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Diversity among RS Tour Participants?

Hello, I am thinking about doing my first Rick Steves Tour (not sure which one). I just finished watching the online 45 min video of the Rick Steves Tour Experience. Now I'm even more interested in taking an RS tour. However, I was struck by the apparent lack of racial diversity among participants in the featured group (granted it was only one group). RS veterans, can you describe how diverse (or not) the participants were? I imagine there's not much socioeconomic diversity because of the price point, but how about age, race, LGBT, married/single, etc.? All things being equal, I'd prefer to tour with a varied group. PS, I did a search of the Travel Forum on this, but didn't find much. Thank you in advance

Posted by
599 posts

On my two tours, the vast majority of participants were white married couples in the 50-70 year age range. Each tour had 1-2 younger couples and a few singles. Neither tour had any racial minorities and on both of my tours I believe everyone was American.

Posted by
6532 posts

Only one tour, mostly skewed by age and gender. I was the youngest (40), along with the tour guides. Then the age range skewed much older (mid 50-70+); several solo women; predominantly women (90%+ of tour participants); all Caucasian except one Asian; small number of participants from Canada, one from England, and majority from US (mostly northwest/ west coast area). Despite the lack of diversity, I still had a great time - so hopefully you won't let that deter you. The group was great and easy to get along with.

I think you will get a totally different response by tour type and date - there are some tours that draw more families with kids or couples, especially when school is out. My tour was to southwestern Turkey in October.

Posted by
31215 posts

Julie,

On the eight RS tours that I've taken, the majority of participants have been in the 50-70 age group as mentioned in the first reply. One tour included a young lady about 17 who was on the tour as a graduation present with her grandmother. There have always been a few singles (including myself) of both genders. In terms of "racial diversity", there were two couples from India on one of my tours.

The tour composition will vary from one group to the next, and I don't think there's any way to guarantee being with a group that fits your exact parameters. You'll probably just have to "take your chances" like the rest of us. One other thing to mention is that without exception, the groups I've travelled with have all been wonderful people.

Posted by
16815 posts

Hi, Julie. We heartily welcome travelers from all backgrounds! Please join us! As you realize, we've only sent a professional photographer out with a few groups over the years, so the photos and videos are a small sample (we never use stock photos), and we don't keep statistics.

This is my personal experience from about 25 tours I have worked on, mostly September or October departures. Travelers age 50+ are a big demographic in the country and a large portion of my groups. But there have almost always been some true singles and/or friends traveling together and some representatives of 20s, 30s, and 40s age groups. Married couples and unmarried couples. Parent and child combos, although the school-aged kids are more likely on the summer departures. West-coast residents are a big part of our audience, but we also draw from other regions of the country, and from Canada, and an Aussie mother and daughter joined my last trip. Asian-Americans and Asian-Canadians have probably provided the most "racial diversity," but I've personally hosted (if I recall correctly) two black couples and three or four gay couples (one at a time; one couple is about eight percent of a tour group). Religious and political diversity is harder to gauge.

I think the most striking thing about the groups I've worked with is how well they've traveled together. Whichever person might have expected to feel like the "odd man out," I don't believe their fear was ever realized. Someone almost always asks, "this dynamic has been so great; are we your best group ever?" And I have to answer that all my groups have been great. If you will be a single traveler, you'll find other threads in this forum discussing that topic.

Posted by
467 posts

Hi Julie -- on our BOE21 tour (NOT a family tour), there were 10 teens, ranging in age from 14-19, traveling with either one or two parents. I believe this is an exceptionally high number of teens for this tour. One family was two moms with their daughter. The majority of adults were in their 40s and 50s, with a few older than that. The group was mostly white. I found everyone to be very open minded and welcoming of everyone else. I do think the specifics of the tour (no grumps policy; carry on luggage only; hotels may or may not have elevators but will be centrally located; tours are strenuous; etc.) attract people who seem to get along really well together.

