City Tour Detroit



In this quick call, we check in with Karin Risko, the tour operator behind City Tour Detroit to learn how she is coping with the COVID-19 lockdown and how she plans to come back stronger.

Today’s episode is kindly sponsored by Checkfront.

Checkfront is the booking platform trusted by over 5000 tour and activity operators around the world. You can start your own free 21-day trial over at Checkfront.com.

Hello, and welcome to episode 72 of Tourpreneur, the world’s only weekly independent podcast for tour operators.

This week we’re doing something a little different on the show. Monday to Friday, each weekday, I’m going to be calling a tour operator from around the world, and taking the pulse on where they are in terms of their business, finding out how their tour business is dealing with the Coronavirus crisis,

  • What are their action plans during quarantine,
  • What’s the daily routine,
  • What’s their message to other tourpreneurs around the world,
  • What are they learning, to make sure their business comes out of this stronger than before?

Transcript – Karin Risko of City Tour Detroit on the Tourpreneur Podcast.


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 here is your host, Shane Whaley.

Shane Whaley:

Hello, and welcome to episode 72 of the Tourpreneur Podcast. You’re joining us for another of our daily check-ins with a tour operator from around the world. Today we chat with Karin Risko of City Tour Detroit. She is a huge fan of her city. She has a passion for showing it off. And we chat with her about how she is coping during the lockdown, what she is doing to make sure that she and her business come back stronger. You can find out more about Karin’s Tour at citytourdetroit.com and show notes including transcripts available at tourpreneur.com/72.

Let us know what you think of this format. The feedback has been good so far. We’ve got five or six of these lined up for you. If you want me to continue, let me know, [email protected] or on our various social media channels. Let me know if you’re enjoying the format. And let me know if there’s a question I’m not asking that you want me to ask your fellow Tourpreneurs.

Shane Whaley:

So how are you doing right now? How are you coping during this crisis?

Karin Risko:

You know, I am doing okay. I am going a little stir crazy. You know, we’re in the tourism business, because I personally love to do tours more than I like to do back office things. So I’m really missing going out there and meeting people. But on the other hand, I’m trying to use the time creatively, and, you know, do things that I never have the opportunity to do due to time or energy.

Shane Whaley:

And what are some of those things that you’re doing?

Karin Risko:

I have a whole list. And unfortunately we’re going into four weeks now of this, and I’ve not accomplished a lot of them, because I’ve been busy listening to webinars on how to get aid and then filing all those activities or all the … God, what do you call it … the applications that go with that. But some of the things like professional development, I signed up for these two courses, and I’ve never completed them yet. They’re paid and everything. So this is the perfect time to get ready for the season, and finesse my business a little bit better. So I hope to get done with, you know, finish those courses. And then I did set up an important meeting tomorrow with my accountant, or it’s like an accounting aid society of Detroit. I’m finally going to get my accounting system straightened out, so I’m not feverishly doing things by hand in January, manually. So hopefully we’re going to have a very productive session, and I’m going to get that accounting system to work.

Shane Whaley:

Fantastic. Yeah, no, I love to hear this, because, you know, there’s no sugarcoating, this is an awful situation. And none of us are earning any money. None of us are out leading tours. There’s a lot of horrible things going on in the world right now. But I look at this, and I think, okay, well there has to be some kind of … I don’t like to use the word positivity, but there has to be some kind of opportunity here. And I like when I hear from tour operators such as yourself that okay, “I’m finally going to sit down, and sit this course” Or “I’m finally going to learn SEO, and apply it to my website.”

Karin Risko:

Right.

Shane Whaley:

Or whatever it may be. Because we do have this time at home to kind of say, “Okay, how do we get out of this stronger or what skills can I learn that will make my business stronger as we get out of it?” One of the questions I had for you, so your business, do you employ tour guides or is it just you?

Karin Risko:

So I do have independent contractors. You know, I am somewhat seasonal. This year was going to be my big breakout that I was going to go longer and, you know, triple my income and all those kinds of things. But typically, March … or I’m sorry, January through March are my slower times. So if I get a private tour request, I might have a guide work, but a lot of times they’re on vacation. So it’s me during those times. But you know, the end of April is when I’ve got three or four different guides that step in and do a lot of the tours from that point on.

