Ep. 37 — Meet David Naczycz of Urban Adventures, NYC

10 minutes with David Naczycz of NYC Urban Adventures. David sat down with Tourpreneur Podcast Host Shane Whaley and revealed how built his tour company and why he decided to work with Urban Adventures.

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Interview with David Naczycz of New York Urban Adventures Transcript.

Shane:                                      And welcome to Tourpreneur at Arrival presented by Checkfront. Today we’re joined by David Naczycz of Urban Adventures NYC. How are you?

David Naczycz:                    Good, how are you?

Shane:                                      Fantastic. I’m really happy to get to talk to you.

David Naczycz:                    Yeah.

Shane Naczycz:                   So I was looking at the website earlier on. You have at least six tours, right?

David Naczycz:                    Yeah, actually we’ve cut back.

Shane:                                      Okay.

David Naczycz:                    Because we were up to 12.

Shane:                                      Right.

David Naczycz:                    We got a little excited and decided to scale back a little bit. But yeah, I think we’re running seven right now. Like total public tours in New York. Yeah.

Shane:                                      So you have the public tours and then custom tours?

David Naczycz:                    Yeah, yeah. We’ll do … we do private versions of the public tours. And then we’ll do a custom build tour, bespoke.

Shane:                                      And what’s your most popular tour?

David Naczycz:                    Our bestseller in New York is our Tenements Tales and Tastes tour, which is also my favorite tour. I hate saying that, but people always ask me that. Like, “What’s your favorite tour?” And I’m like, “They’re like my children. I don’t know.”

David Naczycz:                    They’re all my favorite tour. But the Tenements was our first tour when we joined Urban Adventures. And it’s a great food tour about the Lower East Side. But the thing I love about it is the story is so great. It is the story of America. And through food. It’s unfortunately become even more relevant in these times, but it’s such an important story, and I think it’s a story everyone needs to hear. So.

Shane:                                      Yeah, absolutely. I was also very happy to see you had a dog friendly brewery tour, a beer tour.

David Naczycz:                    Oh yeah, that’s our latest. We had a brewery tour for a while and then we were just like, you know, let’s make this one for dogs. Because we had run a number, we had run a few, we called them pub crawls.

Shane:                                      Right. Nice.

David Naczycz:                    Yeah. Because in New York, the health code laws, you can’t bring a dog into a restaurant, or any place serving food. But the breweries are an exception. Like they’re … you can bring dogs into the breweries, because they don’t have kitchens and it’s not a health code violation.

David Naczycz:                    So they’re just really great about that. And so many of us have dogs and love taking dogs to breweries. So we came up with a … we hired a guide who was very much into animal rights and dogs. And she even had her own business, like developing a cafe where people could take their pets.

Shane:                                      Oh wow.

David Naczycz:                    So she built this pub crawl for us. And we did it as a charity event a few times. It was, people loved it so much we’re like, why don’t we just turn our everyday brewery tour into a dog friendly brewery tour? Because it is, and we just weren’t advertising it that way. So, yeah.

Shane:                                      I did like seeing that. So for our listeners who aren’t familiar with Urban Adventures, can you share a little bit more about what Urban Adventures is?

David Naczycz:                    Yeah. Yeah. So Urban Adventures is a global company. It’s a subsidiary of Intrepid Group, but it operates a bit like a franchise. So it’s not technically a franchise, it’s a license, but independent operators like myself in cities all over the world can get the … there’s one license per city. So you get the license to operate Urban Adventures tours in that city, and then you can operate tours as Urban Adventures.

David Naczycz:                    And then the reason you would want to do that is Urban Adventures generates sales for you through their own efforts, through their own global website and their own relationships. So you’re getting sales sent into you by the global parent. But then they also provide a network. You know, we get together a few times a year.

David Naczycz:                    It’s a little bit like Arival in that I get to have this network of tour operators that I can lean on for advice and support. And then on top of that they have been in this business. So I’m learning stuff from them and you know, other opportunities.

David Naczycz:                    One of the opportunities that I’ve taken advantage of is to open up additional Urban Adventures cities. So, you know, we looked at the available licenses and you know, began acquiring these other cities. And it was a way to expand that was much more economical and efficient than just creating my own brand and trying to build an expansion company off of that. So.

Shane:                                      Sure. So I know these are short 10 minute interviews, so we haven’t got time to go into everything about it, but we have a lot of people who listen to Tourpreneur who are what I call tourpreneurs in waiting. They really want to launch a tour. They’re nervous, understanding there’s a lot of risk. Why do you think it’d be worth some of our listeners taking a look at Urban Adventures?

David Naczycz:                    I think Urban Adventures is an amazing model. I mean, so I think we live in a time in this industry where being a small local independent tour operator is a tough road. And there are all these global, large companies moving into this industry, and you’re not going to have the clout or the influence to make yourself visible within that marketplace.

David Naczycz:                    So by being part of such a, ultimately a really big company like Intrepid, we have partnerships with cruise lines, with hotel groups.

Shane:                                      And they do all that for you. So-

David Naczycz:                    With the New York Times, you know. And that’s, that is, comes from the global influence of Urban Adventures, and the fact that we’re all working collectively. So to me it’s a way to supercharge growing a tour business. And I still own my tour business. It’s not like I don’t own it.

Shane:                                      Right.

