PREPARATION is the key to gaining big in tour guiding.
Genalyn Sison-Kim, an ex-tour guide warned that the job requires one to be extra patient, sensitive and friendly.
But she said preparation is the key. By this she meant, one has to be mentally and physically prepared as the job requires one to deal with different cultures.
“If you are hard-working, you will become big in the industry,” said Kim, a tour guide turned entrepreneur. She owns Top Beauty Salon along A.S. Fortuna St. Mandaue City and Top Nail Cebu inside Marina Mall Mactan.
For four years, Kim endured little to no sleep to welcome, guide and send off foreign guests visiting Cebu.
“It’s a job I took by heart because money is easy in this business, only if you work harder,” she said.
Since almost all international flights arrive dawn in Cebu, Kim had to be at the airport long before the guests arrive. And when they arrive, she takes them to the hotel to rest for a bit or when guests become giddy and decide to start their adventure, they head straight to Oslob for whale shark watching.
“I’m with my guests the entire day. I bring them to Cebu’s popular sightseeing spots. I offer to take their pictures while telling them about the history or stories about the place. I never take my eyes off them because I’m responsible for them,” she said.
By the time the guests end their tour, Kim said, some would ask her to accompany them to tour the city at night and check Cebu’s nightlife scene. Some would go to bars and karaoke, others would want to get a massage.
By the time the guests head back to the hotel to sleep, Kim rushes to the airport to welcome another set of visitors. And she will do the same thing over again.
“Tour guiding knows no break. For a popular destination like Cebu, you have a bright future in this industry,” she said.
“I was able to save a lot because of tip and also because I work non-stop,” she said. Kim lost her parents when she was young. She left her hometown in southern Leyte to work in various jobs in Manila and Cebu to support her family’s growing needs. Because of her tour guiding job, she was able to send her siblings to school.
“If you’ve experience how difficult life is, you will learn to value everything,” she said. From renting vans to bring her guests, she was able to purchase her own. That way all income are hers alone.
Wanting to grow her money even more, Kim used her P3 million savings to open a massage business named Thai Boran, while still doing being a tour guide.
“I noticed that one business that benefits tourism is massage or spa business. After a long day of walking, tourists would love to be pampered,” she said.
She ran the business for two years and later sold it when she got married to Sung-Ho Kim, a Korean, who also owns a Korean massage business named Top Spa in Lapu-Lapu City.
“When we got married I helped him manage Top Spa which caters to the Korean market,” she said.
Kim said most of their clients pre-book their services while still in Korea. The 21-bed spa also has shower and nap rooms where Koreans could stay and freshen up when they arrive or leave Cebu.
Soon after the couple diversified to other wellness business—the hair and nail salon.
“These new businesses we recently ventured into complements the spa business. Koreans are very particular with grooming,” she said.
What was your first job?
I worked in an electronics company in Laguna. But after eight months I decided to return to Cebu because I wanted to be near my family and I felt like there is something big waiting for me if I go back home. When I got back, a friend who as working in a hotel offered me a job to tutor Korean girls some basic English communication skills. After that, one of the brothers of my tutees asked me if I could serve as their tour guide here.
Who inspired you to get into this business?
I was determined to become successful because of my family. When we lost our parents we lived under the care of my grandparents but being the eldest, I felt responsible in taking care of my siblings. They became my motivation since the day I decided to work. Now my siblings are helping me run the business.
When did you realize this was what you were meant to do?
My stint in tour guiding paved the way for me to open my first business. It was then that I learned that there is money so long as you are willing to work hard for it. Opening a business for me is a wise choice because I know I can’t be doing tour guiding for long. But with business, you get to earn more, help more people and build something that could outlast you.
Why did you pick this type of career or industry?
Spa, massage, hair and nail salon are businesses that will stay and will never run out of market to serve. People will always want to look good and feel good. Foreigners, like Koreans and Japanese love to be pampered after a long day of exploration. It’s always part of their itinerary.
Where did you get the training/s you needed to succeed?
My career in tour guiding exposed me to the different cultures of Asia. It kind of help me better my services and my relationship with them. When I got into beauty business, I took the opportunity to learn about aesthetic beauty in Korea. I enrolled in a school there so I could render the best beauty service and at the same time bring top-of-the-line products and procedures to Filipinos.
How many times did you fail before you succeeded?
Failures create opportunity and at the same time build your character. For someone like me who’s been through life’s difficulties every setback is a chance to be better again. Actually, you have no right to “give up” when you know you have a family who constantly cheers you on.