I believe you can contact the travel office ahead of time if you are interested in a specific tour/date and they can give you some info ahead of time about the makeup of the group (number of teens, for example).

We made such great friends on the tour, and have traveled cross country to stay in contact with them!

Posted by
62 posts

We were looking at a recent email from Rick Steves with a photo of all the guides and noticed that they all seemed to be white and then thought about the participants on the seven tours we've taken with RS. There was an African-American woman on one tour and then a few years later we ended up on another tour with the same woman and she brought her new husband, also African-American. There was a Korean woman on one tour and a Korean man on another tour, but it has been pretty caucasian for the most part. The groups skew a little older, but there are always at least a few couples or singles in their thirties or twenties, and often a teenager with parent(s). Once there was an eight year old with parents, and she seemed to get along fine as well. It's kind of a contrast with Road Scholars which seem to make a point of being more inclusive, at least in the photos on their website and catalogs.

Posted by
467 posts

I wanted to add that I work in the area of Diversity and Inclusion at a large university, and I think I am hyper-aware of who is/is not represented wherever I happen to be. We did the BOE tour in July, and almost everywhere we went the crowds of tourists seemed to be 98% white and Asian. So the lack of racial diversity may not solely be a RS Tours issue as a who-is-most-likely-to-choose-to-vacation-in-Europe issue???

Posted by
826 posts

Hi. I have been on several RS tours, and the groups have been pretty varied, though skewing middle aged and white. I am beginning to see a few more non-US tour members. I have been fortunate to be part of groups with a wide range of ages and pairings: families with kids, young couples (honey moon), quite senior folks (90+), LGBT couples, grandparents with grandchildren, parent and child - including adult children. I too prefer a varied group. And while RS groups are small, sometimes I find I have something in common with a fellow tour member only at the end. Darn. Another aspect of diversity to contemplate while on tour is where in the US folks hail from. It is often an interesting mix.

Interesting topic, Julie.

Posted by
16815 posts

@hcota made me look at the tour guide photo/list and just out of curiosity, I made a count. Of the names listed here, half are originally from North America (and an Aussie) and half are native Europeans (from about 15 countries, including Turks). FYI, My Way tour managers are not on that list.

Posted by
6532 posts

Julie,
Also keep in mind what platforms Rick Steves uses to advertise his tours - if it wasn't for PBS (and largely my parents who watched it - and made me watch it - as I was growing up), I wouldn't know who he was. It's not surprising to me that the demographic profile of PBS viewers is reflected on his tours. There may be other ways that folks learn about Rick Steves, but my exposure to his brand of travel was entirely based on his travel specials on PBS. I don't know how he will reach out to other groups in the future as PBS viewership is skewed toward older Caucasians and is declining overall.

Posted by
34 posts

I did a BOE 14 tour in October of last year. I would agree with most of the comments above, saying the mid-age North American couple seemed to be the most prevalent group. I also hear everyone say they had solo tour members; mine had only one, which was me, and at 27, was the outlier age-wise. Perhaps that's a factor of RS being so well-known on PBS, and my generation having little interest in public TV or books.

From a geographic perspective, I found a lot of diversity. While my particular tour group seemed to skew toward West-cost folks, we covered all corners of the USA, were fans of a wide array of sports teams, and had interesting experiences to share. I guess my point is that even if you have a bunch of people that appear similar on the surface, you'll see a wide range of different backgrounds, professions, and interests.

Posted by
2786 posts

I have taken 13 RS tours (#14 in June) and the posts that you have received really summed up my experiences with the composition of the tours I have taken. I really liked the post that said that regardless of all, if any, differences, once the tour gets going, most everyone becomes well acquainted.

