Guided Tours, are they a good value?
Are tours a good value, or are they a waste of money? To some folks tours are seen as a great way to explore and learn about a new area. They offer a local guide who can give you all the ins and outs of a city. They let you sit safely aboard a bus or coach and just enjoy the ride. To others the price is just to high. Even if the price was $5 it would be to high because after all, you don't technically need a guide to see a new place. This article explores these oposing views and helps you to deicide, are tours a good value or not?
A lot of people who don't take tours see the price and within an instant they decide its not worth the money because after all, you can do it yourself and save. You can also build your own house and save. You can cook your own food and save. You can make your own furniture and save. You can even live without a phone and save. Its obvious that doing things on your own without hiring someone is going to save you money. Would you diagnose your own illness just to save money though? If it saves you a $5,000 doctor visit it seems like a no brainier to the thrifty individual. We know that isn't a good idea though. Most of us would go to the doctor and pay them their fee to keep ourselves healthy and alive.
The idea behind taking a tour is to have someone from the area, someone who grew up there and knows all its stories and secrets to take you around and teach you things you didn't know. A good tour guide will do this in a fun and entertaining way. You are paying someone for their time, their knowledge, and a fun ride in a nice bus. Tour guides spend a lot of time learning about you and what you like, to make the experience more fun for you. I personally try to spend time with each person who is on tour with me. I want to learn why they took the tour, what they want to know, and what they find interesting. Obviously when they booked the tour they had certain expectations and I want to know what they are so that I can meet or exceed them. I enjoy sharing my knowledge with people and I take great pride in knowing they had a great time. Its not just a joy ride around an area staring out a window ... its an experience. It is entertainment to some folks who enjoy learning new things. I personally find it very pleasing to visit an area and learn about their heritage, their people, their foods, their hopes and dreams. You can't get that by wondering around on your own. This is why tours are important and necessary.
Just how big is the guided tour industry world wide? It is a 26 billion dollar industry, yeah that's billion with a B. Those who think it is a waste of money might just be a minority it seems. Statistically, it is one of the biggest sectors of the tourism and travel industry. It accounts for roughly 3.8% of the trillion dollar travel industry. Cruise lines report that a great majority of their guests (over 70%) join guided tours while on a cruise. Statistics also show that almost 82% of tour goers are under the age of 40. When polled and asked why they took a tour the most common response was "its a great time saver". It seems the notion that its a waste of time is out the window. Why is it a good time saver? Because when you enter a new area most people have no idea what to see and do. They may have come in with an idea but you'd be surprised how quickly you run out of things to do in an unfamiliar area. A local person however, knows all the best shows, the best food, the best sights, and the best places to stay. A guide not only tells stories they also gather and share information. Want know the best place to eat BBQ? Well, you could trust the reviews on TripAdvisor or Yelp, or, ask a local who has eaten at every BBQ place in town 10 times. So it seems that a tour is a great way to save time. On a vacation that will be over in only 7 days, saving time seems like it is very important.
Lets move on to the topic of cost since that is obviously important to ... well ... everyone. The average cost of tours varies wildly depending on location, inclusions, length, etc. etc. etc. For matters of simplicity lets use our tours for examples. Our most expensive tour is the Sights of the Smokies. This tour lasts for 8 hours and includes lunch. The cost of the tour is a mind blowing $97.99 for adults. Yeah some of you see that price and think "dang does it come with a gold bar as a gift?". No it does not come with a gold bar, it comes with lunch. Lets break down that $97.99 and see what its all about. The average cost for fuel to do that tour is $35.00. The cost to pay the guide is $125. The cost for insurance breaks down to $15 a day. The cost of the meal is $15 per person which pays for the food, taxes, and tip. The bus breaks down and needs maintenance on occasion which factors into the profit and loss ... using last years costs it comes to about $100 per operating day.
The average operating day costs about $300 for the Sights of the Smokies tour. We average about 8 people per tour. That comes to an average of $363.92 per tour in actual profits. With this profit we have to purchase new buses, improve the fleet, and expand the business to make it more fun and entertaining. Not every tour is a great profit machine, some operate out of the simple joy of sharing our knowledge and experience.
The price breaks down to about $10 per hour per person. Some tours are slightly higher per hour based on the fact they cause more wear and tear on the buses or the guide. Lets compare our rate with other area attractions and see if we are a good value.
Tennessee Mountain Tours - $10 PH
Dolly Stampede - $50 - 90 minutes = $33 PH
Movie w/popcorn - $20 - 90 minutes = $13 PH
Hatfield McCoy - $50 - 90 minutes = $33 PH
Dinner for 2 - $50 - 60 minutes = $25 PH
Dollywood - $70 - 8 hours = $8.75 PH (but you can't eat, that's extra)
Mountain Coaster - $15 - 10 minutes if you are lucky = $90 PH
Music Show no food - $35 - 60 minutes = $17.50 PH
Now you have all the facts. Is a guided tour a good value for the money? I have no idea, that is for you to decide. To me, yes it is. I love getting a tour of a new place. I learn things I likely wouldn't have discovered on my own. I get to know where all the best places are to eat so I don't have a bad experience picking the wrong place based on some random review of the owners nephew who posted 5 stars on yelp. I don't have to drive so I can spend my time looking at all the sights instead of the road. I get to spend my time with my family and not looking at endless brochures and websites trying to figure out what to do. I get someone new to talk to who can answer my 500 questions and he/she can not run away or escape me. To me tours are fantastic. They are the best value for the money. Yeah, shelling out $50 per person seem a lot to some but think of all the things you will learn, all the time you will save and all the money you will by not picking things that are unfun or untasty. I got into tours because I enjoyed them myself so much and I noticed how few guide services we have in our area. I don't care if you take a tour with us or with one of the other companies in the area, as long as you are taking tours. They are a great experience and I know that eventually you will come see me and take my tours too. We are the only company owned and operated by true native born locals. Our stories go back over 200 years. When you take other tours they are repeating the information that was likely learned from reading books written by or about my relatives. They do a great job telling the stories but wouldn't you rather hear it from the horses mouth?
Last thought ... doing a self guided tour is like providing your own narration for a movie you have never seen. Its like watching a movie with no sound and you have to describe the scene to yourself and decide whats going on. If you spend the money and hire a guide or join a tour ... you can enjoy the experience and let them do all the talking. That's why our motto is "Don't just see the mountains, experience them." Guided tours save time, save money,increase knowledge, and decrease stress. They let you relax and enjoy the view without all the worries of where to go and what to do.
When you are ready to join us and book a tour just follow this link.