality. The interview participant described her rewards to include the social aspects with colleagues, guests and colleagues. For introverts, emotional labor can be more difficult and emotionally draining as the job includes lots of surface acting. Furthermore, extroverts are more sensitive to the rewarding aspect and modifying emotions to expected displays (Judge et al. 2009).
The author clearly concludes the work of a tour rep being emotional labor and how the employees are expected to behave a certain way, giving customers positive experiences and challenging their personal skills to the utmost measures.


Albrecht, A. & Zemke R. (1985) Service America! Doing business in the new economy. USA: Dow Jones-Irwin.

Judge, T. A., Fluegge Woolf, E., Hurst, C. (2009) Is emotional labor more difficult for some than for others? A multilevel, experience-sampling study. Personnel Psychology, 62(1), 57-88.

Schneider, B & Bowen, D. E (1985) Employee and customer perceptions of service in banks: replication and extension. Journal of Applied Psychology, 70, 423-433.

The impact of emotional labour

Written by: Sarana, Michelle

University: Lincoln

The reason I chose such topic to comment on is because I was going to originally discuss emotional labour and its impact on employers and not only that because it interlinks with aesthetic labour as they both are used as a management tool in both hospitality and the tourism industry.

The paper, which focuses on the experience of tour reps, argues that it is an intensive job that requires emotional labour. The writer makes a valid case that tour reps, as well as the stress of the unstable employment must also contend with the pressure of having the right personality similarly to aesthetic labour. Emotional labour, as established in the paper, was first introduced by Hochschild (1983) - however it is used to so that companies can differentiate their service in gaining competitive advantage (Warhurst et al., 2009). Hence, a further discussion of why emotional labour is utilised in the service industry would further enhance the clarity of such argument.

The writer also makes a valid case in that tour reps must suppress their own personality however, the consequence of such pressure was not made clear and fully discuss in the paper. The paper largely acknowledges that emotional labour is used in the service industry but such discussion of the impact of using such style of service is not fully developed. As the consequence of emotional labour is that it contributes to heavily to work-stress, and unsatisfied job satisfaction and psychological distress (Pugliesi, 1999).

However, the use of primary research also should be commended as it helps to further understand and explore a worker’s perspective. The experiences of tour-rep can also be further explored in terms of the difference in gender. As women tour-reps presents themselves through the expected gendered roles put in places by society – in that the use of their voice, or smile is due to the continued sexualisation (Guerrier, 2004). A further discussion on the findings of the participant’s danger of working as a tour-rep can also enhance the argument of the difference in gender experiences in the industry.
Whilst men are not as pressured to conform such gendered role hence tour reps is largely consists of women.

Overall, the paper presented a clear argument but a further exploration on the gender difference experienced by tour reps could have made the argument more sound.

Pugliesi, K. (1999) The consequences of emotional labour: effects on work stress, job satisfaction, and well-being. Motivation and Emotion, 23 (2) 125-154.
Guerrier, Y and Adib, A. (2004) Gendered Identities in the Work of Overseas Tour Reps, Gender, Work and Organization, 11(3) 334-350.
Warhurst, C., B. D.V.D., Hall, R. and Nickson, D. (2009) Lookism: The New Frontier of Employment Discrimination? Journal of Industrial Relations, 51 (1) 131-136.