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What happened to the Rick Steves' Tour evaluation/reports?

Hi there. Since the redesign of the website, what happened to the R. Steve tour reviews? I mean the reviews of specific Rick Steves tours? I can't seem to locate this section. It was tremendously helpful in deciding on trips (I'm a veteran of four such trips - they were almost all excellent)

Posted by
1294 posts

Laura, as far as I know, the old trip reports are gone. For each tour, however, once you click on the specific tour, page down and there is a section called "reviews" which gives a list of ratings and "wow moments", not nearly as helpful as the old tour reviews.

Posted by
672 posts

This was a great resource I've used before every tour we've gone on. Now, it's little more than a marketing tool and certainly is no use in travel planning. I really miss the reviews! I will no longer will fill out the after-tour evaluations because of this change.

Posted by
1 posts

I am agree! I have taken 2 long tours and found the current reports absolutely unhelpful and 99% marketing (5 stars 99% of the time!).
Does anyone know of other sites where people evaluate the RS tours?

Posted by
804 posts

Hello,
It is true that the format has changed. We now ask different questions of our Tour Members and some of the questions we ask are not made available publicly as they are more for our own review of our service. Yes, we read every last review. We make it known to each Tour Member as to what will be made publicly available and they have the option not to make anything available. As to the comment that 99% are 5-star reviews, while I clearly see your point, we don't edit anything back (short of curse words or personal information) or pull bad reviews. While you should trust me when I say that there are definitely some not-so-great reviews in there, on the whole, our reviews really are that good.

Regards,
RS Webmaster

Posted by
558 posts

Hi Laura,

I REALLY, REALLY , REALLY miss the old tour reviews. I ALWAYS read the tour reviews both to help me pick a tour and to get suggestions for the particular tour I had then signed up for. I really enjoyed the
'other comments' section, as that's where I found previous tour members would often make rec's about they did on their spare time (or what to skip).

I realize the tour questions changed last year and I realize not ALL data has to be published, but I wish they would add at least the' other comments' question back so I can read those answers.

I hope they reconsider what is/is not shared on the website. In the meantime, thanks for the link to the old reviews. I'll bookmark it!!

:)

Posted by
15326 posts

I've only been on one tour, four months ago. The evaluation I filled out had extensive questions that mostly corresponded to comments I'd read on the tour review section. The only notable exception I remember is that there was no question about the bus driver. When comments were finally updated, I saw that only one comment from our tour had been included, and oddly, the person only gave a 3 out of 5-star rating, but the brief comments were very positive. If she only gave the tour an overall rating of middling, I would expect to read something that she didn't like in her comments.

Now tell me that the unfailingly rave reviews aren't selective.

Posted by
260 posts

I also would urge the company to reconsider. I think it damages the integrity of this company. I used the reviews a lot, as do others. The competition still provides fair evaluations (see: Overseas Adventure Travel for example) and so should R. Steves. A glaring omission for the new website!

Posted by
260 posts

Actually, where are the "new" reviews? They aren't very easy to find on the website. I haven't found a link yet.

Posted by
260 posts

Oops. Never mind. Just found it. Other reader correct. Not nearly as useful as before

Posted by
80 posts

Another vote for the old format. Much more useful, especially the "Other" category. Why change what worked (for customers, anyway)? The information was more specific and nuanced.

Posted by
558 posts

Hi again,

I also think the star-rarings are pointless for a few reasons. First of all, if Andrew mentions that they're 99% positive, then what is the point of having them anyway? Pretty much every review I look at now will say that and so why should I look at the star rating to begin with? (I have no doubts that they ARE 99% positive). Essentially, they are meaningless. Secondly, if you want to include them, then I need to know something about WHY or WHY NOT a person gave it a particular rating (ESPECIALLY if it was NOT 5 stars). For example, of Charlie came on here and gave a tour a 3 to 4 star rating I would definitely wonder about that tour. I know he's done at least 9 or 10 tours already so clearly he is knowledgeable about the RS product as well as what does/doesn't make a good tour. However, if Joe Schmoe gave it a 3 - how do I know if they are: just used to a super-expensive tour company and therefore weren't used to the RS style, or, have done three other tours but this one they just didn't click as well with the other tour members, or if they never wanted to do a tour to begin with but they went because his/her Mom couldn't go independently, or if there was an actual problem with the way the tour was run with regards to sights/activities seen? I'm not suggesting that I know the background of each and every tour member. However, I am suggesting that if they are going to include the star rating system, there should be a 'qualifier' question that accompanies it, explaining WHY or WHY NOT it got a particular rating. This could be as easy as a multiple-choice listing added to the tour questionnaire.

