Alice and Torin, are second-time attendees, they share what their favorite Arival sessions were, who inspired them, what they are going to do differently as a result of attending Arival and where Arival can improve for future events.
“I think one of the best things about this year has been actually what’s happening right now, is meeting people face to face that we hadn’t, that you know virtually. But we’ve gotten to sit down with vendors that we use. We’ve gotten to sit down with people that we’ve known through Facebook groups or just other email exchanges.
And we have just expanded our network in ways that I think will just pay dividends going forward for as long as we’re in business.”
Alice and Torin Kexel, The Flying Bike, Asheville
About Flying Bike
In May 2017, we bought Electro Bike Tours, bringing us a new focus and inspiration. Combining the town of Asheville and electric bikes, Torin’s entrepreneurial roots and our love of adventure, it was a perfect fit. We took the off-season to carefully and intentionally rebrand the business.
We created our core values, mission and vision for the company to be sure to build something that not only shares the best of this beloved place with our guests, but that also has a profoundly positive impact on the community that is already here.
We came up with the new name “The Flying Bike,” which seemed to capture both the fun of electric bikes, the sense of freedom they bring, and the larger sense of freedom we’d like to embrace in this new phase of our lives. It is our goal to be able to give back to the community by donating a percentage of profits to bike advocacy programs and other organizations that work to better Asheville and support its people. We also hope to give new life to our old fleet of electric bikes, through community events and charity rides.
- The Flying Bike, Guided Bike Tours, Asheville, NC.
- Alice and Torin on Episode 1 of the Tourpreneur Podcast.
- How to Survive Your First Year in Tourism. Alice’s blog post on TourismTiger that inspired Shane to reach out to Alice.
- Zakia Molaoui
- Invisible Cities
- Checkfront Booking Software for Tours and Activities.
Speaker 1: Today’s episode is brought to you by Checkfront, the booking platform trusted by over 5,000 tour and activity operators around the world. You can start your own free 21 day trial over at Checkfront.com.
Speaker 2: Welcome to the Tourpreneur podcast. Travel industry veteran Shane Whaley will take you on a journey with fellow tourpreneurs, sharing their tips, ideas, insights, and success stories to inspire you to make your tour business the best it can be. And now, please welcome your host, Shane.
Shane: And welcome to Tourpreneur at Arival, presented by Checkfront. Today’s is a very special conversation. I’m joined by Alice and Torin. All those of you who binge listen, and I’ve heard this week a lot of people binge listen to Tourpreneur. I’m very, very moved by that, will know that you were episode one of the Tourpreneur podcast, of The Flying Bike Tours in Asheville, in the great state of North Carolina. Welcome.
Alice: Thank you. It’s such-
Shane: Welcome back.
Alice: … an honor to be here and finally to meet you in person.
Torin: Yeah, it’s a thrill to meet you. This has been a really exciting time, being at Arival.
Shane: Absolutely. And I’m going to say to our listeners that should they bump into you at events, especially Arival next year that I hope you attend, they need to buy you lots of beers, because there would be no Tourpreneur without you both. Because, for our listeners who don’t know, I had this crazy idea that I wanted to talk to tour operators on a podcast, but I thought maybe I’m the only person in the world who wants to do that. And you had written a wonderful blog post on Tourism Tiger about your first year in business, Alice. And I thought, right, this is the person I want to speak to. It’s not the big guys, it’s the people who want to start out, tourpreneurs in waiting. And then those who are one year, two year, three years into the business. You were very enthusiastic when I called you, and you were very nervous at first.
Alice: I remember that phone call, yeah. I was like, who is this guy? What does he want from me?
Shane: Yeah, he’s a sales guy.
Alice: But yeah, your background obviously spoke a lot about your experience in the industry, and I’m always very enthusiastic about any kind of entrepreneurial endeavor. It just sounded like something that we, from the very start, would’ve been incredibly excited about and helpful, trying to navigate this world that there’s no exact guidebook or education for. I think you’ve been helping a lot of people. We’ve been hearing your name a lot at Arival, and I think people are loving what you’re doing. So good job.
