For those not familiar with Goldilocks, I’ll summarize the old fairy tale in four lines. A little girl with golden hair wanders into an empty cabin and samples each of three different items ~ food, chairs, beds etc. In each case, she prefers the middle choice over the extremes, for example, warm food versus hot or cold. “Everything in moderation,” the old saying goes, and Goldilocks was nothing if not a moderate. She took the middle road with every choice.
When a guided tour requires some kind of a vehicle (that is, not a walking tour), I find the middle road less traveled. Sure, the two extremes are offered ~ large tour vehicles like the “Big Bus” that corrals 40-60 people at a time through a tour (mooo!) and the very small tour vehicles (bikes, Segways) where individuals follow a guide like a motorized flock of geese. What’s missing? The Goldilocks’ choice! Missing are tours designed for a vehicle that is not too large, and not too small, but perfect for parties of four to six people (like youraverage family.)
In other words, what’s missing are tours designed for cars. But I have good news! Goldilocks is about to be rescued…by the Uber driver.
The Uber driver (or Lyft. I am not prejudiced) does not need to be a tour guide or even speak English. He just needs to pick up the party in a clean car, launch a mobile tour app in the party’s preferred language (“Mandarin? We can do that!”), expertly drive the route while the tour audio plays through the car speakers, safely deliver the party “home,” and collect a fee. The fundamentals and enabling technology are no different than the Big Bus tour I recently took with my wife and 91 year old mother. Only the scale and route to market is different.
Please understand, I liked the Big Bus tour. I guessed, correctly I think, that my hard-of-hearing mom would prefer the pre-recorded content to the live guide, who looked like a hip hop star and whose microphone was distorting. I switched back and forth from live to pre-recorded, and both feeds were excellent in different ways (“Hey! I like hip hop!”). My wife, who is from Brazil, said the pre-recorded Portuguese content was equally excellent. The big problem with the Big Bus is shown in the picture.
We were packed in like sardines. There was no “look to your right” or “look to your left.” There was just “hang on to the strap and don’t make eye contact.” (Oh, and don’t drink too much iced tea before you get on either.) To complicate matters, my mother uses a wheelchair, so “hop on and hop off” is not an easy task for us. Mom moves with the speed of a glacier melting ~ there is no such thing as a “hop.” The Big Bus staff were plenty patient and helpful with her, but we couldn’t be sure the other 50 tourists would be, so we just stayed in our seats.
I paid a pretty penny for those three Big Bus tickets and, frankly, it wasn’t the right fit for us. We are the Goldilocks type. We would have done much better with the same tour content in a private car with a hired driver, which I find in abundance outside the US, but rarely in English. I see this as a vast opportunity for the drivers of car sharing services.
Finally, we were intrigued by these cool little storytelling cars shown in the picture, but they only seat two and we couldn’t see ourselves sharing the road with relatively huge American cars in a set of yellow go-karts wearing only bicycle helmets. Scary. Again, I suspect this solution plays better outside the US where the cars are smaller. Plus, mom only drives a stick shift. No, I’m not kidding.
Nah, I’m waiting for Uber or Lyft to announce a program like the one I described. It will be a Cinderella story with a very happy ending. Your thoughts?
Brant Huddleston is the author of the free ebook “How to Build a Robust Tourism Economy Using Mobile Technology: A Non-Technical Guide for Executives, Tour Operators, and EconDev Professionals”