Shane Whaley:

And how are they feeling right now?

Karin Risko:

Well, one’s busy making masks. I think they are … you know, they miss the interaction with people. Everybody loves their job. Everybody who is one of my tour guides loves showing off Detroit. So yeah, they miss that opportunity.

Shane Whaley:

Yeah, no I can understand that. And what are some of your action plans during this quarantine? So you said you’re going to pick up some course, you’re joining some webinars. What have been some of your, I guess some of your big takeaways from the webinars you’ve joined? Because there’s been a lot. I’m very grateful to all those who put the webinars on by the way. But there’s been a lot lately.

Karin Risko:

Oh I agree. I’m kind of think I might be stepping back this week from all this learning.

Shane Whaley:

Yes.

Karin Risko:

I can’t. I need a break.

Shane Whaley:

Yeah.

Karin Risko:

You know, just some of the little things like I do think that videos are very important. I think people may be inundated with videos. So I’m kind of learning. I’ve been practicing. Somebody made the suggestion, you know, Facebook … I didn’t want to just go on there live with no practice. And she told me to set up a private group, and I’m the only member. So I’ve been going on there and practicing and how you know to work it. So I thought that was very helpful.

Karin Risko:

And then other webinars, a recent one that I … it was a summit. The first course in that told you about, you know, your financials and your income threshold. Something that you should never go below. Well, of course, I have to build up back to that point, because it’s usually February, March, April when income’s coming in for the summertime. And that really isn’t happening right now, but you know, what is my income thresholds going to be for the future? And then also he mentioned about … oh my God, I can’t remember the term … unearned revenue. And that is something that’s going to take place in September. Well you do need to separate that. And that’s what I’m going to talk with my accountant. How to, where do I put that money so that it’s not in my account all the time, and I’m thinking, “Oh I have this money to spend,” when in actuality I don’t.

Shane Whaley:

So was that someone saying that for your future bookings, you know, selling that far out and then is that what they meant by the unearned revenue or-

Karin Risko:

I believe that’s what my take away is that it’s really not income until you deliver the service. And-

Shane Whaley:

That’s true. Yeah.

Karin Risko:

So-

Shane Whaley:

That’s a good point, because … excuse me. You know, I see a lot of tour operators. I just bought some myself, you know, gift cards to help some tour operators out. But you know, at some point they need to be consumed.

Karin Risko:

Right. I did not do anything yet with … and the gift cards, I’m not sure if they fall in that category or not, but they probably should be, you know, especially if you’re going to have expenses that come with it.

Shane Whaley:

Yeah.

Karin Risko:

If you don’t spend it then when you’re ready to deliver that service that you do have the money. I’m not a numbers person. So that’s why I did find that seminar actually very helpful.

Shane Whaley:

Do you know what’s funny is most tour operators I speak to, not many of us are numbers people.

Karin Risko:

Right-

Shane Whaley:

There’s a few-

Karin Risko:

… but you need to know it, you know?

Shane Whaley:

Yeah. And that’s the thing like, you know, I’m admiring you for talking to your accountant and looking at this, because I can say a lot of tour … There was a tour operator I was speaking to before all this hit, and he was saying, “Oh yeah, I been in business for nine years, I’m only now hiring a bookkeeper.” And I kind of looked at him and I said, “Really?” You know, it’s all this kind of like you said, it’s the back office work that none of us really enjoy doing, because we want to be out leading tours. But I’m impressed that you’re looking at the financial side of things, because that will put your business on a much stronger footing once we get out of this.

Karin Risko:

Well I appreciate that, and I just, the people who contact, you know, who comment like on your Facebook page or in other groups that they actually know, you know, they can just figure out, you know, what their income is for that particular day. I do admire those people. You know, unfortunately I have no clue.

Shane Whaley:

Well, [crosstalk 00:10:14].

Karin Risko:

I want to be able to just run a report and know exactly where I am, because otherwise I don’t think that you can grow. And I’m tired of just going by the, you know, hanging loose here. I want to be more professional. In fact, that was my goal this year for 2020, one of my business goals, just be more professional. And right before this happened, I cleaned up my basement where I have all my things. So I really didn’t have to do cleaning during this time, because I already got it done.

