We've partnered with a much-travelled Australian couple who are as committed to extremely high-quality walking tours as we are. And, like ourselves, are worried about what so-called "FREE [sic] Tours" – which of course are not free: the moth of free turns into the larva of payment at warp speed – are doing to honest, long-established, extremely high-quality walking tours guided by highly skilled, experienced, top-flight, professionally qualified guides.
It's peddling a lie. But it's commercially very successful. "Free"? "commercially successful"? See what I mean? Top flight guides like Concepcion in Seville, Victor in Malaga, etc. are being driven to the wall. Australian Cathy – a bright, determined, principled sojourner – has decided to do something about it. "It" being what's happening in Seville, by way of example.
"We've been to Seville several times. When we travel we always go to a great deal of trouble to research, track down, set ourselves up with the very best guide (or guiding company) in whatever city we're going to. Our thinking is, we may only have 48 hours this time in Seville (or Amsterdam or Granada or etc.) – we want a really good guide, we don't want to see our precious time in these special places go down the toilet with a no-hoper of a guide who doesn't know very much and is essentially the sharp end of a scam. Last time we were in Seville we saw with our own eyes what's going on. We were with two friends. We went with Concepcion. There was one other couple on the tour – without the four of us she would have had two customers. A so-called free [sic] tour went by – there were 55 people on it. We asked Concepcion about it. She said, 'yes, I'm sorry to say but they're driving of us out of business – the guides are from Bulgaria – they're only here during the season – they don't know anything at all about Seville – but you can see how that word free suckers people.''"
Seville isn't an isolated case. This is going on all over the world. With a seriously detrimental effect on the profession – and more importantly, on what's available for travellers, on the calibre of what they get. What's happening is not unlike a mighty corporation like Starbucks driving small, local, independent, extremely high-quality coffee shops out of business. Replacing knowledgeable, genuinely expert, veteran cafeliers with "baristas."
So – to cut to the chase – we've teamed up with Cathy. We're going to build up, patiently but determinedly, a Master List of extremely high-quality, honest walking tour companies all over the world. From a tiny seed a mighty oak. Which is by way of saying two things. 1. We've only half a dozen cities lit up so far. And 2. if any of you would like to help out, would like to contribute – point us in the right direction, introduce us to really high-quality walking tours that you've come across, had first-hand experience of on your travels, PLEASE get in touch.
Saving extremely high-quality walking tour companies – sorting the sheep from the goats – is worth doing.
Ok, that's the backstory. It's the inspiration for the menu. Here's what's on the menu so far.
If anyone is going to any of the following cities and would like a recommendation for the best guide or walking tour operator in that city (based on our first-hand experience, vetted by us, exactly in the way Rick Steves never makes a recommendation unless he's had personal, first-hand experience of that hotel or restaurant or attraction) – well, get in touch
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – and request that the email be directed to me, David. I'll get back to you with their contact details.