Shane: Thank you very much. I would love, maybe January, February next year, to invite you back on the show. It’d be great to talk to you a year on about what’s changed since we interviewed you in January 2019. But I was really curious to know, so this is your second Arival.
Alice: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Shane: How has it been for you?
Torin: It’s been great. I think one of the best things about this year has been actually what’s happening right now, is meeting people face to face that we hadn’t, that you know virtually. But we’ve gotten to sit down with vendors that we use. We’ve gotten to sit down with people that we’ve known through Facebook groups or just other email exchanges. And we have just expanded our network in ways that I think will just pay dividends going forward for as long as we’re in business. It’s a reciprocity that I think is really specific to this group of people that’s here. This industry is so giving, and it is so open and willing to share. I think that’s another thing that the Tourpreneur podcast has brought out, that people will come and talk about inside aspects of their business. It’s just so beneficial to businesses like ours that are a few years in and still have so much to learn.
Shane: What about the sessions? Did you go to many of the theater sessions?
Alice: Yeah, definitely. We’ve been to a lot of the sessions, and then the workshops. It’s always great to have Douglas Quinby onstage asking really tough questions. I think it’s always things that we’ve been wondering, but don’t even have the opportunity to ask some of these bigger companies that we’re working with. That’s always very insightful and great to have an opportunity to even ask a question yourself is always insightful and interesting. Makes for a sometimes tense but interesting session that gives you a little bit of where things are headed.
Shane: What surprised you the most in the theater sessions? For people who weren’t able to attend this year, was there anything that stuck out for you?
Alice: I guess it was interesting how they brought on some entrepreneurs that were kick starting or launching their ideas.
Shane: Yeah, Magpie were there, right?
Alice: Yeah, Magpie and the Questo.
Shane: Yeah, the gaming app.
Alice: Yeah. It was interesting to hear new people taking a risk, launching a tech idea or something that I’d never really thought about. It definitely makes you think, how can you expand things or think about things differently to use. How can you adapt things to apply to your own business? I feel like if you aren’t thinking ahead, it’s easy to get left behind. That was definitely interesting to me.
Torin: I was really impressed with Zakia Moulaoui’s presentation about Invisible Cities.
Alice: That was amazing.
Torin: That was one of the early ones, so now it feels like it’s been a few days already. But it was so powerful to hear just her journey and see the impact that she’s had, and realize what that’s taken in terms of her efforts, and be inspired by that. I think it just shows that there’s so much that you can do to have an impact in your community and create a positive from tourism, which isn’t always seen as that. So yeah, I think that was just one really awesome example of somebody doing something amazing with the platform of leading tours. And we were able to sit down and talk and pick her brain. Just like everyone else, she’s just so forthcoming and so willing to share. And you feel like you come away with a relationship that can not only benefit us but can actually benefit our hometown if we implement some of what she’s doing.
Shane: Absolutely. We met and I said okay, we’re just doing 10 minute interviews. You deserve a full hour.
Shane: Let’s talk in December. I want to give her a full hour because it’s such an inspiring thing that she’s doing, so [crosstalk 00:07:02]
Alice: Absolutely. And it grew out of the work she was already doing, so it was just a phenomenal idea.
Shane: Did you attend the reztech panel yesterday with Fareharbor and Peek and Rezdy, because I heard that was an interesting one.
Alice: The lingo is still thr-… Yes, that was interesting. I don’t know if you have any comments.
Torin: Yeah, I actually was, I think one of two people that stood up and asked a question at that panel. And you know, they were going pretty hard. They were bringing the fire and challenging each other. And it was just really interesting. And so my question was, “Hey, seeing you guys compete like this and go at each other, it makes me feel, as a small tourpreneur, it makes me feel wanted.” And I said, “Would you be willing to compete by lowering your rates?”
