Ultimate guide and analysis to tour guide marketplaces on the web

Since the turn of the millennium the industry has been focused on flights, hotels, car hire. Flights, hotels, car hire. Worth repeating so you remember how dull it is.

As you might expect me to say, it’s not where the cool kids are – we all hang out in T&A… or tours and activities (before you ask)

Now, I have listed many of the T&A players previously in this HUGE list (with over 70 companies mentioned, including my own, TourCMS).

Within this niche the action at the moment is in the person-to-person (P2P) tour and experience marketplaces. These are where individuals offer services direct to consumers. A bit like AirBnB/Wimdu et al, but for tours.

tour guide

Here are the 29 companies currently making moves in the sector (with a description in their own words). Our analysis follows…

  • Gidsy (not yet launched) – “Gidsy is a community marketplace for authentic experiences. Besides booking fun stuff to do, anyone can host activities. Think unique walking tours guided by locals, nature hikes with wild cavemen and exclusive pop-up restaurants hosted by top chefs.”
  • GuidedByALocal – “An online community of locals guides and travelers around the world”
  • GuideMyTour (not yet launched) – “The site connects enthusiastic guides from all backgrounds with visitors who want an interactive exchange when they walk or visit.”
  • Indie Tour Guide – “With the help from a certified local guide, travelers can gain insider access to their destination with one of kind, customized tours that address their interests and provide a richer travel experience”
  • GuideHop (not yet launched) – “A place where professional guides, instructors, and locals can share their passions, find new ones, and make a few extra bucks along the way.”
  • LeapLocal – “Putting travellers in touch with recommended local travel guides”
  • Localyte – “Connects travelers with Localytes: local people and services in travel destinations”
  • MyCreativeTours – “Don’t feel like a tourist, experience like a local”
  • Omoly – “Represents a group of passionate guides who love to share his or her hobbies, interests, and life style with willing participants”
  • Rent-a-Guide (German) – “Find Guides, Tours & Excursions”
  • Shiroube – “Explore untapped local scenes with local guides”
  • Skyara – “A marketplace to offer fun things to do, meet new people, and share experiences”
  • Tourbie – “Personalizes your trip by connecting you with locals so you can have real, memorable experiences”
  • ToursByLocals – “Take a private tour with a knowledgeable local person as your tour guide”
  • Tripbod (additional service, soon to be launched)  – “Connecting people who want to go on trips with local experts”
  • TripColony – “What is the best way to travel? To have connections in the places you are visiting”
  • TripFlock – “A planning and collaboration platform for travelers, travel people and travel businesses. TripFlock is not a web site. It’s part operating system, ecosystem, apps marketplace and desktop rolled into one very cool travel platform”
  • Tripping – “Want to step off the beaten tourist path and step into local culture? You can use Tripping to meet friendly local people, all over the planet” [TLabs Showcase – Tripping]
  • Sidetour – “Authentic Experiences. Real People”
  • Synotrip – “Whether you want to travel yourself, choose your own tour guide, or get a tailor-made tour, Synotrip is here to make it easier for you to plan your tour”
  • Viator Tour Guides – “Book a private guide and customize your own sightseeing tour”
  • Yowtrip – “A network of city ambassadors. We connect you with locals at your next destination!”

Right. In other words: lots!

Now, six months ago I could count the number of companies in this sector on one hand. Now we have 29. Umm – big change, wouldn’t you say?

Okay, this is fresh, new, interesting and, at least to begin with, quite innovative. But before we get excited about things that are new and shiny, lets try some analysis.

How do they work?

Some target professional freelance tour guides, some recruit individuals off the street and some run a mixture. Some also feature individuals who, actually are “fronts” for established local specialist tour operators/experience providers. Not really individuals at all.

Another way to categorise these companies is whether they focus on just one region (eg New York) or have launched on a global basis.

Although interesting, it is not the most important part

What is critical is the model.

None take responsibility for the transaction. All pass through the transaction through to the ultimate supplier (the individual).

Money tends to flow via the central website (taking 10-20% or a “deposit” is paid to the website and the balance is paid to the supplier, the individual, on the ground).

