GuideAdvisor Brings Destinations To LifeAll With the Help of Passionate Tour Guides
By Danielle Aihini
Imagine yourself roaming the foreign streets of Florence, Italy. You walk aimlessly around the city looking for a restaurant that isn’t swarmed with tourists.
You only know the basics of Italian – Ciao, Addio, Buongiornio – but not enough to make you feel comfortable in an unfamiliar place.
You make your way to the first-listed restaurant on Lonely Planet because, well, everyone seems to rave about it.
After an hour of wrong turns and mini temper tantrums, you arrive to see just the place you were hoping to avoid—a restaurant mobbed with tourists too loud to hear yourself speak.
Are Guides Uncool?
All too often, travelers reject the idea of having a tour guide because it doesn’t seem like the ‘coolest’ way of doing things.
Think again! With GuideAdvisor, not only is the trip tailored around the traveler to ensure the best experience, but it’s also a way to see the world in a different and more informed light; a chance to visit all of those off-the-beaten-path places you may have never had the chance to see otherwise.
Mandy Marsh and Steve Smith, of Richmond, VA, for example, just returned from a visit to Palermo Sicily, a daunting town that might intimidate most American travelers. Luckily, they had the benefit of a cousin, married to local Sicilian women, which paved the way and brought the city to life.
That’s what it’s like to have a local guide—you don’t need to know the Sicilian dialect or the local customs. If you don’t have family there, you need a local guide!
Later during Mandy and Steve’s Italy trip, when there were no more relatives to tap, they used GuideAdvisor.com to connect with their guide and enjoyed a historical tour of Rome, enjoying a deeper dive into the city’s rich ancient history.
You can’t get a fraction of the information you get from a qualified, licensed guide by just staring at the ruins.
GuideAdvisor.com, launched in October 2013, lists 10,188 tours in 2,188 destinations with over 8,000 tour guides worldwide! With a range like that, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll be able to find a local guide for just about anywhere you’re traveling.
And with ratings and clear profiles, you will know just who you are working with even before you book a tour!
119 Countries on the Site
With 119 countries listed on the website, tour guides in British Columbia, Canada, California, across Europe, and through every continent except Antarctica offer a wide variety of guided trips.
Take a polo lesson on a horse with Guide Charlene in the countryside of Buenos Aires, travel the French Quarter of New Orleans with Glenn De Villier, or experience the greater Brisbane, Australia from above on a helicopter tour with Captain Mike Jarvis.
No matter what the occasion, there is a guided trip for everyone. CEO Susan McCarthy puts it perfectly, “the most important part of GuideAdvisor is connecting the traveler and the guide. We put the traveler directly into contact with the guide so they can tailor the trip just the way they like,” she said.
“Most websites focus on the trip itself and prioritize that aspect but with GuideAdvisor there is leeway in the itinerary and instead, the traveler is the priority. And because you are in direct contact with the guide, it is that much easier to adjust or make requests.”
Easy to Navigate
The website is designed to provide travelers with an easy-to-navigate layout of popular sights, destinations and a variety of trips. Each guide creates a profile with their bio, photo, company name, trip locations and activities, guiding experience, languages, favorite trips, licenses and certifications, reviews (if applicable), and a list of trips they offer.
Each trip profile consists of the location, duration, departure days and times, ‘price includes’, any notes from the guide, trip itinerary information, and reviews.
When you find a trip that interests you, GuideAdvisor provides links so that you can email the guide directly, launch the guide’s website or navigate to the guide’s booking engine via the Book Now link. Captain Mike Jarvis, for example, flies for Pterodactyl Helicopters, a company that offers helicopter tours through Brisbane, Ipswich, Scenic Rim, Somerset and Lockyer Valley, Moreton Bay, Redlands and Logan, all in Australia.
“County Pub Crawl by Chopper,” one of the exhilarating trips he offers, is a six-hour tour starting at 9:00 am on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and either day of the weekend. For about $570, you can join the Captain for a day full of good food, drinks, and sightseeing.
With a click of a button, you can send a request that includes the trip date that works for you, the number of people traveling, your email and any comments you wish to include.
