Here’s an interview I had last year regarding my tour philosophy and working with Vayable. I’m putting out the info here because the info many times gets lost in the ethers, and it deserves to see the light of day. NOTE: I have since retired.
I’m a graduate student doing some research on the activity and tours industry,and was checking out connection platforms between locals and tourists, and came across Vayable and your profile and liked the way you described your experience being a participant in a culture rather than as a tour guide.
Was wondering if you can share any insights whatsoever about your experience using a system like Vayable, and if it’s the only one you’re on?
Basically I’m trying to better understand people who offer a unique meaningful experience in their local area, such as yourself, and your customers. If you think that there’s anything that would either help you better promote your offering, help you connect better with potential customers, or benefit the experience for both of you overall.
Would greatly appreciate any insights at all that you can share.
This is great. It’s an emerging industry, I get new companies contacting me all the time about joining up. I have been on vayable for over 3 years, so I’ve gotten many impressions about the company and the industry. Happy to help, and would love to hear your research when everything is done. So let’s talk:
Vayable is the only one I am on right now. I get booked about once a week, and that’s great for me because I don’t really have time to do it more often. I have worked out a way to have it seamlessly integrate with my life. The subject matter is in my neighborhood and in an area that I always want to explore more. I have atypical hours at my job, so I do the tours during the daytime when most of my friends are at work and the restaurants are not too busy. It’s actually the most optimal situation for tours of this sort – having a person who is not a professional, who is an expert, and has free time – and I wish there were more people doing it like me.
Sidetour is good for getting bookings, but I didn’t like vibe when I spoke to the owner and because of my regular job, I need to be much more flexible. Vayable is extremely flexible. Peek seems good and seems to work very well but I’m loyal to Vayable. I can’t handle any more business, and Vayable is extremely supportive of my tours. For instance, they get press opportunities quite a bit, as this industry is just getting to the minds of a lot of people. The owner frequently talks about my tours, but also they refer press to me and I might show them around or whatever. They not only process the money, but act as sort of an agent for me. I know this is not for every single person on there, but if you are doing great things this company will represent you and try to show you off. I think that’s worth something.
Another thing to note is that these are all start-ups. The goal is to build a business and have someone buy the company. Or get investors. Selling would mean that the entire business can change, so I always make sure to have my real name in the descriptions. There are some companies that want to hide your name so customers can’t find you offline, but that’s a paranoid position and it doesn’t sit well with me.
Right now I’m at a point where I’m at the maximum fulfillment of this industry for me. It got my name out there, and I have the seeds of a business going. If I get let go from my job, I can probably do this full time (though I don’t want to be a tour guide), but also it gave me credibility and a title. This helped make me an expert. It worked out very well for me, and unfortunately I think there are very few people in the same position – but I guess people can find their own things to get out of this that I haven’t thought of. The only bad thing is when professional tours get involved in this, which is inevitable b/c the internet companies want content that’s easy content.
What is missing from the market today?
I see a lot of parallels to AirBnB, especially with the recent issues of hosts operating what in essence are hotels – it’s just less real. With the ‘experience sharing’ thing, I see the problem as us having not as much real people and too many traditional tour companies. Even though they might be good, they are not as real as what I do. Really, it just needs to be understood as a more acceptable form of traveling: hiring a local experience through these websites. Also, it would be great if these companies got into hotels the same way the tour companies do. It is possible the hotel concierges don’t understand it, or aren’t exposed to it. If I were to do this full time, I would definitely talk to the concierges more. I guess the market is missing the link to the mass market. Hopefully this will come as AirBnB leads the way into acceptance.
Anything Vayable doesn’t offer that would make my experience better or more efficient?
Not really. They are always available if I have any problems. I can think of tools for other people, in order to build their own brands better, like ways for them to create their own webpage with the vayable listings on it, but it’s not a major thing. Peek did seem to offer some interesting tools and a low fee, but other than that, not much. Really, the only thing I would like to see is a better cast of experiences on there.
Customer feedback about the site: People haven’t been complaining lately. They are excited they found such a thing. Most people there aren’t that demanding yet. It is a little annoying that they try to angle us to talk through the website by blocking email addresses in the messaging system, but it’s not a huge deal.
Even if they promote other people more, and I do encourage that because I want other people to be highly regarded, I would definitely still stick with them. I like how responsive they are and I trust the owner. I definitely prefer to go with an American company too.
I do get requests with less than 24 hours notice. I actually prefer that because I like to fill in the blanks in my schedule with the tours. I don’t want to miss a regular work day for a tour b/c the pay is better and if I work more at my freelance job then I am more reliable there and I will get more work. It’s not a big deal money-wise, although I am not complaining at all. When I book too far in advance, it gets annoying because it interferes with other stuff I want to do. I don’t want the tours to run my life. I have a very irregular schedule, so it works out for me – or I’ve worked out a way for it to work with me and I don’t allow the scheduling to push me around. I do it when convenient, don’t let the scheduling drive me crazy with satisfying everyone.