Torin: It got a chuckle, but I think my larger point was, compete for us. If they were buying a house from us, it looks like we would have been getting cash offers, and they would have had to pay over our asking price, because they were obviously very much wanting those of us, tourpreneurs in the audience to go with their particular brand. And so I think that that’s a message to all of us that we have power collectively. And if we can harness that and if we can take that approach, then we may be the little guy, but collectively we can improve the situation for all of us.
Shane: And you’re still working with Fareharbor if memory serves?
Shane: How’s it working out with them this year?
Alice: We’ve been very happy. We’ve been with them from the beginning, and that was maybe one thing that I felt like Fareharbor didn’t represent themselves the same way we’ve experienced them. We’ve had nothing but really excellent customer service, super responsive, super friendly whenever we’ve met the Fareharbor team here at the Fareharbor conference ahead of time and just the people who stick around at Arival. I feel like we’ve gotten to know some of the people, and they’re just good people.
Shane: They are, they are.
Alice: And I think the Fareharbor’s presentation came off a little bit colder.
Shane: You’re not the first person to… I missed it because I was interviewing, hopefully Douglas and Bruce are going to allow us to air the Arival sessions on the Tourpreneur podcast that they did for the Bangkok sessions because I’m really interested to hear that one. Also read the Skift article on that this morning. And you just look around. We’re sat here right now at the networking lounge, and it’s almost like… I was looking out yesterday, you’ve got the OTAs on one side, the reztech companies, it’s almost like one of those medieval battlefields, because they’re really close to each other [crosstalk 00:10:28], like a rugby scrum almost. And I’m like wow, this is like a visualization of what’s happening.
Shane: And you’re right, all of these companies are here, they’re all spending thousands of dollars to be at Arival to get you to sign up with them. And yeah, I was really interested to read some of the comments that come out of that yesterday. I know you’re busy and you got other sessions to get off too. So I guess my question for you is what are you going to do differently when you go home to Asheville for your business, based on what you’ve heard here this week?
Alice: I actually have a very specific answer. We were already allocating some money to put into some marketing. And based on what I’ve learned here, I think we’re going to go a little bit different direction with how exactly we’re going to put those dollars in marketing. I think what we’ve learned and what we’ve seen, we’re using Wherewolf to collect some emails. And I think instead of putting money into social media, I think we’re going to focus on email marketing and see what kind of return we get from that.
Torin: And same here, I have some really specific things about what bikes we might use, and how to hire and how to train our guides, and just so many little details that came out of talking to other operators. And I have a long list that I can’t even mentally pull out right now. But it’s all there, and I think every little aspect of our business, there are going to be some tweaks and some changes. And those little things are what help you grow.
Shane: Fantastic. I’m really surprised thinking about it. So we’ve got all the OTAs and the tech companies here, but, and this is not a slight on Arival because they do an amazing job, but where are the bike manufacturers? Where’s the bus insurance companies?
Alice: Right. Yeah, insurance would be huge. [crosstalk 00:12:15]
Shane: Yeah, absolutely. This is a question I’ve got like, what’s the best insurance. And there may be reasons for that because each state is different. I don’t know. But you know, I would expect bike manufacturers because you are here. Maybe next year, maybe that’ll change.
Alice: Yeah, absolutely. That’s definitely the one of the biggest places we get ideas and where we make connections and where we think about working with people is, it makes a big difference to see people face to face and get their take directly. And so we’ve had a lot of relationships grow out of Arival from that.
Shane: Fantastic. Thank you very much for joining. Where can people find your tours online?
Alice: Flyingbiketours.com. We have a website and you can book there or give us a call.
Shane: Fantastic. Thank you both for joining today, like I said. And a huge thank you. There’d be no Tourpreneur without you both.
Alice: Awesome. Thank you. Appreciate it.
Speaker 2: Thanks for listening to the Tourpreneur podcast. Be sure to visit tourpreneur.com to join the conversation and access the show notes, including links to the resources mentioned on today’s episode. This is Tourpreneur.