I gave my first travel classes in 1976 and made a big mistake right from the start. I charged. (Of course, back then I didn’t have anything to sell my students so I had to.) By 1980 I realized that the best business plan was to provide extremely practical and well-designed information for free, and offer tours and guidebooks for sale if students wanted more.
Thirty years later, that’s still our formula: provide lots of helpful free content like classes, TV, and radio (we make our television and radio programs available to stations at no cost), and then — as unobnoxiously as possible — we let people know that if they want to give us some money, we have tours and guidebooks well worth considering.
True to the spirit of our business philosophy, our popular new app, Rick Steves Audio Europe (available on both iPhone and Android platforms) is also free. And each quarter we’re adding more and more content for our travelers. Just this week we uploaded 20 new files, beefing it up to a total of 200 fascinating interviews with travel experts and 30 self-guided audio tours — all organized in country-specific playlists so our travelers can zero right in on what will be of most help to them.
I love the topics featured by our expert guests in this latest update: We enjoy an afternoon tea in London, attend a traditional Turkish wedding, follow the path of Martin Luther’s historic pilgrimage to Rome, and learn what it’s like to raise kids in a small Italian village. We visit historic Civil War sites with Ken Burns, get armchair travel recommendations from “rock star librarian” Nancy Pearl, and learn about the history of everyday life from humorist Bill Bryson. And we talk with my son Andy about student travel in Europe, and how it’s changed a lot since I was a student bumming around Europe a few decades ago.
If you don’t already have our free Rick Steves Audio Europe app, give it a try — it’s better than ever. I hope you can download it today. As we measure profit in trips impacted (rather than dollars earned), that would be really helpful for our bottom line.
Thanks and happy travels!