Why now is the era of the Free Tour
In the contemporary era, travel as we know it has in some ways changed drastically, while staying pretty much the same in others. What has remained relatively constant in modern times is our yearning to take off and explore distant places, discover foreign cultures, and simply be somewhere else – even for just a little while.
What has changed for travel in the past couple of decades, though, is how accessible it has become. Foreign trips, vacations and weekend breaks are within reach for many of us today, more than it they ever were for our parents and grandparents.
A common thread running through this new age of travel has been that of the disruptors – the Ryanairs, the Airbnbs, and, yes, the Free Tours – the companies that have pioneered new ways to do old things.
Disruption is the new norm
With the proliferation of no-frills flights, budget airlines have managed to provide an alternative to what was once an expensive endeavour. Airbnb also manages to offer another way to stay in new places. While, in their early days, both of those examples’ USPs appealed to the budget-conscious, today they have become ingrained in the travel landscape as industry standards. It was just a matter of time before eventual widespread adoption saw them earn acceptance among travellers and the sector at large.
The Free Tour concept is arguably one of the more recent “new ways” to do something traditional – at least in terms of accessibility. Freetour.com was the first platform of its kind to commit to the free walking tour model as a worthy alternative to traditionally paid tours. Other similar platforms have followed, and, indeed, existing travel sites that have previously sold paid tours have now begun adding free tours to their offerings in increasing numbers.
What does this mean for city tours?
Just as people’s perception of how we fly and where we stay has changed in a relatively short period of time, so too are people’s opinions of free walking tours. Travellers are starting to realise that just because it’s possible to choose how much to pay for a free walking tour, it doesn’t mean they are lesser options than the same city tour with a hefty price tag. In fact, in many ways, the free tour may be better!
with free tours, the burden of risk is on the tour guide, not the tourist
customers get to decide how much the tour is worth at the end, so the guide must deliver a great experience to earn a fair return
with traditionally paid tours, a set amount is paid at the start, regardless of how good or bad the tour or guide turns out to be
This is essentially the major difference that is driving a massive increase in demand for free walking tours all over the world as a legitimate and valued way to explore new cities; buoyed by a pioneering platform in Freetour.com, it has just been a matter of getting the message to travellers.
One way this has been achieved is through highlighting the excellent quality of such tours with the annual Best Free Walking Tour Awards, honoring the best free walking tours and free tour guides around the world.
The same, but different: adding credibility to the free tour concept
Hundreds of thousands of reviews and ratings from verified Freetour.com users who have taken free city tours all across the globe are utilised each year to decide the winners of the Free Tour Awards in multiple categories, including:
Best Free Tour worldwide, by continent, and by city
Best Free Tour Guide worldwide, by continent, and by city
Most Original Free Tour worldwide
Best Free Tour Company worldwide, by continent, and by city
Best New Free Tour Provider worldwide
Best Free Tour worldwide conducted in Spanish
The free tour concept was (understandably) met with a degree of suspicion and even cynicism in its infancy; but so too was the idea of an airline that didn’t include baggage, meals and refreshments, or seat selection as standard. Indeed, many scoffed at the idea of paying to sleep on an air mattress in a stranger’s apartment before Airbnb became what it is today.
Endeavors such as the Free Tour Awards give voice to free tour providers to stand out in a market where they were traditionally relegated to a niche. The fact that these accolades and honours are informed entirely by real people – actual travellers who have done their free tours – adds an important element of credibility and substance to the concept.
Furthermore, the platform and the Free Tour Awards help those new to the concept to experience “the aesthetic ‘aha’”: that moment between being confronted with something new or different, and understanding it – seeing the surprise in the familiar, and the familiar in the surprise.
As more and more people are now realising that free tours are the same, but different from paid tours and, in many cases, potentially options, it’s really only a matter of time before this becomes the era of the Free Tour.
The editorial unit