To be honest, I’m probably a tour operator’s worst nightmare. I tend to show up in countries without much of a plan, book at the last minute, and hope that a guide can intuit what I want from a tour. Sorry.
I also have a friend who I’ve traveled with many times. She’s a great travel companion (Hi, Lindy!) but our styles are very different. When she arrived to visit me in Chile she had documents of what she wanted to see, when was a good time to do it, which tour companies visited different places, when their tours were, where they met, and what they cost.
So how can you run a business with both of us (and everyone in between) as customers? Lindy and I came up with some ideas for you. If you can keep both of us happy, you can definitely keep everyone happy.
Things we both expect
1. Know what you’re talking about. This should really go without saying, but if we’re on a tour of Budapest you should be able to tell us when Buda Castle was built or who lived there. Sure, you might get some obscure questions like who was the first castle chef (and that could come from either of us), but we recognize that it’s uncommon and would accept an “I don’t know.”
We don’t just mean about tourist things either. We consider you to be “our” local. I might be curious about how to buy a metro card and Lindy might want to know about what food she has to try. Telling her that you don’t really eat out much but she can probably get goulash anywhere will not be a good enough answer.
2. Be nice and patient. We’ve probably never been in your city before. Things that are really basic to you are unknown to us. To give an example, rules for crossing streets fascinate me! Everywhere you go there is a new custom to learn: you can cross whenever you want, but if you get hit, it’s considered to be your fault; cars have to stop or get prison time even if you’re not at a crosswalk; wait for the light to change even if the road is empty. If I stop to wait for a light with no traffic, I’m doing it because that’s what I know. Don’t laugh at me because that’s not how people do it where you are from. Lindy is an avid reviewer so you had better believe that she will know what people are saying about you and book accordingly.
3. Be interesting. We can read Wikipedia on our own. Tell us funny stories and unknown facts. Show us where the light hits the stained glass just right for an illusion on the floor. Make us glad that we spent the money for an expert.
Things Lindy expects
1. Do what you promise. She did a lot of research and chose you for a reason. If she wanted to see the Louvre she would have booked a tour that visited the Louvre, not your Eiffel Tower tour. One time she was in Mexico City and the tour was scheduled to end at 2:00. It actually ended at 5:00 and she missed her chance to go to a museum that she had really wanted to see. We have a limited amount of time in your area and people like Lindy want to see as much of it as they can. That’s harder to do when plans are changed on them.
That Mexican guide happily told her that she got that extra time for free. He really thought that he’d done a nice thing for her, but all she could think about was that museum that she’d never be able to see.
2. Have a good website. Lindy researches in advance so she can hit the ground running when she arrives in a new destination. Your local advertising and brochures don’t do much for her; she will have already made up her mind before she sees it. If you don’t have tour itineraries, times, meeting spots, and inviting photos, you might miss her as a customer.
Things Stephanie expects
1. Be flexible. I know, I know. “How can I be flexible if I’m also supposed to do exactly what’s listed on my tour page to keep Lindy happy?” The flexibility that I’m talking about is in the tour itself. Yes, we want to see the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Yes, we want to be with you for 6 hours. That might mean 4 hours at the Taj Mahal and 2 hours at Agra Fort. That might mean 3 hours each. That might mean 2 hours each plus a long lunch.
You can (should!) have your tour planned and know how long you want to spend in each place. But if we have a million questions and are totally in love with the Taj Mahal, let us know “hey, we can stay here longer, but it’s going to reduce the time for Agra Fort” and we can decide how we want to proceed. This obviously works best for private tours, but even in group tours you know if people are really interested in one place. You can suggest that you continue talking about it as you walk to your next destination or offer to make a later stop shorter.
2. Give me ideas. I probably don’t know much about your city and if I’m travelling without Lindy, I might not know what I want to do next. If I have asked you 47 questions about Evita, tell me about the Evita museum. I might go, I might not, but odds are good that I wouldn’t even know it’s an option without you.
It won’t take much to exceed both of our expectations. By working on these things, you’ll be able to keep Lindy and I happy. We’re on the extreme ends so by focusing on us, you’ll be able to work with almost anyone. And if you have to choose one of us to keep happy, make it Lindy. She put a lot of work into choosing you.
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