Essential English Tourism Vocabulary for Connecting with Any Traveler
People who work in the travel industry around the world generally use English as a common language to communicate with international tourists.
Because there are so many jobs in tourism, there are many different types of tourism English. If you’re looking at a job in this dynamic, international industry, you’ll discover that your daily responsibilities require a special set of vocabulary.
In this guide, I’ll show you some of the most useful vocabulary you’ll need to know for the tourism industry, so that you’ll be prepared for a range of situations!
- Basic Vocabulary to Get You Started
- Phrases to Check for Understanding
- Common Scenarios in Tourism English
- And One More Thing...
Basic Vocabulary to Get You Started
Here’s a list of common tourism-related English words. You might be asked questions with these words, or you might need to use them yourself. Make sure you’re familiar with them and can use them in full sentences.
- Attractions — places for tourists to see
- Business district — also called the financial district, this is the center of the city where most offices are located
- Entertainment district — an area that has lots of clubs, bars, theaters, etc.
- Dining district — an area with a lot of restaurants
- Custom — something that people do as part of their culture
- Highlight — best part (of something) or an important part of an event or period of time
- Scenery — the setting for a place, natural beauty that you see around a place
- Surroundings — all of the things around you
- Depart — leave, take off
- Arrive — come to a place, reach a destination
- Recommend — give advice, suggest
- Sit back and relax — a common phrase to tell people to have a good time
Phrases to Check for Understanding
To double-check what you heard
If you work in the tourism industry, you probably have experience with miscommunication.
As a guide, host or receptionist, it’s your job to make sure that you’re double-checking for understanding. These phrases are simple and quick ways to make sure you and your guest are on the same page.
To ask for clarification
Even though you’re both speaking English, your guest may use vocabulary that you’re unfamiliar with. Likewise, they might have an accent that’s difficult for you to understand. Here are some polite ways to ask them to repeat or clarify what they said.
To invite your guests to ask questions
Some cultures encourage people to be outspoken, while those from other parts of the world prefer people to act in a more reserved manner. Make all of your guests feel welcome by encouraging them to ask questions.
Common Scenarios in Tourism English
Depending on your job, you’ll probably be required to give directions to tourists, provide them with recommendations for a good restaurant or attraction and in general make friendly conversation that makes them feel welcome.
In these scenarios, you’ll play the part of the “guide,” but it could really be anyone a tourist might come in contact with. Practice these dialogues so that you feel confident using these words and phrases in your interactions.
Tourist: Excuse me, do you know a good place for ice cream?
Guide: Oh, yes. For really good ice cream, I recommend “Maria’s.” It’s located about six blocks from here, and it’s my favorite place. Personally, I suggest the chocolate cherry flavor, but they’re famous for their award-winning lemon flavor. I think your family will like it.
Tourist: Great, thanks!
Providing directions and describing places
Points of reference
Tourist: Can you tell me how to get to the theater?
Guide: Sure! The theater is near the train station. You need to go straight down this street for one block. At the next street, turn left. Continue until you see a sign for the theater, in about five blocks. If you’re lost, you can follow the signs for the train station. Does that make sense?
Tourist: Yes, thank you!
Here’s a helpful video to practice basic phrases for giving directions.
Using simple “ice breakers” to make friendly small talk
Here are some phrases that you can use when you want to get to know the tourists a little bit better.
Looking for more ways to practice? If you work in the hotel and hospitality industry, practice your English for hotel management, or learn hotel and hospitality vocabulary from movies. If you don’t have people speaking in English around you, videos can be good substitutes. You can use the FluentU program to help you learn real-world English.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Soon you’ll be able to communicate with any tourist who crosses your path!
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.