David Naczycz:                    So I’m still an entrepreneur. So, yeah.

Shane:                                      Yes. And do they do most of the marketing for you then on digital side? Or do you still have-

David Naczycz:                    So I still have a local site.

Shane:                                      Right.

David Naczycz:                    So I’m still doing local marketing, both physical and digital.

Shane:                                      Okay, yeah.

David Naczycz:                    And they handle sort of the big global fish.

Shane:                                      So they’ll work with the OTAs and people like that?

David Naczycz:                    Yeah. They’ll do a TripAdvisor, GetYourGuide, all those big players that are global. And then they have their own global website that draws traffic. And then I have my local website and my own local distribution. So.

Shane:                                      So when I go to nycurbanadventures.com that’s your site?

David Naczycz:                    That is me. That is my local site.

Shane:                                      And in terms of your distribution mix, how does that look?

David Naczycz:                    That’s what we started to work on quite heavily. Because we were doing extremely well with all of the OTAs.

Shane:                                      Yes.

David Naczycz:                    Through 2018 I had grown 100% year over year. And then 2019 happened, and the wind went out of the sails for some reason, particularly with TripAdvisor Viator. So I was overly dependent on OTAs for our sales. I mean we had a lot of local sales. We had other distribution, but realized that OTAs had sort of crept up to where they were 50, 60% of my business. And I was fine with that until this year happened, and now I’m not fine with it anymore. So now I’m looking to diversify both in product and in distribution.

Shane:                                      So the warning here, the tip from David is not to put all your eggs in one basket.

David Naczycz:                    Do not, yeah.

Shane:                                      Why’d you think it dipped?

David Naczycz:                    Honestly, one of the advantages of being with Urban Adventures before was a technology advantage, because Urban Adventures was linked to API, to Viator three years ago. And so we just had an advantage on those platforms against other suppliers. And those platforms didn’t yet have so many suppliers.

David Naczycz:                    But with the influx of investment and the goals that these companies now have, their objective is to sell the most tickets and capture the most users. Which means they also have to have the most suppliers.

Shane:                                      Yes.

David Naczycz:                    So all of a sudden the competition shot up, the technology advantage was diminished, and the result was we didn’t see the growth this year that we had seen in previous years.

Shane:                                      What would you say is the best thing that’s happened to you in the tour business since you started?

David Naczycz:                    You know, I mean every day I get to do … I started in this business because I love showing people around.

Shane:                                      Yeah.

David Naczycz:                    I just did it. My friends were actually sick of it, you know, was like, “Oh you should get someone to pay you to do this,” right? So, I mean, I get to do the thing they say, that dream thing, you get to do what you just like to do. Right?

David Naczycz:                    So I get to do that every day. We do tours about food and drink. Every day I do that. I’m in the travel industry, which is definitely one of the most fun industries there are.

Shane:                                      Without a doubt.

David Naczycz:                    Yeah. So I mean, to me that’s the best thing that’s ever happened. The other best thing is just joining Urban Adventures and the people I’ve gotten to work with, the relationships I have, is friendships. It’s been great.

Shane:                                      Yeah. What is one of the resources, tools or apps that you use the most often to manage your business?

David Naczycz:                    We use FareHarbor for local ticketing, though Urban Adventures has another platform globally that they could do ticketing on.

Shane:                                      Right.

David Naczycz:                    So we sort of balance those. I would say that one is probably the most key. I mean beyond that, the Google suite, G Suite, we use that for just about everything, so.

Shane:                                      Yeah, absolutely.

David Naczycz:                    Yeah.

Shane:                                      What words of wisdom do you have for other tour operators who are listening in to the show today?

David Naczycz:                    I don’t think I have any words of wisdom. I always question if I have actual words of wisdom. So with that caveat, I will offer some up. But one of the things I’m most passionate about is sustainable travel. It’s one of the reasons I got into this business. And one of the reasons I joined Urban Adventures was because the shared value they had with sustainable travel.

David Naczycz:                    And so I look at the state of our travel industry as a world and as a nation. And what I see isn’t that great. To me, we’re not serving our customers well. We’re not serving our communities well, and we’re not serving the earth very well. And I would say that of the parts of the travel industry, that tour operators are the least offensive part.

David Naczycz:                    Because you know, mostly we’re doing small groups, we’re local, we’re very focused on preserving the environment we’re working in. So you know most of the big offenders are the big corporations, the cruise lines, the airlines and all these other people who don’t care that much about it.

David Naczycz:                    But I do think it’s part of the role of the tour guide that we have to remember that our role is to guide people on how to visit a place. And part of how to visit a place is how to leave that place as good or better than you found it.

Shane:                                      Yeah.

David Naczycz:                    So I think we place that responsibility too often on the traveler. And I’ve always felt the responsibility lies with the host. Because we’re the ones that know how to live in these places, and how not to treat them. So I think that needs to always be part of our trips. We always need to be teaching people how to respect the destination.

Shane:                                      Well I’d love to invite you back on the show so we could tackle some of these, because we’ve only got 10 minutes today.

David Naczycz:                    Yeah, yeah. Sure. Anytime.

Shane:                                      These really important questions. Where can people find your website?

David Naczycz:                    Nycurbanadventures.com.

Shane:                                      Fantastic.

David Naczycz:                    Great. And hope to see you guys soon.

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.