Secret Food Tours are back in business, virtually for now, at least. The global food tour company was one of the first tour operators to suspend operations when the COVID-19 crisis hit. The company is owned by London based Essor Ltd and previously offered food tours in over fifty cities.
The Secret Food Tours Twitter account is a flurry with tweets announcing their virtual tours.
Teaming up with Walks, Secret Food Tours are offering bookers a $25 Secret Food Tour voucher and a $25 Walks voucher with each virtual tour purchase, suggesting that SFT is planning on offering in-person tours in the future.
Two weeks ago I was negotiating 7 figures partnership with several cruise liners and wholesalers. Today, I’m unemployed. Thank you Coronavirus.Alex Piccone
Piccone is back working with the company and in an email to Tourpreneur told us: ‘For the moment the virtual tours are under SFT. They are about one hour long and 30 to 40 minutes of the tours are dedicated exclusively to culinary experiences.
They are not cooking lessons which we all strongly believe anyone can get on any cooking channel. We are also cross-selling some of Walks tours and they are cross-selling ours too.’
Walks founder Stephen Oddo told us: ‘I’ve known the SFT team for some time, and anyone that knows me in the sector knows I’m constantly promoting the idea of operators working together, cross-selling, using affiliate and referral programs, sharing resources and ideas, whatever it may be.
I’m a big believer in the power that operators wield in the market and that now more than ever is a good time to work together toward mutually beneficial goals.Stephen Oddo, Founder, Walks
SFT’s Alex Piccone clarified that Secret Food Tours went into a ‘hiatus’ rather than closing down ‘due to cash flow issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.’
Tweets to Secret Food Tours from customers asking for a refund on canceled tours have gone largely unanswered.
The FAQ page on the SFT website states ‘We do not issue refunds as per our terms and conditions.’
One SFT customer, Alycia Dawn tweeted on May 29th: ‘I received an email stating all staff are laid off and unable to process my refunds for canceled tours how are you offering virtual tours for profit and not refunding tours?’
Hitting back at the complaints via Twitter, Piccone said ‘We’ve been running this business for 7 years and generally with over 125k unique customers per year, we are not ignoring our usual customer-centric practices.
Our bookings were always non-refundable across all channels and anyone that booked with us at any period of time accepted those T&Cs.
However, we made the T&Cs more flexible when the pandemic started unfolding…. offering to reschedule or credit with no expiry date plus a $25USD voucher.Alex Piccone, Secret Food Tours
Those who wanted credit or to reschedule for a future date were also dealt with and are aware of what their options are.
In addition to our customer service team, we also have one person that was assigned early last week to social media…. This person will start going through those messages.’
The full list of Secret Food Tours Virtual Tours available here.
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