Kelly Thomas is celebrating his 16th year as a professional Tour Guide and resides in Palm Springs, California. With exceptional expertise in the National Parks of the West and bilingual in English & Spanish Kelly has traveled extensively throughout the United States including Alaska and Hawaii as well as throughout Mexico and Costa Rica and Guatemala.
In 2016 Kelly can be found in Alaska guiding motorcoach and rail tours from Seward to Fairbanks, and also in the Deep South cities of Charleston, Savannah, and St. Augustine. The majority of his time in 2016 will be spent in The Black Hills of South Dakota, and Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons in the summer months. Much time in the Spring and Fall months is devoted to visiting Lake Powell, AZ., Monument Valley, UT., as well as Bryce, Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks in the Southwest.
Born and raised in California, this U.C. Berkeley Graduate still loves his native California and leads many tours with British Nationals on the West Coast which also include The Grand Canyon, Sedona, and Las Vegas. Once the Senior Tour Leader on the famed American Orient Express train from 2003-2005, Kelly works as an independent contractor with 4 major tour operators famous for excellent organized motorcoach tours from coast to coast. Kelly is an I.T.M.I. Graduate of 2001, and a guest lecturer of that Tour Director school located in San Francisco. With a sense of humor and in-depth commentary, Kelly sees himself enjoying another 16 years as a Professional Tour Guide in both the U.S. and abroad.
How do the experiences you offer give guests a unique perspective on history, people or culture of your region?
Many times I am visiting locations where I have previously lived during my childhood, and those personal stories combined with vivid memories of these locations brings both the past and present together for the guests’ appreciation and understanding.
How have the tours that you offer evolved since their inception?
My tours have evolved by increasing the depth of the information shared with much more extensive commentary and visual aids and other teaching tools.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
I often ask guests to recall their earlier years of education regarding a particular subject and bring it to life again as adult ‘students’ relearning the topic.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider visiting your region?
I wish all guests considering my region knew the true beauty of the actual sights before visiting in person and thusly inspire them to select my destination.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
The option of purchasing extra excursions or activities aside from the basic itinerary is a great trend which enables great enhancement of the tour.
What sets you (and your tours) apart from other tour guides (or tours)?
My commentary is far more extensive than the traditional Tour Guide and thusly appeals to all levels of guests whom are far more knowledgeable in the present day versus the early years of organized tours. Many times they discover that subject is still interesting as adults and more relatable.
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
I strongly recommend that guests do some research and investigation into the locations and subject matters pre-tour for a more educationally enhanced experience. Making sure that one is selecting the tour that best matches their interests, expectations and abilities is crucial for enjoyment.
What is one strategy that has helped your tour business to grow?
I use daily subject appropriate handouts, videos, books, and quizzes to have more participation from the guests and therefore they leave the vacation with materials that they share with friends considering one of my tours and they become interested in the experience as well. A subtle manner of advertisement.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
I start each day on tour with a positive ‘thought for the day’ that is subject appropriate from a well known historical character and begin the lesson from there. The thought provoking quote gets the curiosity and commentary started as well as group participation and discussion.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
I once arranged for a guest to experience a helicopter flight which was a ‘bucket list’ desired experience and thusly created a very strong emotional reaction upon completion.