Posted by
3444 posts

I have taken 10 different RS tours. The latest one, Best of Italy last summer, was also the most diverse group. There was someone from South America, many Canadians, two Asians, a very old Italian couple, and the rest were white middle class people from various locations around the world including several natives of Europe. The guide was also an American who has been living in Italy for many years so you could almost call her a native. Over the 10 tours I took, there have been Indians from India, Hispanic couples, two mixed couples (Black and white), Alaskan Inuit, and many others I'm sure I can't remember right now. Why don't I remember? Because we all got along perfectly and enjoyed the tours immensely. The ages tend toward early retirement age, but there have been several newlyweds in their 30's, young families with children just old enough to handle the physical effort one of these trips requires, and me (40's when I started, 50's now). The Berlin Prague Vienna tour was the youngest average age of any right there with the Scandinavian tour (way too many Late late nights in the Ice Bars on that one!).

Also, many of the tour members are tracing down family ancestry. And since most of Europe is white, that is what most of the people are on those tours. The Paris and North France tour was almost entirely families of US soldiers who were in the D-Day invasion.

Posted by
872 posts

I've taken 4 of the city tours, and I think the age range skews slightly younger. Everyone from teens (depending on time of year), a few 20s, 30-40s and up to about 70. Mix of singles, friends traveling together, siblings and couples. I recall three travelers of African descent and at least one woman of Asian descent (interestingly, two of those were mixed-race couples) but yes, the majority were Caucasian and middle-aged. There were two Canadian couples and the rest were from all over the U.S. As others have said, the groups have been welcoming, and in general, folks seem open-minded and smart. And, yeah, a lot of us are probably watching Poldark in our free time, but that comes with the territory! :)

Posted by
4442 posts

Hi, Julie: Yes, most of the participants are middle-aged and older white Americans. But I've only been on one tour - out of nine so far, where everyone fit that demographic. On all the other tours there have been young people - ranging in age from 13 to mid to late 20's. On two tours there have been blacks, on one tour there was an Iranian-American. (That tour also had two teens - great group.) I don't know if there were any gays or LGBT; the question never came up. I'm assuming there were gays in some of the groups. And most of the tours have had at least one Canadian along. One Asian-American... I'm sure there were others.

I do enjoy the more diverse groups. The one tour we were on where everyone "looked like us" was somehow less satisfying. But again, that was only one tour out of nine. And as someone mentioned above, everyone fits it; everyone gets along.

Posted by
11450 posts

First.. Mark..just so you know.. Canadians prefer the use to use the term Inuit or First Nations to Eskimo, many Inuits here consider the term Eskimo derogatory.. apparently its still used in Alaska ( which obviously in not in Canada)

I have only taken one RS tour.. 14 Day Family Europe.

There were NINE Canadians.. myself and 11 yr old dd.. another Canadian mom and her 11 yr old.. and a family of five from Toronto.

One single man.. his parents had bought him the tour as a graduation gift and he only had a two week window he could travel so they could only find a place for him on that tour.. he loved it though..

Most of us adults were 35-45.. most kids were 10-17.

Posted by
1522 posts

I think time of year will change the demographics a bit. We usually travel during the shoulder season, where most of the group is either retired or semi-retired. Although, on both RS tours, we 've always had someone in their 30s. Our tour this summer will be in late June, so it will be interesting to see the group make- up.

Posted by
14222 posts

I took 2 tours, not much diversity. There was a gay couple on one of them. Most people didn't notice (or care) that they were more than friends. On those tours, the ages ranged from 8 to pushing 80, and 3 or 4 solo singles. People do come from diverse backgrounds, are usually well-educated, broad-minded and often well-traveled, and interesting.

I don't know where you live, but my experience visiting museums, historic sights, national parks, etc., in the U.S. is that most visitors are middle-aged, white, and married.

Posted by
524 posts

Of the spring/fall tours I have taken most were much older people. Ireland, especially had older couples, I was a young one, at age 55. The summer tours seem to have more of a mix of ages, more kids and younger couples. There have even been college age tour members. I agree, there are more Caucasian people. However, there have been Asians, Indians(not Native American), African Americans and Canadians on tours I have taken. There have been more than a few singles, of both sexes and unmarried couples. As far as I am aware, on any of my tours, there was never any issue regarding diversity.

