Since I wrote my overview of peer-to-peer tours and activities back in 2014 I’ve seen a tremendous growth in this area of the travel industry. In my spreadsheet I have 71 companies listed, and I learn about new ones all the time. For the most part the business model involves locals creating listings on a website describing a tour or experience they can offer to travelers. The guides show travelers some interesting parts of their home town and may introduce them to local spots to eat or drink. For instance, some friends of mine offer a tour of their favorite bars in San Francisco as well as a walk through some of the interesting parts of the Mission District. Often these tours are of places you might not otherwise see on a commercial tour. It’s a neat business model that allows locals to earn some money while meeting travelers and showing them cool stuff about their city/town. As a traveler I much prefer these tours to the commercial offerings.
Recently two airlines have jumped on the bandwagon of this alternative tour model. It started with Iceland Air’s stopover buddy program. For a limited time Iceland Air is offering local flight attendants as tour guides for a day to travelers flying to Iceland on that airline. This sounds amazing.
This winter, you can book your very own Icelandair Stopover Buddy to travel with in Iceland. But it’s not just any adventurer — it’s an Icelandair employee!
Our staff are as versatile as they are many – they do all kinds of interesting activities when they’re off-duty, such as sea swimming, mountain biking, heli-skiing, cross-country running, knitting pink jumpers, and a lot more. You know, quirky and eccentric stuff mixed with your usual variety of extreme sports.
The service itself is free of charge, so it’s the perfect addition to your Stopover.
It’s definitely not profitable for the airline, and probably not sustainable. But if you’ll be in Iceland this winter, definitely check it out!
In February KLM introduced a variation on this theme which they are calling Layover With a Local.
Layover with a Local offers KLM travellers with a layover of 6 hours or more at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol the opportunity to turn this transfer into a trip.
As a local you can be part of this experience. Meet up with a traveller at Amsterdam Central Station, give him/her a glimpse of the city centre and enjoy a free drink together. What’s more, you will also have a chance of winning two KLM tickets to the traveller’s home country!
It is probably a bit more sustainable to outsource the tours to locals instead of just using flight attendants. With just a few adjustments to the program KLM could easily turn this into a self-sustaining or even profitable venture. Though I wonder why they wouldn’t just partner with one of the many peer-to-peer tour companies who have already built networks in Europe for this sort of thing. Regardless, it’s free in Amsterdam right now so if you’re visiting there, definitely try to take advantage of this offer!