But will this model work?

On the surface the model looks OK. However there are challenges that need to be overcome.

One such example is the narrowness of the seam of suppliers that these websites are fishing in. If you don’t have any suppliers, you won’t have anything to sell. (Reminder: I am planning a webinar on sucking eggs, all welcome)

At the high volume end, these P2P websites are not working with the traditional five-10 employee, local specialist experience/tour operators.

These operators can handle scale on days where demand is high. Individuals can probably sell two groups maximum a day. Selling as much as you can on the peak days helps balance those days when you sell nothing.

At the lower volume end, P2P websites are constrained by working with individuals who are prepared to pay for their own public liability insurance.

What, I hear you say? Yes, public liability insurance.

As per the New Orleans Tour Guides Association [good background reading], tour guides often need insurance for scenarios such as:

“You are leading a walking tour of the French Quarter. When leading the group across a street, a passing vehicle runs down and injures one of your guests”.

Insurance isn’t too expensive (I have seen a quote for £100 GBP ($160) per-year per-tour guide), but this certainly creates an overhead for the occasional, amateur, tour guide.

As per this report via the Telegraph (UK), one amateur tour guide was even quoted £600 ($1,000) for public liability insurance.

This is model-busting, especially for the occasional amateur tour guide wishing to sell an experience once a month where they may only make a few hundred dollars a year.

The P2P marketplaces themselves may not be liable for this, but these liabilities exist in the ecosystems they are creating and hence need to be covered by someone. Creating an ecosystem where your suppliers are not covered for their liabilities will, frankly, not be sustainable in the long term.

These public liability challenges also introduce issues with working with the existing (and new) tour and activity distribution players. I know of at least one which, until the public liability insurance issues are resolved, will not distribute this kind of product, ignoring the generally positive feelings towards the actual products themselves.

The majority of the amateur-focussed P2P marketplaces listed above fail to mention public liability insurance on their tour guide sign-up pages. They make it sound like anyone can offer a tour in their local city when actually this is not the case at all, at least not until they pay for insurance.

Wrap-up

So let’s take one step back. These marketplaces may have got the wrong SOLUTION but are absolutely addressing an existing consumer PROBLEM.

Consumers want in-destination experiences rather than generic bus tours. They want memories. They want stories they can share with friends and family on their return. They want something a little out of the ordinary.

Frankly, traditional in-destination tour operators don’t achieve this particularly well, although they do comply with local legislation and insurance requirements.

There are, on the whole, very competent, fresh thinking, web entrepreneurs behind these new P2P marketplaces, having correctly spotted this consumer problem, but have come up with an inappropriate solution that just can’t be sustained over the long term.

I believe ultimately this sector will end up with professionally delivered experiences rather than the focus being on the P2P aspect.

A few of the marketplaces listed above are already working with professionals hence will move to this quite naturally. The focus on experiences rather than tours is quite right.

P2P will probably be here to stay for accommodation, but for tours and experiences, things are not so clear.

Interesting times ahead.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail to someone
 
 
Alex Bainbridge

About the Writer :: Alex Bainbridge

Alex is a contributor to tnooz and writes about travel technology, travel startups, in destination guides and the tours & activities sector.

His most recent business TourCMS (sold October 2015) was the original leader in tours & activities distribution, connecting up hundreds of local tour suppliers with leading online travel agents. The industry architecture he put in place during that period is now the regular approach adopted globally by the entire local tour industry.

He is now CEO of a new in destination project coming soon.

Alex has a computing degree, is passionate about usability, speaks French and still writes and reviews code. Follow him on twitter @alexbainbridge

 

Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Peter

    I think the tour marketplace business is in a consolidation stage where companies like Viator (TripAdvisor) and GetYourGuide are leading and pack and getting a big percentage of this business.