Posted by
62 posts

We took our first RS tour last summer (14 day BOE - early June). I was concerned that we would be with a bunch of older folks (I'm late 40's, travelled with DH who is early 50's and DD's who were 19 and 16), but was surprised to see that DH and I were among the "old folks" on our tour. There was one other family where the husband and wife were similar ages to us, traveling with their 3 college-aged kids, 3 very sweet single 20-something female friends traveling together, a 40-something mom with her 20-something daughter, a 30-something couple traveling with her 60-something mother, a lesbian couple about our age, a single 20-something female (only non-American - from Mexico), and a multi-generational family consisting of grandparents, their 2 daughters (probably a little younger than us) and their 2 young teen grandsons. Long story short, an incredible age range, and while we didn't do an ethnicity check, not a lot of visible diversity other than the one Mexican national. But, the most important thing to note was that it was an incredibly fun group - lots in common just having the "Rick Steves" travel mentality - and we had fun with everyone - from the senior citizens to the young teens.

Posted by
406 posts

Second try to post this. Been on 4 RS tours. (Loved the short lived London-Paris One)

I think the shorter the trip the more diverse the age will be. Many younger people or even older people can not take off more than a week to 10 days at a time. (unless they are teachers and have the summer off) Also to consider the price while being a good value is not cheap for a RS tour and many younger people might look at less expensive options.

We have been on 3 city tours and one Venice, Florence,and Rome tour. It was our first and the most diverse in terms of age and racial diversity. On our last two city tours we have had our kids with us. The first when they were 10 and 14. That one, Paris had a college age son with his mom also on the tour. Our last London tour we only had 4 men on the tour and 2 were in my family. It did have a good mix of ages though for a very small tour only 14 people were on it.

Anyone that does a RS tour knows the drill and so I think that is why everyone gets along so well. I am now looking at a 14 day trip. I called the office and they were most helpful to see if any other teens were on the weeks we were looking at. I wish we could go earlier in the summer but alas can not so not sure if there will be any other teens on the trip. My teens are fine being the only ones and I think it is great for them to be around many different ages.

Posted by
4442 posts

To add to what I mentioned about diversity on the tours we've taken: our Best of Barcelona and Madrid group had two young black women, and a group of Filipinos and Filipino Americans. They were celebrating the matriarch's upcoming birthday. I think there were 6 of them, with ages ranging from 19 to 70-something. That was a good trip.

Posted by
366 posts

Hi Julie:

I have been on 8 RS tours. As others have mentioned, I travel in the spring and a large number of the tour members are retired. However, we did have a young man who was on a trip to celebrate graduating from medical school. The most age diverse group was on my City tour of Paris this last Christmas.

But what I have found that in no matter the gender, race or sexual orientation of the group make up, everyone was interesting, had a very diverse set of backgrounds and interests and that is what made the trips special and enjoyable.

Posted by
333 posts

The most common factor that binds RS tour members together, IMHO, age ( 50-70), and socio-economic factors (middle class folks who make professional incomes). That said, there have not been many minorities on the RS tours I have taken, but I imagine any middle class person would welcome and have a good time. Certainly a middle class minority would probably have more in common with the RS travelers than a filthy rich person western European descendant who expected 5 STAR fussing over their every need.

While most RS tour participants are married or with a 'partner', about 1/3 are single and/or traveling alone.

There have been Canadians, Australians, and Brits on some of the trips I have taken. But, not many. And with the dollar so strong I imagine even fewer than in the past.

My experience tells me that people are there to have a good time and learn something about another place, not to discriminate against others or dissect the subtleties of politics, race, religion, etc.

Posted by
4442 posts

I was just reminded that on our Best of Rome trip there were at least three people who did not fit the stereotype at all. There was one young man, who I believe was Asian-American, who worked in a grocery store. He still lived with his parents. His modus operandi was to save his money until he had enough to take a trip. After the trip, he'd go home and start back to work, saving once again until he had enough to take another trip. I think he was in his early to mid-20s. Then there were two young women, 21 or so, who were traveling together. One of them was going to be married soon, so this was a last BFF splurge. They were both hairdressers. So you never know!