Shane Whaley:

Absolutely. And if we have any financial whizzes listening to the show today, and you want to come on and share some best practices, Tourpreneur’s doors are open to you, because I do want to share solid financial advice and numeracy skills for those of us who are in the field. Not theory, but things we can do in our business that will help us. So very much open to that.

Shane Whaley:

What is your message to a tour operator who’s out there right now and feeling a little, well, very depressed and kind of upset and maybe thinking of packing in the business and doing something else, what would your message be, Karin?

Karin Risko:

You know what I think if you have to do something else for awhile, you know, go ahead and do it. And then once the passion comes back … You know, I feel like I’m starting over again for the third time. In 2012, I was getting ready, gung ho, and then I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The following year in 2013, again I’m revving up, and then my boyfriend passed away suddenly. And I really had no clue after that if I was going to go forth, because suddenly I had no passion for the business.

Karin Risko:

This time it’s a little bit different. I still do have passion so I’m just kind of sitting back. I guess sit back, breathe, be grateful for what you do have. There’s a lot of people, you know, we don’t have to be on the front lines out there exposing ourself to this disease. There’s many people … you know, luckily I was still in my slow season and had not taken deposits for my future business. Because they usually pay me, you know, they’re tour operators, so 30 days before or two weeks. So fortunately I did not have to return very much money. So I am in a little different situation, and my expenses are a little bit lower.

Karin Risko:

But I just, you know, breathe and be grateful for what you have and then be intentional. You know, every … there’s a lot of noise out there. So many webinars, so many gurus out there … you know, do this video, do that. Well I think video’s great, but do you want to get drowned out? So be intentional. What are you going to do? You don’t have to implement it today. You can implement it three weeks from now when other people who jumped in at first might already be tired, you know, it’s not sustainable for them anymore. And then you come out with your products or your videos … or I’m going to come out with a workbook, you know, for kids. I mean, we’re going to be in this for a few more weeks. So it’s not like you have to do everything right now.

Shane Whaley:

I agree. And I love what you said about stepping back this week, because there were four or five different webinars that I know of. There’s probably more that were being held. And I think it’s just, you know, there’s so much information out there. And it’s like when you read a book, I’m terrible for reading a really good business book, and then I move onto the next one without acting on what I’ve just read.

Karin Risko:

Yes, yes.

Shane Whaley:

So take a bit of time out, going over your notes or watching it again, and then saying, “Okay, what three things am I going to implement from this webinar, or whatever it may be, in my business over the next week?” And make yourself accountable. I think that that’s the important task when you’re consuming the webinars.

Shane Whaley:

So Karin, thanks for coming onto the show. I look forward to finding out more about your origin story and how you built City Tour Detroit on a future episode. Once we’re out of the pandemic and things are back to normal, I want to get back to our hour long episodes where we do a deep dive on all our Tourpreneur listeners’ businesses.

Karin Risko:

My pleasure, Shane, and I am one of your biggest fans. I love your podcast. I only wish it would have been around four years ago. It’s like all of a sudden there’s all these resources. You know, when I first got started it was like where were all these things? But I love your show. Thank you very much.

Shane Whaley:

Thank you. You do raise an interesting point there about the resources, because I’ll often say to people that tours and activities is the last bastion of online travel to be conquered. And everybody knows where to go to book a flight and where to get a hotel. But with tours and activities online, it’s still very, very early. And I think there’s all this attention on our sector, and certainly money coming into the bigger OTAs, because it’s like the gold rush to California when you think about it. About how many tours you can book online and through all the different booking platforms, you know, you can be online and take the booking without having to answer the phone. So that’s why there’s so much resource out there right now.

Shane Whaley:

And thank you very much for your kind words about the show. I love doing it. I love sharing the knowledge, and the goal is always for me how do we flatten the learning curve?

Karin Risko:

Well, you’re doing it.

Shane Whaley:

Thank you, Karin.

Karin Risko:

Thank you. Bye-bye.

Speaker 3:

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.

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Episode Resources

City Tour Detroit

Karin Risko

Shane Whaley is the Producer and Host of the Tourpreneur Podcast. He is also the curator in chief for the Tourpreneur Daily Brief. Shane has worked in the travel industry for almost twenty years.