     
  2. Liz Andrea Buenos Aires

    Hi there. I m from Argentina Buenos Aires and lost my job in 2001crisis after 20 years of big corporates in taxes and accounting and a crazy traveller exploring local culture at my rithm and love to get lost and learn and discover little streets and fantastic people.
    I wrote a blog in 2004 of things to do in buenos aires nd became top in trip advisor. I m stll are. I reinvent myself and studied tourism as a guide and skip the traditional laws. I was a pioneer doing private tours in english in buenos aires BUT lack of tech. That is my BIG problem.
    I know that future are the apps. How can we compite?
    All of us need tech partners. My blog get old. I need help. But my talent let me arrive to hall of fame in trip advisor. And my pioneer vision to discover the UBERIZATION of the exonomy make me think yhat no matters are the laws. New travel is P2P. or a group with guide directly. Is cuatomized and flexible to enjoy local culture. Things change. But my lack of tech stop mu know how evethough I m accountant, business mba, bilingual,tangodancer, tour guide since 2004. But no too much tech.
    I m bulding a P2P southamerica. Need help.
    Buenos aires is me and I built a team of QUALITY guides. As we live trhough reputation!

     
  3. Willem Mulder

    Most of the sites listed here do not exist anymore…very disappointing.

     
  4. liz andrea

    I m so sad that I lost my chance to be listed there. Why? I was a pioneer doing tours in Buenos Aires with the concept of personalized and private since 2004. So I bult a blog and rejected other of those companies to join as I was alone in Argentina with no capital and no idea that I became an entrepreneur. So I had pair of years relax with no competitor and now I feel totally crazy. International platoforms around the world. Automatic responses. E commerce so they dont want to wait a booking mail just NOW. No people. Boots. How will all this end? No guides? Who pay more adds in Google? Who pay more money for a comunity manager team? Is too late for me. I can´t follow this crazy career. I need a tech partner and I cannot pay. I only want to do a P2P but if platforms retain 25% and bank and taxes retain other 25% in total (here in my country) so …..I will go to work as a writer:-)

     
  5. Cavid

    one more: https://getguided.co.uk/ 🙂 we are less than a year old and started to grow now 🙂

     
  6. Polly Koushalieva

    Heĺlo, thank you for the usefull information. Could you please advise me where can I take the badic financial figures (profit and loss statements, etc.) for such a tour guide marketplace company. Thank you very much.

     
  7. Joen S

    Hi – An update to this article would indeed be very useful. After looking into them, I think I see one pattern in that the companies with a local focus have disappeared, while the ones with a broader focus still exist. Some of the ones on the list also seem to rely on offline sales channels – the value of these sites is in getting their inventory online and expanding it online (not through traditional offline sources) rapidly.

    Would like to see http://www.everaround.com on this list too!

     
  8. Natasha Martin

    Also agree on the update – I just went through the list at a least half appear to no longer be operational…

     
  9. Ariel Ephrat

    Hi Alex,

    I’d really be interested in a “2 years later…” follow-up to this article. Namely, do you think that the:

    “Consumers want in-destination experiences rather than generic bus tours. They want memories. They want stories they can share with friends and family on their return. They want something a little out of the ordinary.”

    problem is being solved in a satisfactory way? If so, by who?

    Thanks,
    Ariel

     
  10. Tony Carne

    Randomly found myself back at this page after a long absence so though it might be fun to see who is still kicking in this field. Dead links are:

    http://www.guide-my-tour.com/
    http://www.indietourguide.com/
    http://www.igottaguide.com/
    http://www.omoly.com/
    http://www.tourbie.com/

    Gidsy and RAVN are doing something else and Trave.ly are launching soon!

    Also something exciting happening at Tripbod.

     
  11. Websites vs. Marketplaces: The Pros and Cons. | TrekkSoft Blog

    […] Getyourguide.com.  The act of taking commission is what enables large hosts to gain access to the customer market, which are paid for with funds generated by the hosting of these small time tour […]

     
  12. Paul Melhus

    The insurance piece was certainly a tough one for ToursByLocals. We had a policy in 2011 and the provider declined to renew it – even though we had made no claims.

