At ToursByLocals, we decided very early on that cash transactions with a guide were an awkward and avoidable part of taking a private tour. With the proper payment system in place, we knew we could separate the less-pleasant purchase experience from the joy of meeting a guide and beginning a tour.
It turns out we aren't the only ones thinking this way. Marketing and Psychology professors Michael Norton and Elizabeth Dunn recently published an article in the New York Times looking at consumer happiness and delayed gratification. The authors found that hard research into consumer habits and satisfaction is driving a broad shift in practices toward the prepayment model. In other words: there is proof that consumers simply enjoy their purchases more when the payment experience is in the distant past.
What does this mean for ToursByLocals? It means we don't have to change a thing - we got our payment model right from the start.
Aside from the happiness factor, there are some great benefits to the prepayment model when applied to purchasing a private tour.
The major one? Prepayment is security. Relying on a cash transaction can be downright risky. The traveler needs to keep cash stowed on their person or in their luggage for the entire trip before they meet with their guide, particularly if they are traveling by cruise ship. And what if that traveler plans on taking several tours on their trip? That pile of cash they need to keep safe and secure while they're traveling just gets bigger. Being anxious about the safety of this cash could negatively impact an otherwise enjoyable holiday, not to mention the risk of carrying large sums of money around the busy tourist centres of an unfamiliar city. Criminals frequenting these areas dream of this kind of target.
Pre-payment also provides security for our guides. Think about how the no-show traveler affects a guide: a guide has spent weeks, if not months, organizing every last detail of the perfect tour. What would happen if their pay-on-the-day traveler decides to go explore on their own rather than show up for their tour? If they haven’t paid in advance, then it isn't the traveler's loss, it's the guide's. And we don't think that's fair.
Having a tour prepaid means that the traveler doesn't escape the consequences of hiring a guide only to abandon them at the meeting point. It means we can pay our guides for all the effort, time, and money they put into organizing a tour. We're keenly aware of how our competitors measure up against ToursByLocals on this critical issue.
Hopefully this blog has has offered some insight into why ToursByLocals uses a prepayment model, and how it stands to benefit both traveler and guide. Thanks for reading - and, as always, happy travels!