Just 10 days shy of the company’s 10th anniversary, ToursByLocals is celebrating hitting the one million traveller mark! The lucky guests to flip the counter over were Cathie and Matt Odom of Port St. John, Florida who took a tour of San Francisco with ToursByLocals tour guide Caesar Cypriano yesterday afternoon. The Odoms were surprised on site with a $1,000 gift certificate to be used on future travels around the world.
This year is an exciting one for ToursByLocals as the company also celebrates its 10th anniversary. From a fledgling start-up with an office on top of a Greek restaurant, the company now has 100 employees in offices in Vancouver, Buenos Aires, Glasgow and Kuala Lumpur. The company’s success is even more remarkable given that it launched at the beginning of the 2008 recession and tourism downturn. “In fact, that economic landscape helped us,” says Paul Melhus, co-founder and CEO of ToursByLocals. “Because tourism was slow, we had a good number of professional guides take the risk and sign up with us in the very early days. We are more thankful than ever for their support and the fantastic local experiences they offer travellers each and every day.”
To celebrate a decade of independent travels, ToursByLocals has taken out a billboard in New York’s Times Square and is running a Facebook contest to win a trip for two to the company’s home base, Vancouver, Canada. A second contest is being held for the company’s own 2,700+ guides who can also win a trip to Vancouver, and meet with the Vancouver-based team while they’re in the city.
ToursByLocals is an online tour booking platform that connects travellers with over 2,700 independent local guides in 153 countries, offering private customisable tours – the largest company in the world of its kind. Melhus launched the company in 2008 after a trip to China a couple of years earlier. As an independent traveller, he found himself getting an impromptu personal tour of the Great Wall by a couple of local vendors at the site, only to be expected to purchase some unwanted souvenirs from them at the end in payment. “I would have much preferred to have paid them properly for their time and knowledge rather than end up buying items that I really didn’t want. We just thought to ourselves, ‘there just has to be a better way to connect knowledgeable locals and travellers that can work for everyone.’”