Free Walking Tours have become increasingly popular in the past decade or so, all over the world. While the concept has existed for about twenty years already, the quality and reputation of free tours have improved remarkably in recent times, thanks in no small part to the commitment of free tour providers to craft tour experiences of an incredibly high standard.
One such free tour provider is Estadventures which was recently recognized as the best free tour in Tallinn, one of the best free tours in the world, and the best free tour company worldwide at the annual Freetour.com awards 2022.
We got some insight from Kadri at Estadventures to find out a little more about what makes for an award-winning free tour company, highly regarded free city tours, and tips for new free tour providers thinking of creating free tour services in their own cities.
Top tips for creating excellent free walking tours
The beautiful capital city of Tallinn is a heady mix of old and new. The intriguing Old Town, immaculately preserved medieval architecture, and historic main square are punctuated by cafes, shops, and the vibrant buzz of a cultural center. This, and the centuries of fascinating, if tumultuous, history oozing from every cobblestone makes for the dream destination to explore on foot – and Estadventures has succeeded in creating the best free walking tour in Tallinn for doing just that!
Established in the Estonian capital more than ten years ago, Estadventures made a decisive shift in direction in early 2018, according to Kadri, to simplify their offering with a focus on “hearing what the customers want versus having loads of different tours of different lengths. In the early days, we wanted to please everyone, and give as much as we could. That really is not good in the long run, so having a nice balance is crucial”.
It’s a move that paid off, with their twice-daily free tour, Tallinn in a nutshell, earning a Freetour Award, and their second free tour, Communist Stories of Tallinn, highly rated and reviewed.
Indeed, keeping things simple and listening to your audience are pillars of Estadventures’ philosophy, and something Kadri recommends new free tour providers take heed of. Her top three tips for new free walking tour companies are:
- Listen to your customers. If you can understand them, you will understand how to (re)design your product too. And be patient.
- Have a nice trustworthy team. You can’t, and shouldn’t, do everything on your own. Learning how to delegate and trust others to share the company vision has been the crucial point of our success.
- Be kind. In our company, we treat everyone in every job position as equal. There’s no ‘boss’ nor someone below, everyone is equal, simply having different tasks.
Awards are not the goal, just a recognition!
While the annual Freetour Awards serve to highlight, celebrate, and honor the ongoing achievements of the best free tour operators all over the world based on the real opinions, ratings, and reviews of verified free tour users who’ve booked their city tours on the Freetour.com platform, Estadventures takes such accolades in their stride, without letting it go to their heads.
“Years of doing these tours has actually made us really humble”, says Kadri. “I remember when we first reached #1 on TripAdvisor, that pride really got into my head. It was an almost toxic thing that made you want ‘being the best to be your entire identity”.
It was during the pandemic, an incredibly tough time for most tour operators internationally, that Kadri was able to step back and reassess the aspects of being a free tour provider she really valued.
“The pandemic really forced us to calm down and digest everything… so when we found out we won the Freetour awards, I was simply happy and obviously really proud of our team, but the most important thing is that I know we are giving our very best in each tour”.
Perhaps there’s some valuable insight for new free tour operators too in this approach; focus on doing your best in every tour to deliver a valuable experience for your guests, and the reviews, ratings, and awards will follow.
“We are always so flattered by customers' reviews”, Kadri continues, “some even bring tears to our eyes, but not focusing on being ranked #1 has lifted this huge pressure from our shoulders that ultimately makes us better. We are incredibly happy of course (to earn the awards), but we don’t let that define us”.