Posted by
646 posts

I'm always struck by the question of diversity where it is independent of discrimination. I'm sure RS tours do not discriminate by ethnicity, age, gender, sexual persuasion, religion, or nationality. They do discriminate by income and available time. You must have the time and the income. This naturally leads to more upper middle class retired people.

The real question is whether a person who doesn't fit those parameters would feel uncomfortable.

Posted by
50 posts

My husband and I are African-American and have been on four RS tours. Other than that, we fit in socioeconomically and educationally, age wise (50's), etc. Everyone on all the tours got along fabulously. We have self-toured in countries around the world and we have taken one Road Scholar trip to Australia. I don't think my hubby and I being African-American, I can't imagine, changed the dynamic of the group one way or the other. RS tours attract like-minded travelers.

Those four tours, tended to be more west coast oriented. Among the four tours, there have been a mixed Caucasian/Asian couple, gay son/mother couple, older East Indian couple, and singles.

People self-select RS tours based on his touring philosophy. We have many African American friends and family members who also travel, just not following Rick Steves’ style.

Posted by
56 posts

My most recent tour had mostly people well north of 50, with only 4 of us in our 40s or below. I was the only male that traveled alone, although there were a few women who chose the solo option. It was a diverse enough group, with some Asian & Brazilian travelers among our number. I can't & won't speculate on the sexual preference of any of the tour members who weren't married, but in the end, how much should it matter? You're traveling to experience the culture of a faraway land, not a subsection of America on whatever tour bus you wind up on?

Posted by
1780 posts

Of the RS tours I've encountered there seemed to be diversity. Only about 1/3rd were wearing Tilley hats and not all had zip off leg pants or Teva sandals. All seemed happy to be there.

Posted by
8293 posts

Thank you, Richard for the Sunday laugh.

Posted by
7 posts

Julie, thank you for asking this question. I posed a similar question to a RS staff member before I put money down for a RS tour for my family recently.

This question has obviously struck a nerve with a few people; so let me share my own motivation. Based on the photographs on this website, and now confirmed by the responses here, my family will most likely be racially diverse from the other tour members, as well as having a different family structure. (We are a same-sex couple with a teenager.) If diversity is something you never have to think about, it is most likely that you have had the privilege of usually being in the majority. I do not expect all the other tour members to be like us, nor would we want that. But, our own experience has been that some people are not used to being around others different from themselves and can be quite rude. Like it or not, this has been our experience in our own travels over the years. I do think that we will have more in common with the other tour members than not, assuming that we all believe in the RS philosophy of travel, and the RS staffer pretty much confirmed this thought.

My family is very excited about our tour this summer – and Julie, I hope you have found one that excites you as well!

Lisa

Posted by
333 posts

"But, our own experience has been that some people are not used to being around others different from themselves and can be quite rude. Like it or not, this has been our experience in our own travels over the years. I do think that we will have more in common with the other tour members than not, assuming that we all believe in the RS philosophy of travel, and the RS staffer pretty much confirmed this thought. "

If you enjoy travel, seeing new sights and experiencing new things in your life you will have plenty in common with the other travelers, IMHO.

Unhappy, rude, bitter people are one diverse group that are very rare on an RS tour. Not to worry. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
43 posts

My husband and I have been on 12 RS tours. Our first was the 21 Day Best of Europe in Sept ’07. The youngest tour members ( a mid-20s couple) were on their honeymoon; the oldest (a couple) were 78 & 85; we had two early 40s Canadian singles; and a 45 year old single male who was absolutely giddy with delight to be free from an IT job he had held for 25 years. There was a lovely 5o-ish Black couple, the woman a Volvo executive, who generously shared her cellphone (few had them then) as she had unlimited minutes of roaming. The remaining tour members were a mix of ages 45-65. The best part, however, was we all wanted to sit in the back of the bus, where the laughter was constant. That's where the Hispanic and his American Indian wife (both in their 30s) and an Asian American female also in her 30s sat. These 3 were frequently joined by others with few joining in and laughing harder than the husband of the Volvo executive. We all felt like a mini-UN and that this diverse group could solve any problem.

