Ernie has been conducting tours since 2003. He has conducted Ghost, Voodoo, and Cemetery tours for Haunted History Tours longer than most tour companies have been in business. In fact, Ernie is a native of Louisiana who was born in Slidell and raised in New Orleans, Georgia, and Florida. After returning home from active duty he attended Delgado Community College. Ernie discovered the tour guide profession, by chance, one night after taking a Ghost tour. Ernie’s love for the culture and unique history of New Orleans led him to become a licensed professional tour guide
Travel Research Online (TRO): Hi Ernie. How’s life in New Orleans?
Ernie Sylvester (ES): I am living the dream in the city that I love! New Orleans is charming and elegant during the day but at night, it can make you do things you would never admit to a priest in a confessional booth.
TRO: You’re from around New Orleans. Was that a spark for learning about the history of the area?
ES: I thought I knew quite a bit about the history of the area. I was born in Slidell, LA. I took a Ghost Tour and realized the tour guide was from Tulsa, Oklahoma knew more about the city than I did. I was embarrassed and thought, “Oh, heck no! I need to start studying New Orleans and Louisiana history.” In doing so it sparked a desire to learn about my family history in New Orleans. Which lead me to change my degree goals from Computer Information Technology to History.
TRO: Ernie’s Tours has been in operation for about 6 years. How have you seen it change in that time?
ES: I have been conducting tours for over 16 years in New Orleans. There were approximately six tour companies when I started. Currently, there are over 40 companies, which makes it crowded on the streets and in the cemetery. It is wonderful that so many people want to share the city with our guest and visitors.
I believe the Tour Guide must represent the city of New Orleans and act as an ambassador. Unfortunately, it seems today that individuals along with companies are more concerned about tips and reviews. I believe the emphasis should be placed on pertinent stories, entertaining the guest, appearance, and being a proper host.
TRO: Starting a tour company can’t be an easy feat, with licenses and permits being quite a burden on the process. What was your driving motivation to stick with it and run a successful company?
ES: I enjoy connecting with people through New Orleans. I have made friends with people from all around the world by conducting tours. I have met parents because their children took the Cemetery History tour. Guests have brought their children to meet me for beignets. I have had people from numerous nations across the world take my tour because their friend said: “You must meet Ernie and take his tour!” A gentleman recently showed me a picture of my business card via a text message because his friend on Facebook saw he was in New Orleans. This is about sharing a life experience through the art of storytelling. Each year I am curious about who I will meet on the next tour and wonder how I can help.
TRO: Saying that New Orleans has an interesting history is a solid understatement. What is your favorite historical story?
ES: While there are so many, my favorite story is informing individuals about the scene filmed in the Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 from the movie Easy Rider.
TRO: Ernie’s Tours has a couple of different tours for travelers to experience. One is the Voodoo Cemetery Tour, which goes through one of the most iconic cemeteries in New Orleans – the Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1. What is the main theme of the tour?
ES: I attempt to dispel the beliefs and misconception about Voodoo, Marie Laveau and Saint Louis Cemetery No.1, that many have because of movies and television. By providing documented information in an entertaining manner so they can draw their own conclusion.
TRO: Our publisher really enjoyed your tour when he was in New Orleans, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. You also have quite a few photos on your site with happy clients. What do you think is the most important of giving them the best experience possible?
ES: Knowing what people want and being helpful. I like to take time and think about individuals’ expectations. I try to predict what people expect to experience during the two hours, and then go above and beyond! I enjoy being a resource for common questions for things to do and see in the city. Also, to be honest. If I do not know, I will know someone who does and lead them in the right direction.
TRO: Storytelling is an art as old as language; and, obviously, this is an important part of giving entertaining tours. Do you enjoy this part of the job?
ES: Yes, I enjoy sharing stories and demonstrating how they are connected. I love weaving the stories together for people to make a connection with New Orleans, which is something I feel you rarely get anywhere else. I want people to love New Orleans as I do, and what better way than to help them get to know the Big Easy on a more intimate level.
TRO: Does Ernie’s Tours have any upcoming projects or news that you’d like to share?
ES: Yes. I am currently working on improving my guest’s experience by offering food, hotel, and travel incentives to be able to provide a little something extra! In New Orleans, this is called Lagniappe.
TRO: Thanks for your time, Ernie. We wish you the best on the future of your tours in the Big Easy.
ES: You are welcome. I am grateful that I can share my story.
For more information on Ernie’s Tours, please visit https://erniestours.com/