Making Flights More Than a Transit
Captain Jarvis began Pterodactyl Helicopters operations in 2002 and has been a part of GuideAdvisor for a year. He says the most rewarding part about being a tour guide is flying with people who are happy to be there.
“We recognized early in the game that we are more than just helicopter pilots. We are guides and as such we learn about the areas we pass over and impart that information to our passenger making the flight much more than just a transit.”
Tour guide, historian and writer Glenn De Villier decided to join GuideAdvisor because of its ‘brilliantly-crafted and well-placed’ advertising approach. As an integral part of the New Orleans Historic Tour Company, G L-f de Villiers, De Villier has been taking travelers through the city with a native understanding since 1989.
The passionate guide has been a part of GuideAdvisor’s team since they launched last year and currently offers seven trips ranging from the private “Cemetary & Voodoo Tour” to “A French Quarter Literary Captain Jarvis says the trick to being a good guide is being knowledgeable and engaging. History Tour” to the “Premiere Gay Heritage & Drinks Tour” where travelers get to enjoy a cocktail hour before setting off for a day of history and sightseeing.
“It is essential, I believe, to do what one knows best. For me, that’s New Orleans and Louisiana. I like that our tours are never scripted, and our service is personal. We truly like our guests to be a part of the city, and this sort of community spirit makes me want to stay put,” De Villier said in a GuideAdvisor interview.
The company, based in Singapore with team members in Vancouver, Berlin, Bulgaria and Hong Kong, offers a 90-day free Business Listing trial for local guides interested in creating an online presence on their site. The basic subscription includes editing services for profiles and trips, search engine marketing, reviews and ratings, operator support, a basic dashboard, and an ask question form.
Guide Benefits and Plans
For an introductory price of $59 for the first year, guides receive those same services plus the set trip prices in operators’ currency service, an email and website link, and a send request form. The premium listing, the subscription with the most benefits includes those services plus a “book now” link, featured placement, an Adwords Re-marketing campaign, social media marketing, an optimized guide profile and trip listing search engine, and an account manager for the introductory price of $99 for the first year.
Charlene of Polo Break has been on Guideadvisor.com for only two months and has already seen some success. Polo Break’s main objective is thaWith GuideAdvisor you can learn about your next destination from a passionate and knowledgeable guide. t the clients enjoy their visit. “We hope that they leave our tours feeling that they’ve experienced the ‘real’ side of Argentina,” she said.
“We often tailor-make our polo tours to cater and go around our specific client’s needs. GuideAdvisor is a stress-free tool to use and connects the client straight to the guides themselves with no middleman.”
GuideAdvisor’s emphasis on the matchmaking process between the guide and the traveler is highlighted in their “Get to Know A Guide” program listed on the website and publicized on social media with “Meet a Guide Monday” and “Follow a Guide Friday.”
Guides share their background stories, specific training and provide some insider info on their activities and on traveling in and around their location, according to Content Manager Pam Denis. The program is the perfect way for travelers to learn more about the guides and connect with them on a deeper level.
McCarthy recalls her personal experience with a guide in Cambodia. The guide led her to his mother’s 90th birthday celebration before the tour. His mother, who was a monk, celebrated in a monastery in the mountains and McCarthy was lucky enough to be a part of the inimitable festivities.
“There’s a stigma that if you use a guide, you’re not cool. But that’s not the case — guides can give you the most unique experience that you may have never had otherwise. Just look at mine!” she said.
What Makes a Good Guide?
So, what makes a good guide, according to Guide Advisors very own guides themselves?
Captain Jarvis says, “You need some knowledge, but being able to engage easily with your visitors so they feel after an hour that you’re one of their mates.”
De Villier says that a deep understanding of your subject and a marvelous personality is the perfect mix to what makes the perfect guide.
The company plans on creating apps on iPhone and Android platforms and hope to expand to other countries, becoming completely global. With the site currently all in English, becoming multi-lingual is on the product roadmap, in order to ultimately target all markets.
Meet your next tour guide at GuideAdvisor, and together you can plan and create the one of a kind personalized trip you’ve been dreaming of.
Danielle Aihini is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is a content specialist at Robin, a software company in Charlestown, Mass.