Have you heard? The tours and activities sector is quite exciting at the moment...
A flurry of big deals and funding - Booking buying Fareharbor, Tripadvisor buying Bokun, Klook raising another $200 million - has propelled tours and activities into the spotlight.
These major moves may be centre stage, but there are still lots of startups waiting in the wings. Spain's GuruWalk is one of them. It concentrates of walking tours, using a model where participants on the tour pay the guide what they think the tour was worth.
Before the Q&A, here's an interview with its co-founder Juan Castillo.
1. What problem does your business solve?
On the one hand, many travelers don’t necessarily want to do detailed research about what to do or commit to a big spend in advance. For some, doing a 2-3 hour walking tour, taking in some of the top landmarks of a city and then just paying whatever they feel the experience is worth is an attractive proposition.
On the other hand. there are many people with a strong background in history, culture, and arts, who are excited about sharing their knowledge with travelers from all over the world, earning another source of income which could help them pay their rent or fund their studies. These are our guides.
2. Names of founders, their management roles, and number of full-time paid staff?
Juan Castillo, co-founder and managing director,
Pablo Pérez-Manglano Alday, Head of Guides Community.
We have 3 team members.
3. Funding arrangements?
So far, we have collected €200.000 from top Spanish investors.
4. Revenue model?
We are not monetizing yet, but our future will be charging a fixed amount for each lead we deliver to our guides.
5. Why do you think the pain point you’re solving is painful enough that customers are willing to pay for your solution?
Travelers are more interested in this kind of enjoyable, cultural and affordable experience, discovering a city with the help of a local. Over-priced and uninteresting traditional tours have no appeal.
Guides currently use the platform for free, which is how we are growing the number of tours we offer and the number of customers we can attract. Nevertheless, we know they are willing to pay according to our revenue model, as validated in the early stage of GuruWalk, due to the sustained customer traffic we bring them and the large amount of money they can earn.
6. External validation?
We are experimenting an exponential growth of 20% week over week, and we haven’t invested anything on advertising yet. But the best validation we have received are many emails, postcards and even presents from our community of guides, telling us how much we have changed their lives.
GuruWalk had had some positive PR in the consumer and tech press - Vacations & Travel Magazine
, The Next Web
, Spanish broadsheet El Pais
- so there must be something in its approach that resonates.
But column inches is no guarantee of business success. As with many of the consumer-facing tours and activities startups we cover in this series, there are questions around scale, regulation, customer acquisition, inventory supply, someone else with deeper pockets trying a similar product, and so on.
But then we said similar things about Klook back in 2015 and that's turned out quite well. Tours and activities is a broad church, and its congregation comprises anyone who travels. Within this, there could easily be enough people interested in paying what they think a walking tour is worth, and enough people around the world willing to show travelers their city on these terms.