Anyone who has begun to travel with the funds accumulated in the office will sooner or later face the problem of a dwindling bank account. No matter how you minimize your expenses, but if there is no financial inflow, then a fiasco is inevitable and sooner or later you will have to return to your homeland in order to again get a livelihood and continue traveling. But do you always have to come back? After all, there are methods of earning money along the way. One of them is the organization of author's tours, and today Ivan Leshukov will tell us from his own experience about this method..
The content of the article
- one What is an author's tour and why there is a demand for them today
- 2 Which country to choose and which route
- 3 How to organize and conduct your trip
- 4 Where to advertise and how to get promoted
- five Development prospects
- 6 Cons and pitfalls
- 7 My experience
What is an author's tour and why there is a demand for them today
An author's tour, or an author's trip, is any form of travel organization without the participation of a large tour operator, but with the help of a person who is more experienced in this matter. It can be a trip to the Caucasus mountains, a trip to another country, rafting in the mountains of Peru, an expedition to Yakutia and even a yacht cruise in the Caribbean. Such an author's trip is a kind of intermediate link between voucher travel and independent travel. They have existed for a long time, but they began to gain popularity only recently, since travel companies are now going bankrupt and are closed, do not inspire confidence, and many are already tired of traveling on vouchers. But not many can decide to be completely independent for the first time, so there is a demand for author's trips and it is growing. In addition, often, author's tours are to such a hard-to-reach region, where it will be more expensive, more difficult and dangerous to travel on your own. Papua, for example, or some regions of Africa, difficult mountain routes.
There are author tours similar to a trip on a voucher, but only with movements, adventures, all sorts of activities. There are also those in which participants are prepared for independent travel: they are taught to look for cheap hotels, public transport, communicate with locals, bargain, etc. The number of people can also be very different, I had from 1 to 9 people, but I personally know a person who leads groups to Indonesia of 12 people, and to Adygea as many as 20 ... «Group» from one person - in this case, the trip for me turned out what is called «to zeros», or a small minus.
In general, this is a fairly broad concept and you must first decide on the form of your author's trip. Maybe it will be mountain hikes, maybe training trips for beginners to Thailand, maybe serious expeditions to Papua or Madagascar, maybe some highly specialized trips, for example, bird watching tours to bird wintering sites in Africa, photo tours to Iceland, etc..
Which country to choose and which route
If you decide to try to make money on author's tours, then you need to decide on a specific location for it. It is best to choose the country that you know best, where you spent the most time, perhaps even learned the language. For me, for example, Indonesia has become such a springboard - a huge country with a sea of opportunities. This is just an unplowed field, not a country! If you know the local language - a huge plus. Knowledge of the Indonesian language helps me a lot, since I often take my tourists to places where no one speaks English at all and does not try to learn.
A very promising country for author's tours is Burma. Interest in this country is growing from year to year, opportunities for interesting routes - the sea, there is not a lot of information yet. There are almost no competitors. Lafa! Grab it before you pick it up.
Having decided on the country, you can prepare several routes - simpler, more complicated, of different duration. The most popular duration is 10-14 days. Routes lasting 3 weeks or more are much less common. For example, I once had a tour to Sumatra for a month. But this is an exception. Now, in a crisis, only short-lived and cheap options are available - for a week, for a maximum of 10 days. The route needs to be thoroughly studied: choose hotels, cafes, transport, excursions, attractions.
There are tours in which tourists are given the opportunity to choose a hotel, a cafe, a way to travel. But this form of organization is not suitable for every route and only for a small group. The larger the group, the harder it is to organize and plan everything, so that there is no fermentation and wandering.
How to organize and conduct your trip
Having compiled the route, it is worth driving along it yourself, planning the time, concluding verbal agreements with hotel owners, drivers, if you plan to take a car for moving. It is useful to draw up some algorithm for each route, where it will be noted when, what and how, as well as the contacts of all local people involved in the trip - guides, drivers, hotel owners. When the group gets together, buys tickets, you need to call all these persons and warn them about when and where they will be involved, book hotel rooms, if necessary.
Well, then you meet the group at the airport and go on to adventure. If some link in your route is unstable, you should warn clients in advance that overlaps, inconsistencies, some substitutions and improvisations along the way are possible..
For example, I immediately write that the head of the trip has the right to change the route depending on the weather, the condition of the participants and other circumstances without compromising the quality of the trip. Clients react to such a phrase absolutely adequately, but if something happens, it can make your life much easier if something goes wrong. I warned you guys!
The more people there are in the group, the harder it is to build people, alas. The crowd must be commanded, otherwise it will disperse, or even arrange sabotage altogether. Since I do not like to command, I prefer groups of 4 people - this is the optimal number. But I know guys who drive 10, 12 and even 25 people. Here, sorry, you can't do without a stick, a carrot and leadership qualities.