Since then we have not had a tour this diverse; but we still have had good experiences. A general observation I have made is the more specific the tour (e.g.,, Village Italy) the less diverse the tour members. Most of these folks have traveled a lot already. On the 21 Day Best of Europe tour it was everyone's first experience in Europe. Oh the excitement as we laughed our way across Europe.

Posted by
4442 posts

Okay, Elle: you win the "diverse tour group" award. What a great mix!

Posted by
342 posts

My husband and I have been on 3 RS tours and soon will be on our 4th. My husband is legally blind and comes on the tour with his guide dog. We understand he is the only one that has traveled with a guide dog on RS tours. It's been an educational opportunity. People learn how a guide dog works, and they also experience how a person with little sight can get around and enjoy travel. The groups have welcomed us and have learned about living with a disability. Oftentimes people do not know how to act around someone who is "different" because they have not had the opportunity. We hope people that encounter us in our travels are more comfortable around a blind person and know the do's and don'ts of interacting with a service animal.

Posted by
284 posts

I share Lisageebee's concern. We are a retired, married same sex couple and we prefer not to be subjected to judgments and discomfort. We will defend ourselves if treated unfairly or with disdain. I would think that people would fully expect to be among all types of married couples. If people prefer to not be among LGBT people, they should travel alone or in church groups that don't have gay travelers joining them. We are tax-paying functioning members of society and we are here to participate in every manner. You might discover that we are the most enjoyable people you'll ever encounter!

Posted by
12117 posts

If diversity is something you never have to think about, it is most likely that you have had the privilege of usually being in the majority.

I can agree with that in that my spouse and I, depending on the circumstances, fall into two or three minority groups Joking about it is really in poor taste. But to be fair 99% of the posts are sincere and real attempts to be helpful. Given that, then I would expect to see the same on a RS tour. Of course, among North Americans, traveling to Europe really is more popular among rich white folks than it is most any other group, so that's just the reality. But I have faith in man kind and I suspect that you will have an exceedingly good time on the RS tour no matter what your particular circumstance. And as it was so brilliantly alluded to in one post, the opportunity to be in close quarters with 20 distinct individuals might just give you as much insight on life as the sites you visit.

Posted by
46 posts

To quote Hillary, "What difference does it make"! I have been on Cosmos tours where my daughter and I were were the only Americans. We had a fine time. The Steves tour that we took last year was all Americans and Canadians. I won't even mention races because to me, that is by its very nature, racist. Take a tour and treat everyone with dignity and respect.

Posted by
374 posts

I can confirm there's diversity on RS tours: on our Best of Paris tour last year, at least one person liked FOX News.

Posted by
4442 posts

Good one, Mike! That reminds me of what a tour member mentioned last week: On her very first RS tour, after the first group dinner, she went back to her room thinking "Oh, No! I have to spend the next two weeks with a bunch of liberals!" Well, not only did she manage the two weeks, she's now taken something like 6 or 7 RS tours. And kept her sense of humor the whole time, even dealing with a bunch of liberals.

Posted by
2 posts

I wasn't going to weigh in on this because most of the responses were a fairly good description of our three tour groups, which have had some age and geographic diversity, but not much racial diversity, but the concern from a few same-sex couples got my attention. My wife and I are a same-sex couple and we've been up front about it right from the initial meeting and never once had an issue with any of the other tour members, guides, or hotel staff. We've met another lesbian couple on our first tour, there was a gay man on our last tour, and one of our guides actually came out to us privately, and was so impressed that we were out to the group. I figure that not being open just makes people waste time wondering, and it seems good for everyone to get to know us as a couple.