A short guide to help you find a good free walking tour provider and avoid large international booking platforms.
Many of you come on our free tours in Riga via a direct booking through our website www.rigafreetours.com. We the free walking tour guides at Riga Free Tours are super happy at this fact and thrilled to find out that many of you understand how the big ' Free tour’ websites work and how they are making easy money from the hard working guides around the World.
How to find guides who actually run the free walking tours and not a huge booking agency that profits from the guides work?
Google reviews are a great way to locate an independent free tour provider or Tripadvisor can also be a good tool to go direct to the free walking tours website that will be linked there. With google maps you can just type in the city name and free tour, you will see most of the local guides listed there with reviews.
Simply look for independent websites, usually the city name of the free walking tour is in the URL like ours www.rigafreetours.com Typically if you find a site where you can book in multiple cities or chose from 20 different tours in one city then someone other than the guides is profiting from your booking.
Independent free walking tours will have a lot of city based content and not be selling the entire World :) There is one great resource to find more independent free waling tours globally, an initiative set up in the pandemic by the free tour guide community, ironically called www.freetourcommunity.com
It was set up by free tour guides who felt they were essentially loosing much of their autonomy to big companies, who's staff have rarely guided, have no local connection and who mostly work with google ads and catching clients before they find the direct providers.
So how do these large 'free tour' companies work?
Some use a method of bidding, meaning that the tour company who bids the highest price per booking will be listed as the top free tour in that city, they do not rank the tours by reviews or quality, nor have these companies in many cases even visited the tours or the cities they sell. They just want their commission for selling a space on a free tour.
Other companies use a system of a fixed price fee per person booked on the free tour which is usually around 2 euro. By choosing to pay the fixed booking fee free tour guides get loisted as 'Pros' or 'verified'. Again in most cases these companies do not actually have any idea what content or quality the tour itself i, they just want to make the commission.
Many of these large companies use Apps to make it easier for tourists to keep using their booking platform and to keep skimming money from the guides in order to eventually take over the operations in a city.
Why do guides use these large free walking tours sites if they are so bad?
Simply, they are already so powerful and control so much of the market that many guides have no other option.
We simply want you all to ask yourself who you are booking with and if you really want your guide to start the tour knowing that for each participant, the guide will be paying a large multinational company for you to attend a free tour somewhere on the other side of the world.
Chose local, support small business and think about who you are booking with :)