Make Money in Your Hometown: Become a Tour Guide
Peer-to-peer travel experiences are emerging all over the Internet, connecting local guides and advisers who want to make some extra money on the side with travelers who want an out-of-the-guidebook experience.
And from what I've gleaned, it appears to be a win-win for everybody.
Here are three peer-to-peer travel sites that provide a few different takes on the travel guide/adviser experience. Maybe one (or more) of them is a great fit for you to make some extra cash on the side (or conversely, to enjoy a different travel experience on your next vacation). (See also: America Is the No-Vacation Nation)
SnappyGo connects local advisers who create custom travel itineraries with travelers who want local recommendations for where to stay, eat, and play. They have almost 11,000 advisers worldwide, covering 1,800 destinations in 181 countries (at the time of writing).
Your job is to provide itineraries and travel advice that goes beyond what the traveler can find in a guidebook. To qualify, you must have an intimate knowledge of your city, and the application process ensures you can give customers the sort of advice they're looking for.
Travelers can find and book you directly through your online profile, or they send an adviser request to SnappyGo, who matches up adviser profiles, at which point you can send a message to the traveler demonstrating why you're the best candidate if you want the gig. (Here are some of SnappyGo's tips on giving travel advice).
Once booked as an adviser, you can do an optional 10-minute Skype call to clarify the customer's needs, then construct an itinerary that includes suggestions on where to stay, what to do, where to eat, and other travel tips.
Time Commitment and Pay
Most requests are pretty simple (for example, three nights in Paris), and take the adviser a couple of hours to complete at most.
For this service, you set the rates. A two-to-three-day itinerary usually goes for $30-40 USD, and you can make up to $150 for a two-week itinerary.
The better your credentials and experience, the higher a rate you can command. SnappyGo takes a 30% cut of your fee, so bear this in mind when providing your quote.
Hugh Ghouleh created 20 itineraries in his first six months since joining. (To his credit, he has travel and tourism industry experience as well as a large list of destinations he is an approved adviser for on his profile).
He says “the advice given can range from a simple inquiry about accommodation and some activities to details of hidden spots away from touristic eyes,” and the rates you charge vary accordingly.
Hugh's best experience was helping a busy and well-traveled American couple who were first-timers to Japan. As a result of his itinerary advice, he says “not only were they able to drive around Japan to reach wherever they liked from spots only locals would know, but I included a list of language tips for conversational issues...”
The above itinerary took him three hours to put together, and he made $200 from it. Other income amounts for Hugh have ranged from $40 for a three-day trip to $150 for a one-week trip. “It really depends on how much effort and time you put into it as a travel adviser.”
Alex Maier is currently planning a trip to New York City from Germany. “I have been there before, but I wanted more local tips and had specific questions. I have seen all the major sites, so the typical tips you get anywhere online weren't enough this time.”
So she found a local adviser whose profile matched her interests, and she received tips, homepages, prices, and even operating hours that she knows will be useful on her trip.
Alex is happy with her itinerary, and suggests that it's “very convenient for people who don't have a lot of time searching for things to do and just want a good itinerary based on their needs.”
HipHost is a marketplace for unique local tours that you won't find in a guidebook. All the tours listed have special themes, ranging from architecture to chocolate to girls' night out to running, and on and on. They have almost 1,000 local hosts in more than 100 worldwide cities (mostly in the U.S. at the time of writing).
Creating your profile and listings is free, and you can post as many tour itineraries as you wish, based on your experience and local passions. Travelers will browse these listings and book you if they like your tour description and theme.
You need a minimum of three personal recommendations on your profile to have your listings published, but these can be as simple as personal references from family members or friends if you don't have tour guests to attest to your awesomeness at the outset.
Time Commitment and Pay
When creating your tour, you submit your minimum hourly rate, being sure to incorporate any overhead costs (like cab fare, admissions, or refreshments). HipHost tacks on approximately 20% (depending on the number of guests, tour duration, and type of request) to your quote as their fee.
What you charge is entirely up to you; most guides charge $20 per hour, but depending on your experience and number of participants, you can increase that rate. HipHost also encourages travelers to tip, so you'll likely get a little extra bit of pocket change over and above your hourly rate.
In his first (approximate) four months since joining HipHost, Eric Stassen has given six tours. Apart from the initial setup and sending a few emails back and forth to travelers, the only time commitment has been in giving the tours themselves, which usually last from two to four hours.
“Compensation is quite fair, but earnings are sporadic,” says Eric. He makes $20/hour regardless of the number of tour participants, and HipHost tacks on an administrative fee.
Eric has a few tips for aspiring HipHosts: “Make sure the tour reflects what excites you personally about the city. It's easy enough for a visitor to look up a list of 'must-see' spots on their own; they're coming to you for your perspective.”
He says it also pays to do your homework to make the tour as seamless as possible. “It's impressive if you can bring your guests directly to the correct bus stop just before the bus pulls up, and embarrassing — not to mention a waste of their time and money — if your tour ends up incorporating a long uneventful walk and/or a wait of more than a few minutes.”
Kartik Isvarmurti is a managing director in India who wanted to visit some large Internet companies in San Francisco. “After I posted my tour request on HipHost, Dan contacted me and arranged the Silicon Valley Tech Titan Tour. Together we visited some of the top tech companies in San Francisco, giving me a customized tour that was tailored to exactly what I had requested. With HipHost, I now feel like I have a friend in every city I visit."
And Sarah Nielsen was part of a group of six people who chose the "Beer and Chocolate" tour in Boston. “We thought this would be a neat and different way to see the city,” she says of her search for something fun and local.
At the end of the day they ended up at a bar. She says it was the perfect ending to the tour because “not only was it a local dive, but Bill recommended a beer for each of us, based on our food tastes...and we all liked it! It was such a fun way to try new things and get a local's take on where to go in Boston. They were places we might've walked past on our own, but never would've known to go into.”
Shiroube is a Japanese word meaning “to be a guide”. The premise of the service is to connect locals who act as tour guides with travelers who want a custom tour experience. They currently have more than 5,000 guides in 3,000 cities worldwide.
Although the initial concept has been based on locals giving tours, co-founder and CEO Tatsuo Sato envisions a broader scope of services based on running a marketplace for people to meet and exchange services. “We don't limit how to use the service as long as users keep the rules.” The services in question include anything from just email tips to itineraries to full tour-guide services.
You start by creating an account with Shiroube and placing an ad (currently your first three ads are free). Be sure to outline your specific expertise so travelers with similar interests can find you (for example, history, adventure, drinking buddy, etc).
Once the traveler is in communication with you, you set the terms between you — from specific services to rates. In some cases, are simply seeking “international friendship or language exchange, while others set a reasonable price” for services provided, says Sato.
With Shiroube being fairly new and set up as a general marketplace, the payment system is still vague at the time of writing. Shiroube is currently testing a pricing model through the use of corporate sponsorships that will ultimately make the service free for users.
Do any Wise Bread readers have experiences with peer-to-peer travel services — either as advisers or as travelers? Please share in the comments!