Payment for the trip can be in fact, prepayment, part before, part after. I do not adhere to any strict rules in this regard and it happens in different ways, usually - in fact, in dollars or in Indonesian rupees.
The trip can be carried out in two ways - open and closed. In the first case, participants pay for your fixed guide services, let's say 10 thousand rubles per person, and everything else: food, accommodation, transport, entrance tickets are paid by themselves. Such a scheme often inspires more confidence, but it is not convenient, it is easier to take everything into your own hands and pay for everyone on all bills. Then, in the tour announcement, the price of the package is announced, which includes almost everything: accommodation, your services, transport, hotels, payment for excursions, entrance tickets. This is a closed form - tourists do not know what it costs, unless they ask, of course. There is no need to explain how much it costs, to collect money from the participants almost every day, to count everything a hundred times. I spent all my previous trips according to an open scheme, but now I switched to a closed one, because I was already worn out, and I began to cooperate with tour operators of author's tours, and they work only according to a closed scheme.
In the future, I plan to conduct more trips according to an open scheme with an emphasis on teaching independent travel. So that the participants showed more independence: they themselves were looking for hotels, transport, attractions. And I will be like a guru: instruct, correct the jambs, show the right path. And I have fun and for novice travelers, the benefits and training on the ground. Moreover, non-Balinese Indonesia is not as light on the road as the same Thailand and my knowledge can be useful even for experienced travelers. For example, I had clients who many times visited Tai on their own, but still did not dare to go to Sumatra, or Sulawesi.
Where to advertise and how to get promoted
Finding and planning a route is one third of the work. The most important thing is to find people willing to travel. If there is a blog where you talk about your trip, great. A blog is a great help. You can create a separate travel site, like mine Let's go to Indonesia.
The highest results in our 21st century are shown by ... word of mouth. First, acquaintances of your acquaintances and friends of friends will come. And this is a very important stage. Despite the general Internetization, the weight of the information said orally is much higher, so communicate more with people and tell what you are doing. If you have studied the country well, for example, the same Burma, give lectures in tourist clubs, libraries, yoga centers, anti-cafes, wherever possible. Use a projector, spin pictures and broadcast.
If your blog is promoted, then you can and even need to hold a meeting with your readers. A living word is a living word, and not a single useful Internet scribble can replace it.!
You can advertise on social networks, in the same VK. On your page, in the communities of the region where you conduct tours, for example, if you drive around Tai, advertise not only in groups in Thailand, but also in Indonesia, Vietnam, and other Southeast Asian countries.
Also thematic forums are suitable as advertising platforms. You can post tour announcements on them (through admins), and they will take a percentage of each client who comes from them. What kind of forums could it be? For example, on Tay there are several thematic forums such as Ivan Susanin, Farangforum, in Cambodia - Barangforum. In my case - Baliforum.
There are wonderful services for finding excursions, for example, Excursionsopedia. There you can advertise your trips with a duration of several days. On Sputnik and Tripster - day trips only. Therefore, if there is a famous city on your itinerary, such as Bangkok, Hanoi, Beijing - develop a one-day excursion and advertise on these sites. This will be an additional income and advertising for your big tours..
It is also useful to arrange promotions, discounts, to be creative in every possible way. For example, I am now recruiting the Fabulous Java group, and I propose to participate in this trip at cost price for feedback and advertising in social networks, blogs, media of my future tours. Positive reviews mean a lot, so you can offer to periodically take part in a particular tour for a review or advertisement (if suddenly a person has promoted groups on social networks or is somehow connected with the media).
In addition, I practice cooperation with my colleagues in other countries, for example, I post on my website announcements of trips to India, Nepal and Sri Lanka from the travel workshop Other Roads, and they, in turn, on their website make announcements of my trips to Indonesia.
There is also an idea to organize a trip to a remote part of Indonesia for travel bloggers, such as «Papua for bloggers - two weeks without internet», also at the cost for review and advertising on their resources. A trip to such regions will cost a pretty penny on your own, it is better to unite here, and without a language with a guide in such wild regions there is nothing to do. While I have some doubts about this, I do not know how to better organize everything and how hardcore it is. If you have ideas and you have never been to Papua, but would really like to visit - please comment. I know the language, I'm ready to work as a guide for a food review. I would like to visit remote rams, such as Korowai, who live in trees and eat people, the minimum price for such tours is $ 5,000 per person, but at a cost price it will be much cheaper, anyone can afford it. But, most likely, this is too hardcore for most, since there will be not only the Internet, but nothing at all - only the jungle, the Papuan Stone Age and you with a backpack.
If your routes are interesting, they will be talked about, shared, and it may even be so that demand will exceed supply. In this case, you can hire assistants who will lead people along the most popular routes. You can also put a person on short day excursions in some large city. Let him guide your day trips through Excursions, Tripster, Sputnik and other resources. That is, some of the work can be delegated. For example, Anton Dryanichkin, a well-known guide to Bangkok, is now working with two assistants. But he has been in the ranks for 5 years already, he has been well promoted, everyone knows him. I think that I will need such an assistant in about a year and a half. So I'm looking for a candidate. If you know Indonesia well, the Indonesian language is even better - you are welcome to work together.
