Linda: That’s an awesome tip.
Charles: I think that’s great, for real. Question comes to my head though, how does it actually work? We would reach out to Tours by Locals and you would pair us with somebody? Or, I mean is there a selection? How does that all come about?
Sara Cooke: You get to choose your guide. Absolutely everything is online. If you’re not comfortable online, people are welcome to call our office and we can provide a bit of a concierge service. The way it’s set up is that you would go to ToursByLocals.com, it says right there on the homepage, “Where are you going?” Let’s say you’re going to Tokyo, for instance. You just type that in, you’ll then come to a page that shows you all of the tours that our guides offer. You can then also click “Meet our guides” and you’ll be taken to the page that shows … In Tokyo, I think there’s around 12 guides. You can read about all of these people, you can see their photos, you can read reviews that other travelers have left for them. Pick the person that speaks to you.
Charles: Right, right.
Sara Cooke: We won’t do the matching for you, you get to do that yourself, because you know what your areas of interest are, and you can pair that with a guide that really can help you see what you really want to see in Tokyo.
Sara Cooke: You pick your person. You can send that guide a message, introduce yourself, let them know what you’re interested in doing, or just say, “Hey, I don’t know anything about Tokyo. These are my interests. I’m a foodie, I might want to see a local market. Make me an itinerary.” That guide will do that for you, and then you just book and pay for your tour online. Your guide will meet you at your hotel or whatever other meeting spot that you’ve agreed on in advance, and away you go. You’re good to go.
Charles: How do you select … I’m sure you get people who submit to want to be a guide but what is the criteria to become a guide and how do you select a guide?
Sara Cooke: Yeah, and these days, because we’ve been around about nine years now, we have around 2,000 guides on the site, we’re only accepting about one in 10, one in 12 applications now. It is quite a rigorous process because we want to make sure you’re never rolling the dice with these people that you’re connecting with, right? They are excellent, they’re exceptional. We have a team of recruiters and their job is to either go out into the field if the destination calls for that, or do research through phone, through the internet. Anyone whose application we decide to move ahead with goes through a series of Skype interviews, much like what we’re doing now, so our recruiters can get a sense, not only of their, say, language skills and their knowledge base, but whether they’re a pleasant person to spend time with [inaudible 00:07:19].
So a series of interviews and then we do background checks, safety checks, that sort of thing, reference checks, and if the partnership looks like it’s going to work for both sides, then they’re brought on.
Linda: That’s very cool. I’m so interested. I’m like, “Okay, let’s go to San Diego this weekend and do something.”
Sara Cooke: As you say, you can even do it in your own backyard. I’m here in Vancouver, B.C., and we have about 12 guides working here and yeah, I’ve spent time with a few of them and learned things about my city I had no idea existed.
Charles: Vancouver is crazy beautiful, so we need to make that happen.
Linda: Yeah, we need to come there.
Sara Cooke: You do. Interesting little stat here, for the month of May, we sold more tours in Vancouver than anywhere else in North America.
Sara Cooke: People are coming to Vancouver.
Linda: Very cool. It sounds like, what you were explaining, that the tours are customizable. If you know you want to see something, or maybe you don’t even know what you want to do, they can just customize it and maybe show you the top sites or things like that. Or if you do want a food tour, they could do that as well?
Sara Cooke: Yep, definitely. You’ll see, every guide has their own little niche. One of our guides, Jen in Vancouver, she’s very much a foodie and she’s really into the local neighborhoods, getting people out of the downtown core and exploring what they might not see otherwise if they, say, took a shore excursion from one of the cruise ships that comes into port here. Then we get guides who do craft beer tours, and guides who do more standard sight seeing, who will take you … In Vancouver, the big deal is Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge. So depending on whether you want to only hit the highlights or maybe only more off the beaten track, or just scatter it all together, a smattering of everything, the guides can accommodate, for sure.
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What You Should Do Next
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