We recently had our annual meeting with our publisher, Avalon Travel, and enjoyed celebrating the fact that our guidebooks are the USA’s best-selling books in each category. We’re just a little company, and I often ponder why the larger corporations struggle to keep up with us. I think a big part of our success is our creative and generous passion for making travel affordable, experiential, and meaningful.
Here’s a good example: I’ve long been frustrated by how costly and difficult it is for a budget traveler to enjoy Italy’s super-scenic Amalfi Coast efficiently. The public buses are cramped and stressful, and hiring your own driver — while a good-value splurge — is beyond many travelers’ budgets.
Two years ago, while updating my guidebook in Naples, I got to know a local tour company called Mondo Guide. And I proposed a creative solution for my readers: Why not let them split the cost of a private minibus tour along the Amalfi Coast with other Rick Steves readers?
If Italian businessmen make me wary, Neapolitan businessmen make me paranoid. I needed to be sure that Mondo wouldn’t abuse the trust of our readers. I insisted on making no money from this arrangement — I just wanted to be the conduit between our travelers and their guides. And Mondo agreed to offer their guiding and minibus services to our readers at the wholesale, insider price (for the best possible value). In addition to the Amalfi Coast drive, we also created shared walking tours of Naples and the ancient ruins of Pompeii.
Mondo Guide created a custom website to gather the groups, and we announced the tours in our guidebooks. My editorial staff partnered with Mondo to monitor the debut season and ensure that everything was on the up and up. And today, two years and 6,000 happy travelers later (yes, 6,000!), we’ve got a wonderful system established.
Just last week my lead researcher, Cameron Hewitt, took one of the Amalfi Coast minibus tours incognito as a final check and reported that it worked just as hoped. So, I’m happy to share this with you. This cooperation embodies the spirit of our teaching and writing, and we’re thankful for our readers’ support in keeping idealistic initiatives like this viable. If you’re heading to the Bay of Naples, check out Mondo Guide, and consider this unique way to save money, avoid frustrations, and maximize your experience.