The Invisible Work of Tour Guides
One block ­ behind Banff’s busy main street, the town showed a ­ different
face. There ­ were fewer colorful restaurant and souvenir store signs com-
peting to attract tourists. The street was calmer. The squishing sounds of
winter boots marked time. Occasionally, the spray of snow slush, brown
from car tires, disrupted the rhythm. It looked like an ordinary small
town in western Canada, except that it had a strong cosmopolitan flavor.
Along with a small movie theater and a few outdoor equipment stores,
there was a quiet, down-­to-­earth coffee shop run by a Korean ­ family,
con­ve­nience store whose shelves contained international foods—­
especially a variety of Asian groceries—­and a Greek souvlaki eatery that
also served hamburgers and poutine, Quebecois “soul food.” The build-
ings on this street ­housed an office supply store, an accounting office,
a real estate agency, the Canadian Automobile Association, and other
basic ser­vices for the residents. If Banff Ave­nue was the center stage for
tourist encounters, this street was the backstage, the space where the
actors and staff gathered their equipment, took a good break, and did all
the necessary preparation for their interactions with tourists.1
The office of the Rocky Mountain Tours (rmt) was nestled in one
of the buildings on this street, along with several other Japa­nese guide
ser­vice companies. I entered the office to speak to the se­nior operations
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