As has happened with the accommodation business, namely with Airbnb, the collaborative platform business model is also developing in the tourist guides business. I have personally experienced one of these platform’s services in the city of Prague.

Thanks to these platforms it is no longer strange that the tourists are offered free guided tours in great urban destinations, without any trick. In my case, I used the services of Sandeman’s New Europe, which is already present in 18 cities. At the beginning of the tour, the guide explained that his income comes from tips, and so it was not mandatory to pay even 1 Euro.

The tour lasted more than 3 hours and it was really entertaining, with good quality content. The guide was brilliant and received quite a lot of tips. But, attracted by the quality of this Guided tour, the day after I did another one, but paying. This business works actually like a freemium model.  In fact, there are many more businesses offering free guided tours in Prague. And they have their rivalry moves, like guerrilla marketing actions, competing for the best locations, etc.

But this new fashion not only takes place in the large cities. The Greeters movement is emerging also in smaller cities, like Bilbao. The first company operating this business model in Bilbao is actually called Bilbao Greeters, and is part of the international network Global Greeters Network. The Greeters are locals offering guided tours with the authenticity of a local resident’s knowledge and perspective, who knows the traditions, habits and secrets beyond the usual tourist information available. In the Basque Country the Tourist Guides are not regulated, and so there cannot be any conflict in this case. Unlike in the previous case of “New Europe”, the Greeters are not professional guides and do not accept tips.  However, to make a booking you need to be registered as partner, which costs 12€ per year.

Finally, there are many online platforms allowing people to offer their tourist services worldwide. Besides platforms such as Vayable, Viator or Isango, marketing all kind of experiences –from guided tours to cooking lessons-, there are many others offering guided visits by the destination’s residents.

Local Guiding is a platform oriented to “changing the way people travel, experiencing the local life as it is, not like the conventional tourism agencies pretend it to be”. They are already offering guided tours in more than 20 Spanish destinations.

Tours by locals are the veterans in this sector, as they have been operating since 2008 from their headquarters in Vancouver. They nowadays offer guided tours in many countries worldwide.

Like a local is the concept developed through a mobile application. Destination residents contribute to editing the local guide with recommendations, advice, routes, etc. and obtain revenue from the application’s management firm.

Finally, there is the Spanish portal called Ciceroner , promising to offer “unique and personal experiences, the only ones that can be really different and memorable”. It is still in Beta development phase, but it already offers a considerable amount of products in many destinations. It gives the option to gift the guided tours just like Smartbox and many others, but promising a superior experiential value.

As we can see, it is an emergent business model, with many suppliers and intermediaries operating in the market. However, this new fashion business model arouses many questions:

  • Is it just a fashion or a new reality?
  • Are these services for specific segments or for all types of visitors?
  • Is it necessary to further regulate this type of businesses to ensure a fair competition with the traditional models, or should they be given free regin instead?
  • Are these new models going to operate in urban destinations only, or they are likely to operate in beach destinations traditionally dominated by tour-operators?
  • Do these business models affect somehow the destinations’ image? Should the DMOs do something to get some profit from it or to manage it for branding purposes?

I invite you to reflect upon these questions, and encourage you to give your opinion

This blogpost is from http://www.visionesdelturismo.es/guias-que-no-son-guias/

Posted by Jordi Pera

Jordi Pera is an economist passionate about tourism, strategy, marketing, sustainability, business modelling and open innovation. He has international experience in marketing, intelligence research, strategy planning, business model innovation and lecturing, having developed most of his career in the tourism industry. Jordi is keen on tackling innovation and strategy challenges that require imagination, entail thoughtful analysis and are to be solved with creative solutions.

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