    It took me 6 months of searching to find someone with quotes varying by up to 6 x. Our current policy which includes public liability (relatively cheap) and the vastly more expensive ‘errors and omissions’ coverage is provided through Lloyds of London. It extends to all our guides providing tours through ToursByLocals.

     
  13. Jacob

    And then I just heard about http://www.anyroad.com Seems cool, perhaps a little more niche.

     
  14. Andres Oyarzun Gonzalez

    Hi Alex, nice to meet you by web!!!

    I´m a local supplier from Patagonia(local guide), Chile with 15 year of experience in tourism, mostly in Nature & Cultural trips. Now I´m in New Zealand studing a Adventure tourism Managmeent Diploma(15 months) and I will return soon to South of Chile.
    I been contact with 3 of this kind of companies, and I´d like to tell you if is possible to get any list of you, of the best(good promotion & good payers) 20 companies where I can send my information. I want to develop my own local travel e-business company(I´m working on that) and I don´t want to waste my time.

    Best regards,

    Andres Oyarzun G
    ogandres@gmail.com
    Puerto Varas
    Patagonia, Chile

     
  15. SanKu Jo

    kozaza.com is a home sharing service in Korea. It will be marketplace forsocial stays in traditional houses in the world. Currently, It is focused on Hanok, Korean traditional houses. If you have a plan to visit to Korea, try to stay in Hanok experiencing Korean home and culture.

     
  16. Shana Zheng

    Thanks Alex for the mention. Great list you’ve compiled. We’re excited to see this market grow.

     
  17. Tour Guide Business Models- Storytelling, Tech & destination marketing

    […] a background on new approaches for tourguides Tour Guide Marketplaces – is auseful guide from […]

     
  18. Manish Pahuja

    Thank you for a good read Alex. Though still in a nascent stage, the concept offers tremendous scope,mostly for people who want to travel to learn, not just click a few shots!

     
  19. Alex Bainbridge

    and there is http://www.private-guides.com who have a rather nice domain name!

     
  20. Jeremy Roberts

    Guidehop launched today… we would love to hear any recommendations and feedback!

     
  21. Alex Bainbridge

    Oh and another one I have just come across http://listedplaces.com/experiences

     
  22. Tripbod relaunches platform, becomes experience marketplace | Tnooz

    […] in the running alongside the new Tripbod. I have a full list of them (and analysis) here https://www.tnooz.com/2011/09/01/news/ultimate-guide-and-analysis-to-tour-guide-marketplaces-on-the-w… Additionally it has been tried before by others not on that list – and none of the previous […]

     
  23. Alex Bainbridge

    http://hiphost.com/ << another one that I wasn't aware of at time of the original post…. just mentioning

     
  24. lecairn

    another Made in france one which is worth seing http://www.monnuage.fr/

     
    • Alex Bainbridge

      Hi Vincent
      Thanks – although that is a nice site, it doesn’t fall into the category that is being reviewed here. Looks like a pretty “normal” travel planning website.
      Cheers .Alex

       
  25. Alex Bainbridge

    Here is a French one http://www.beoglobe.com (available in English, French, Spanish)

     
  26. Yulian Patzelt (Excursiopedia.com)

    Hi Alex, nice article! However you please meant a round 30 exciting companies are in the T&A market since I don’t see us, http://www.Excursiopedia.com – “Discover experiences worldwide”, with our around 2.000 tours on your list 🙂
    By the way we are launching an Italian version, whoever wants to have a look/sign their Italian tours up here is the link http://www.excursiopedia.com/it

    Cheers
    Yulian

     
  27. Ophir

    Alex – As always, a fantastic article on an important subject. I’d just beg to differ on one aspect of what you mention:

    “None take responsibility for the transaction. All pass through the transaction through to the ultimate supplier (the individual). Money tends to flow via the central website (taking 10-20% or a “deposit” is paid to the website and the balance is paid to the supplier, the individual, on the ground).”

    Although my legal knowledge does not even remotely resemble that of an attorney, my gut tells me that as soon as the customer is charged an upfront deposit through the “central website”, the company behind the central website is a party to the transaction and may therefore be considered liable for damages or injuries.