You can cooperate with firms that aggregate copyright trips, or that have created their own powerful, well-promoted brand, and even get a permanent job there. For example, this is the Association of Free Guides, Travelers Club «Worlds», Secret Meridian, Expeditions Shop, Mikhail Kozhukhov's team, CheapTrip, Paganel Studio, etc..
For example, I work with the Association of Free Guides, the Secret Meridian and the Expedition Shop. There are two forms of cooperation:
1. You announce your programs on their resource and the travel agency takes a certain percentage for each client who came from them.
2. You work on the programs of a travel agency as a freelance guide for a salary (usually about $ 80 per day + accommodation + flights according to the program).
Cons and pitfalls
It should be understood that working as a guide in another country, most often, you work illegally. I am not an expert on the legislation of the Southeast Asian countries, but in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, such work is definitely not legal. Therefore, you must always exercise some care and caution. Everything here strongly depends on the region, for example, in Bali, the risk of burning is much higher than in Sumatra, Sulawesi or Papua. Where there are few tourists, locals will be glad that you give them at least some kind of work and it will simply not be profitable for them to knock on you, and it will not even occur to them out of the kindness of their soul. In Bali, Pattaya, Phuket, people are meaner, cops are more active and I, for example, just don't shine there at all. I drive clients all over Indonesia, but outside of Bali. Well, if only passing through.
This was the first minus, now the second. Earnings will be very volatile at first. And the current situation with the dying ruble does not add stability in income to anyone. Therefore, get ready in case of anything to hitchhike in between tours, live on couchurfing or random appointments, eat bum packages from the garbage cans..
Starting this business from 0 in your pocket will not work, you need to have a certain amount of money to maintain your pants.
For some, it will also be a minus that you need to wander around the country a lot. First, in order to develop a route, negotiate with the right people (local guides, drivers, hotel owners, etc.), and then with clients. During my previous 10-month voyage to Asia, I had not stayed anywhere for more than a week. Perhaps, with the proper level of promotion, it will be possible to rent a house somewhere, live there and sometimes go somewhere, conduct tours. And then back into the nest. But at first it won't work that way. Good foot feed guide! There will be a lot of movements in space.
I will tell you more about my experience. Most of the time traveling in Southeast Asia I spent in Indonesia, especially in the huge Sumatra, whose territory is only slightly smaller than Thailand. At first I made money in Russia, in a petting zoo, but about two years ago I got the idea to try to make money on author tours, I just contributed to this Oleg's tour to Thailand. I developed a simple route around Sumatra, announced it on my blog and conducted it in May 2014. True, there was only 1 person. And there was no earnings as such. But the minus too.
Then I returned to Russia and spent the summer looking for clients and developing new routes. I created a website Let's go to Indonesia, where I announce my future trips and post reports on those already taken place. I recruited several groups and conducted them successfully (Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi). Among them were even Orthodox pilgrims with a priest from Kemerovo. Pilgrims to Sumatra - can you imagine? I myself still do not believe that this happens.
Here's another Chukchi to bring to Papua))) There are friends in Anadyr?
Often they turn to me directly with a request to prepare and conduct some kind of special program in Indonesia - I know the Indonesian language and can, in principle, organize anything. Out of 6 of my trips, 4 were exactly the same, unannounced anywhere. And 2 more programs planned for the upcoming season are also special trips. It's just that people are apparently looking for a specialist in Indonesia and are addressing directly with their requests. This is another plus for a well-promoted blog on your topic and knowledge of the language of the country in which you most often travel. The disadvantage of such special programs is that you often have to change plans and go somewhere for reconnaissance and preparation. But on the other hand, it is interesting and additional motivation to rip your butt off a hatched guesthouse or inscribed.
Now I have decided to specialize in ecological tourism and trips for entomologists (I am a biologist by education, I still do not even breathe for all the insects). There was one group of entomologists in Sumatra and another is planned for next year. Plus they ask to scout Halmakhera - he will have to go there someday..
My previous 10-month voyage in Indonesia, Tai and Malaysia was carried out entirely with the funds from the author's tours. That is, I reached full autonomy and self-sufficiency in 1 year from the beginning. Now the task is to increase income, since there are plans to travel not only in Southeast Asia, but also in China, Japan, Central Asia, South America, Africa.
Now I have ambitious plans for Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi in the short term and Papua, Flores, Molucca and Kalimantan in the long term. Stay tuned to my Traveling Naturalist Blog
I will be very happy to answer all questions, help with advice, and if you have had experience in organizing author's trips, discuss the details. If you want to become my companion and help me travel around Indonesia - contact me too.