Now, as I said previously, I just rather go back to the OLD format. If RS doesn't want to include info publically about the guides/bus drivers, that's understandable. Just put the other questions back please.

:)

EDITED for typos

Posted by
1294 posts

D, if the tour reviews had always been in this format, we wouldn't have thought twice, but the old reviews had a wealth of information and no ratings (which mean nothing to me). It's a shame that the old information is now missing. The information tour members gave on wow moments, ways to use time better, and other information gave a more complete picture of a tour than the ratings and brief comments now provided. And there were a lot of ratings to read through. One person may have grumbled about something but 15 others from the same tour date didn't mention the issue so you can evaluate that information. If three or four people mentioned an issue, you may come to a different conclusion. For me, the detailed tour reviews were something that made the RS tours special, now they have been dumbed down to a simple rating and a few comments, not special or particularly useful at all. As a veteran of five RS tours, I hope the tours themselves aren't being dumbed down.

Posted by
5309 posts

I think Gretchen nailed it. We, too, used the reviews not only to choose our tours, but to prepare for them. The categories of "What could our office have done" and "Other comments" were very useful. Besides, it is always fun to go back and see what our tour-mates had to say after the fact! Please, ETBD, bring back the more inclusive reviews.

Posted by
815 posts

comparing the old and new formats, I can't imagine anyone saying "with the new format I have a BETTER understanding of what to expect on my trip than I would have before." Trying to figure out why they made the change is a real chin-scratcher...

Posted by
2788 posts

I have been on 11 RS tours and will be going on my 12th in May (Greece). I have always read thru all of the reviews related to a tour that I was considering. With this new format, it appears to be "Office" friendly rather than "Customer" friendly. I am afraid that RS has had some software/web designers putting together this new format with only internal input because if they would have ever asked us users about what we think and value, this outcome would never have happened. I would be greatly disappointed next year when I am trying to decide on which tour to take next, if I could not get the previous tour member's evaluations as before. Maybe time to move on. aloha

Posted by
2788 posts

After my previous post I went back to the Greece Tour web site and checked out the "reviews". Every one of them gave it 5 starts except one who gave it 3 stars but had only great things to say about the tour. It is a good thing that I did not see this "review" format before booking my tour last December or I would have thought that all those 5 star ratings were "plants". In all of my travels, I go to Europe every summer and and previously said, have taken 11 RS tours, I do way too much research prior to my trip. I go for a month and while there take a RS tour but the rest of the time I am on my own. If I have ever seen so many people all rating something "top star", I would have moved on to another place. I am glad that I got several replies to one of my posts about that upcoming Greece tour, that it is VERY hot even in May and that there is LOTS of walking/climbing more so than on other RS tours that the folks that have replied to me have taken. I will have to be prepared! aloha

Posted by
876 posts

Another vote for the old-style reviews. As someone mentioned, it's great fun to go through the reviews for the tour you were on, just to see what your tour mates had to say about it. More importantly, though, is how useful the old-style reviews were in choosing a tour or, once a tour was chosen, choosing which time of year to go (i.e., if all the May departure reviews talk about how rainy it was the whole time, while all the September departure reviews rave about the fantastic weather, I'd probably take my chances with a September departure). And before the privacy initiative (which I do understand (kind of)), it was useful to read recent reviews that pertained to your upcoming tour guide (e.g., if the majority of reviews mention how soft-spoken the guide is, I'd make a note to try to be as close to him or her as possible during walking tours, etc.). I appreciated that RS included ALL reviews in the traveler's own words, even slightly negative ones; I felt it reflected well on the honesty and forthrightness of the company. Vague reviews or a star-rating system makes me wonder if there are more negative reviews coming in and the company is trying to hide them.

