WeRoad is turning spontaneous travel into a full-time profession for its community of trip coordinators who initially joined by leading tours without any trip-planning experience.
European small-group tour operator WeRoad, whose tours are typically run by travelers who have never visited the destination they’re leading a tour to, has doubled its traveler numbers by 50,000 in its fiscal year ending September 2023.
Over the past year, WeRoad has hosted more than half of the 100,000 customers since its inception in 2017, according to WeRoad’s CEO Andrea D’Amico. D’Amico further claimed WeRoad had generated an estimated €60M ($65 million) in bookings for the year. This year, the company expanded beyond its primary market in Italy into the UK, Spain, France, and Germany, with the new markets accounting for 20% of its business.
WeRoad trips are typically made up of 10 to 15 travelers in language-specific groups such as Italian, English, or Spanish and split according to ages of 25-30 and 30-49 years. The trips also offer a mix of pre-planned and on-the-fly experiences led by travelers who put their hand up to be trip coordinators. WeRoad rewards these coordinators for taking responsibility for the group by covering their trip expenses, such as flight and accommodation. The company also pays them an undisclosed fixed fee.
D’Amico said WeRoad has grown its coordinator community across Europe from 1,000 in 2022 to 2,500 to date.
By comparison, small-group tour operator Intrepid Travel, which started operations in 1989, facilitated 61,619 travelers for multi-day, small-group tours in 2022. The company has a global network of over 900 tour leaders and guides, and works with 27 destination management companies in 92 countries.
Trip Leaders With No Experience
But how well does a business model centered on trip leaders with no experience work?
Trips are designed to cater to the spontaneous nature of solo travelers seeking adventure over rigid itineraries, D’Amico said.
“Of course, you can be an Italian person and book a German trip, but everyone speaks German. It’s not like we do a language test. So it’s more, let’s say, an indication for the rest of you. We don’t care about your gender or orientation,” said D’Amico.
A snap look at reviews of WeRoad shows its trips have close to 90% 5-star ratings. However, lurking in the 1-star reviews are comments like, “The guides are just there for the free holiday, they have no idea about the place they are going to and the organization is just awful,” or “WeRoad are recruiting tour leaders that are young, not well traveled, very social/outgoing and not at all qualified to be a tour leader.”
D’Amico said, “We have a rebooking rate of 60%, and a third of bookings are via word of mouth.”
He further pegged the company’s growth beyond its new international markets down to the company developing its WeRoad X marketplace booking platform in 2022 to help formalize its trip coordinators offering.
The WeRoad X marketplace has shifted the company from a tour operator to a branded travel agency, allowing coordinators to independently design and lead specialized tours. As a result, the company has since added 200 new itineraries in 50 new destinations to its product offering.
Similar in concept to companies like modern travel agency Fora, WeRoad X provides a platform for individuals who want to turn their travel passion into side hustles by creating personalized travel experiences. However, where Fora charges a membership fee and commission structure for travel agents booking trips for clients, WeRoad operates a revenue share model for WeRoad X trip coordinators who physically participate in the trip.
The company did not disclose an average earning value for its coordinators, but stated, “Margins for WeRoadX itineraries are slightly lower than those for standard itineraries, reflecting the additional responsibilities of the WeRoadX coordinator.”
D’Amico further suggested the company’s customer satisfaction score remains high at 8.9, with an even higher score of 9.3 for its WeRoad X tours.
“We had many coordinators who said, ‘I want to do this as a living. I would like to create a team.’ So we did a test at the end of last summer, 2022. We told them, instead of waiting for us to create that itinerary, think [for] yourself where you want to go,” said D’Amico. “So, for example, [a coordinator] created a Kenya Safari, and they decided to do it ten times. So, they did the effort initially to design it and find the suppliers. And then they just went on doing it as a job, making a good living out of it.”
“Or there are coordinators who say, ‘I don’t do it for money. I always dreamed about going to Svalbard. I will create the itinerary myself. I just want to make sure that the trip covers my costs,’” he added.
Standard WeRoad Trip Design and Coordinator Selection Explained:
- Itinerary Design: WeRoad’s product team selects destinations and designs travel itineraries, collaborating with Destination Management Companies (DMCs) to finalize details like accommodation, transportation, and activities, along with pricing and yearly arrival forecasts.
- Coordinator Access: Travelers sign up to join the WeRoad trip coordinators community. They have access to an extranet specialized online system to view all available itineraries designed by the internal team.
- Assignment Selection: Coordinators can choose and assign themselves to these itineraries based on their preference or expertise, facilitating a bottom-up approach to tour management, according to WeRoad.
WeRoad X Coordinator Process Explained:
- Coordinator-Driven Itineraries: Under the WeRoad X model, coordinators are encouraged to design their own tours. They select the destination, plan the itinerary, and source the required suppliers.
- Cost and Platform Integration: Once a tour is designed, coordinators present the costs to WeRoad. The company does due diligence to check the quality before listing these itineraries on its platform. It runs all the administrative, marketing and distribution management processes for selling the tours to travelers.
- Quality and Responsiveness: Monitor feedback and work with coordinators to refine tours, ensuring quality and adjusting as needed, according to WeRoad.
Having a trip coordinator take responsibility for the experience might seem straightforward, but what happens if something goes wrong?
According to WeRoad’s holiday package terms and conditions, if a traveler has a problem or gets injured during the experience, the trip coordinator might have to fix it or offer compensation. However, the coordinator isn’t responsible for problems caused by the traveler, unexpected third-party actions, or unavoidable events. Travelers need to be able to show the organizer was at fault to claim.