    My guess is that, to avoid being liable, the owner(s) of the “central website” need to remove themselves from the transaction and not charge the customer. The transactions should be between the owner of the central website and the guide (advertising fees) and between the guide and the customer (tour fees).

    Such a model might be more sustainable in my uneducated opinion. That’s at least what we’re trying to do at GoScopia.com – remove ourselves from customer transactions.

    That being said, go find a guide willing to pay $10 per month to be listed on a site.

     
    • Alex Bainbridge

      Hi Ophir
      Yes – I am not a lawyer either – but I tend to agree with your point. I wasn’t going to get into it on the post as that would be getting into territory that could well be different in different jurisdictions around the world – so for a globally read publication – could just confuse.

      Oddly the model you describe (as the solution) is actually what we run in my business – for pretty much exactly the same reason!

      Cheers. Alex

       
  28. Jason Demant

    Hey Alex, As always, great article! I completely agree with your notion that there is a problem here that needs a solution. It’s unbelievable how quickly this market and companies came together.

    Without hopefully sounding too much like a commercial…

    At Unanchor, our solution is slightly different. We have local experts put together tours that the traveler can do themselves. A little cheaper, a little more convenient (my opinion), but hopefully the “in-destination experiences rather than a generic bus-tour” that travelers are looking for.

    Jason

     
  29. Keith Petri

    Alex,

    As always, great article. iGottaGuide appreciates the mention. I would also like to add, that in addition to legal issues concerning insurance there are many locations, both domestic and abroad, where guides must be registered/licensed. While the liability still remains with the individual guide or small business, it may cause problems for a P2P marketplace as well. Just something to keep in the back of your mind while developing in the space!

    Obvious plug: iGottaGuide is slowly releasing v2 of the website over the holiday weekend. We are always open to feedback and love hearing from industry experts!

    Keith@iGottaGuide.com
    http://www.iGottaGuide.com
    (855)iGottaGuide ext. 700

     
  30. Charles de Gaspe Beaubien

    Alex,

    Great article and list. This is something I look forward to chatting with you when you visit Boston for THack. Groupize.com is very interested in this new world of small/social group travel. Our view is that the magic recipe is in a combination of P2P local experience, combined with B2B/B2C technology and group travel best practices.

    The novice vs. professional tour guide makes for an interesting debate and plays a big role in the success of business model, and ultimately the user experience in the booking process and on site.

    This model needs a critical mass of users and guides to be successful. It’s the chicken and the egg situation.

    Thanks, Charles

     
  31. Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

    Congrats Alex – a thorough piece as always.

    Defining the “Local” in Social/Mobile/Local that seems to be the rage at the moment has been hard. the mess Airbnb found itself in affects all local players whether they are truly local (IE specific to a location) or aggregating as in the list of 29 (which I am sure will be longer before the day is out).

    The issues that will confront those offering these tours are the legalities. We live in a world that is categorized and litigious. Government regulations are greater not lesser today.

    Travel is highly regulated and complex. As the world’s largest business – by many measures – it represents an opportunity to generate revenues for the public coffers.

    The effort by WTO/WTTC et al to categorize and quantify the space has also led to regulations.

    Finally you have the issue of liability/Health and Safety. This requires people to ensure that things are truly covered.

    I concur that Accommodation P2P is here to stay. It has been around for a very long time. I also think that the desire/move to authenticity will cause people to seek out local guides. Will these players make that work? Yes. Probably.

    Let me just make a comment. People who engage in this activity either at the guide or the aggregation level tend to be highly passionate and motivated people whose need for money may cause them to provide their services at less than an economic rate.

    Just please if you are a guide or one of these companies. Make sure that you offer a legal solution to the market. That should give some pause for thought before someone ploughs through the issue without regard to it. And no disclaimers on the website are no excuse nor protection.

    Cheers

     
 
 

Newsletter Subscription

Please subscribe now to Tnooz’s FREE daily newsletter.

This lively package of news and information from Tnooz’s web site provides a convenient digest of what’s happening in technology that drives the global travel, tourism and hospitality market.

  • Cancel