What exactly is the ‘B side’ of tours? Pedro DeMarche, of Spanish tour operator, Sixthrills sat down with Tourpreneur Host Shane Whaley, and shared more about the mission of their company.
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Interview with Pedro Demarchee of Sixthrills.com – Full transcript.
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 Whaley: And welcome to Tourpreneur ad Arival presented by Checkfront. We are joined by Sixthrills.
Shane Whaley: Do you want to introduce yourself to our listeners?
Pedro: Hello, Mr. Shane. So I’m Pedro. I work for Sixthrills. We are a company that operates tours based in Spain, Granada, the city of Del Hambre. So they should visit us sometime.
Shane Whaley: I’d love to, big fan of Spain.
Pedro: Yeah, you totally should.
Shane Whaley: Yeah.
Shane Whaley: So when did you start your business?
Pedro: So I actually joined the business about two and a half years ago.
Shane Whaley: Okay.
Pedro: Yeah. The business is like 15 years olds now. It’s quite mature on what we do. I mean we have a slogan that we love non-tourism tours. And this is the way we operate pretty much. So this kind of counter intuitive mood of doing things.
Shane Whaley: How do you mean?
Pedro: People really see us as the B sides of the touristic scene in the city and that’s what we try to be. We try to make things different.
Shane Whaley: So how are your tours different from the standard tours?
Pedro: So for example, our favorite, basically is the night adventure. We do the night adventure on Granada, which is like a visit around the old town. And then the gypsy town and then the hippie part of the city. And we do some routes around kind of forest. And then we invade the monuments, “invade” quote unquote, because we don’t really invade it, it’s a public part. But we climb, we get dirty. And that’s quite cool because I mean people really experienced something different than they see the real B-side of the city. So they expect something and they get something else. And usually surpass their expectation.
Shane Whaley: So if I’m coming to your region and I don’t know about you, how do people find you?
Pedro: For a long time we’ve been a target of many bloggers, especially people from Asia and some people from the United States as well. People write about us because we like to think that we are like a communications company. So we give everything that is possible for people to talk about us and generate content about us. We’re very open about that. Obviously we sell through channels as well, like TripAdvisor, Expedia. We have our booking page. We do lots of direct sales. So basically the company started with direct sales.
Shane Whaley: So how much of your business would you say is direct?
Pedro: Now we have a massive volume online so it went down to 15% of direct sales. Because I mean we’re not going to be hiring staff just to be selling directly. But I would say two years ago was a 70%. so nowadays things have changed quite a lot.
Shane Whaley: Yeah.
Pedro: And everything is online. But I mean we still value so much the direct sales because there are a few things that we can only do directly. For example like customize super well for the customers how to do things properly. Like, oh a transfer combined with a tour A, combined with the tour B. And then something else. You can only kind of do this packages.
Shane Whaley: Which OTA is doing the best for you?
Pedro: Right now we are working with Expedia and Viator, which is like TripAdvisor. From the OTA, I think that TripAdvisor is the one that gives us more volume. But honestly our webpage is doing best for us right now because we invest quite a lot in advertising and content on our behalf.
Shane Whaley: Right.
Speaker 5: Shane Whaley: And in terms of advertising, what channels are you using to advertise?
Pedro: We are using Google ads.
Shane Whaley: Yeah?
Pedro: Google ads. Because I mean we do some retargeting on Facebook, but the massive amount of sales that we do through our page is done through people that are actually actively searching for something to do in the city. And we got that to the point. So it’s working quite well.
Shane Whaley: Brilliant. And who are you using for your booking platform?
Pedro: We’re using Checkfront now. And Checkfront has been our partner for I think more than six years now. I wasn’t there when we started using Checkfront. But from the last two years, I really did quite a lot to implement Checkfront all across the company. Because I mean we were only using Checkfront for the online bookings. And then nowadays we use Checkfront for everything.
Shane Whaley: So what else do they do that you use?
Pedro: Checkfront is flexible enough in a sense that we can do pretty much everything. So what we’ve done from two years ago, is we’ve teared, we’ve put it together, we’ve twisted and we broke it and we put it back. And we betrayed Checkfront and we’re back with Checkfront. And now we have a stable relationship with them. Because they have many characteristics that are interesting for us to work in a starfish kind of way. Because our company actually operates basically in a starfish way. So it’s not like a pyramid. It’s like a multi-leadership thing. And Checkfront provides us with that. So basically everyone that has an admin access to the platform can change the status, can do comments, can modify reservations.
Pedro: And one of the main things for us to control the reservations is the status. So I mean we have a color scheme and we have a workflow that is defined by the team. And the thing is that you can change. Sometimes it changes overnight to suit the actual needs. So it’s quite interesting because for example, the other day with just out of the sudden to solve a problem that we had that day, we created a status that was referring to a new project that we actually had experience doing but was not listed. So I mean we solved that just by using status. So it’s quite interesting to have the opportunity to be flexible in that way, you know? So Checkfront has been quite nice. They also have amazing support, stellar support. Shout out to Checkfront people, they’re amazing. Yeah.
Pedro: Never happened.
Shane Whaley: Okay.
Shane Whaley: What would you say is the biggest frustration for you about the tours and activities industry? Or what’s the biggest challenge facing you today with your business?
Pedro: I would say the many people still are not used to the idea of doing a guided tour. Many people are up to try that. And we have very many first time customers, like first time in a guided tour. Yeah. Because Granada is super touristic. And almost all these people that do first time a tour, are coming from the direct sales. So we have very good sales people. Yeah? So shout out to our sales reps in Granada. You guys are awesome.
Shane Whaley: Yeah.
Pedro: Yeah. And then basically we don’t like the idea of convincing people. We like the idea of when people understand that you can really profit from having an experience of going on a tour with people that really understand what they are looking at. They really understand the context of what is being seen. Because the city that we are based is super dense. Yeah? So if you go there, you’re going to enjoy it because it’s beautiful. But apart from that it’s super amazing. There are so many aspects of it. There are many points of view of it. For example, the Jewish way of looking at it, the Arabic way of looking at it, the Muslim way of interpreting the stuff, the Alchemico way of interpreting for example, the Alhambra. And I like this kind of stuff.
Pedro: So I mean the struggle is to sell the value, but we don’t struggle so much. I mean we got that quite solved.
Shane Whaley: And where can people find your tours online? What’s your website?
Pedro: So basically our website is sixthrills.com. S-I-X, T-H-R-I-L-L-S.com.
Shane Whaley: Fantastic.
Pedro: And you can also find those on TripAdvisor and Expedia. And we just hit the Mark of 6,000 reviews today.
Shane Whaley: Wow, all right!
Pedro: So we are happy.
Shane Whaley: Congratulations.
Pedro: Thank you very much sir.
Shane Whaley: Thank you for coming on the show.
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.