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Short Interview in paper with Rick Steves 1/29 (Seattle Times)

Last year, when the pandemic first arrived, Rick Steves (travel guide, author, activist, radio and TV host, all-around European travel authority) took a long view, planning to dig in for two years without income.

He canceled all his 2020 tours and would like to lead some in 2021, but is fully prepared to wait until 2022. And he offers zero predictions.

“Nobody knows when it’s going to break loose,” he said. “You can get the best experts in the world together on a panel and nobody will know anything about the future.”
Steves said that, after 30 years of profitable touring, he can afford to keep his Seattle-based staff of 100 employed — preparing new books, editing a year’s worth of raw TV footage — at slightly reduced hours while retaining health insurance. Meanwhile, he’s working to connect his Rick Steves-affiliated guides in Europe with U.S. customers for cooking classes, language classes and other online gigs, but allows it’s “very difficult” for tour guides these days. (Though, he noted, Europeans are tending to get steadier and more substantial government assistance during the pause than their U.S. counterparts.)
He’s eager to get back to touring, but expects individuals and couples to head out first — they can calibrate their comfort levels and improvise much more quickly than a group of 25 — and will wait until his customers can have the full travel experience.
“Social distancing and Rick Steves travel are opposites,” he said. “I’m not going to sell half a tour, not going to Amsterdam to have people sit in a bubble for dinner — I’m not going to change our tours to accommodate incremental freedom.”

Steves knows he’s in a fortunate position to survive two lean years and, even in a weakened economy, expects that demand will outweigh supply. “My mission is not to profit-maximize,” he said. “If I focus on creatively and energetically and passionately inspiring Americans to stop being so afraid, to celebrate the diversity on this planet, it makes everything go better — that’s the most effective promotion. TV goes better, guidebook sales go better and there’s more interest in our tours.”

Posted by
12204 posts

Kudos to Rick for keepin his ETBD staff in Edmonds employed through this difficult time.

Posted by
25743 posts

Europeans are tending to get steadier and more substantial government assistance during the pause than their U.S. counterparts

I know of one European tour guide who can't work and gets no financial support (or very very little)

Posted by
5974 posts

That's pretty clear - so much for "hints" of tours re-opening.

I'm hoping they're using the time to do a complete re-write of their guidebooks, to provide more current guidance on things like money, insurance, telephones, etc. And maybe add some new places and sights. But I also suspect it will take months of on-the-ground research under unrestricted conditions to gather the info they need.

Posted by
267 posts

I agree with Stan. Reworking the RS guidebooks is going to be such a monumental task. For those of us who rely (and there are very many of us) on his guidebooks, we will be looking forward to updated editions. It's is sad to think of how many of the sweet little cafes and independent hotels may not be there when we are able to visit Europe again. We know from what we are seeing here at home, things will be very different, and I applaud Rick for doing all he can to help his fellow entrepreneurs.

Posted by
108 posts

I think RS reflects the views of most people. Yes, I want visit Europe in 2021 but it's not going to happen. Everybody is waiting for the dust to settle, vaccines, Covid numbers and the general feeling of being safe again.