Posted by
558 posts

Hi again,

Yes, I'm back for a third time. I wanted to mention that there really is good information included in the old questions. Here's a perfect example of what we've been talking about:

I used the link provided above for the old tour reviews the other day and I was checking into the Eastern Europe tour. I noticed several people complained about attending the Schindler museum as a group (apparently it was too small for the group to maneuver around easily). This is stuff I would want to know, because maybe I would skip that as part of the group and instead, do it in my free time that we often have in the afternoons. Now, with the star rating systems, we can't evaluate our options nearly as well anymore. :(.

Sorry to keep harping on this, but this is one thing I really hate about the new website (yes, I realize the questions were changed last year). Perhaps a compromise could be reached where more, but not all the tour questions are included on the raves/reviews section of the website.

:) Gretchen

Posted by
260 posts

Obviously other folks agree with my initial post. I urge the webmaster to pass along these comments to the management team. If Overseas Adventure Travel can have honest reviews, surely Rick Steves can as well! You've taken away one of the most endearing features of the tour section, and one of the most useful too. In the meantime, does anyone know of another website which has reviews of the R.Steves tours?

Posted by
2526 posts

The new tour reviews format is nothing more than fluff. it's a waste of time to examine when considering tours. Please bring back the old version which contained substance.

Posted by
6589 posts

Laura, the link is in my reply dated 03/12/14. I think these reviews go through the end of 2013.

Posted by
20 posts

Hello fellow RS Travelers,
My husband and I have taken 8 trips with RS. We agree 100% with the postings here. When I first noticed the change in format and content, I was so irritated I spoke directly with the front office staff. Who are they serving/protecting?!? It's not the customer anymore. This is, regrettably, all about "feel good" marketing for them and their employees. It is clearly not about serving those who actually do research to ensure that their travel dollars are well spent. In the past, we have felt RS was different than the others. Unfortunately, not so anymore. It's all about making money. Personally, I am disgusted and sad.

Posted by
815 posts

I'd add that this isn't the 1st change in evaluation format they made. Originally the responses were posted in chronological order so you could see what all the people on a given tour group had said. Then they scrambled the responses so that ones from the same tour group were not contiguous. Now this.

It seems to me someone in the RS organization (or a consultant they've hired) has been troubled for a long time by the open disclosure they once gave and wants to make it more opaque. This is the 2nd try at doing so. It is his company, after all, so much as I dislike the change I think it is his right to do so. It is rare for a company to stay true to its founding vision for long.

I have no inside knowledge, let me be clear, but if you look at his Facebook postings talking up his son Andy it seems possible he is gradually transitioning the company to his son and/or children. Given their young age RS has perhaps brought consultants on board to clean up some outdated practices/areas. The website reorg is possibly a part of this "new and improved" company, and consultants are no doubt horrified by a company posting the uncensored opinions of its customers! I don't like the feedback change, but I don't think our grievances are going to get much of a hearing. It remains to be seen if RS can transition a business that is basically him (his personal relationships with the guides he's hired foremost here) into one run by family or even someone else entirely. When you bring on help you have to trust them and follow their advice or else you hired the wrong people and perhaps ought to bring in someone else, as I'm sure one would be told by the consultants themselves. Viewed thru that lens I don't really see anyone saying "we goofed, here are the old reviews the way you liked them."

Posted by
558 posts

John, I think you make some interesting points in both your posts, but especially terms of thinking "how does the star-rating system benefit the customer?" The answer is, it doesn't. I don't see how it helps the office either, frankly. It should only help sell their tours to have full transparency of tour comments for the customers.

.
Coming from the customer perspective, if you've never taken a RS tour before (which I believe is about 65% of their customer base) and you can't decide between two tours- say Venice, Florence, Rome versus Best of Italy- I can't imagine this new RS customer would look at the star ratings and reviews and think, "Oh, now I know which tour to choose." Nope, they're gonna see 5- star ratings for both and have absolutely no new info about either tour. And as for the remaining 35% of the RS customer base (i.e., the repeat customers) -we are clearly looking for more information than some simple "Wow," moments. I am already expecting "wow" moments- I've done other tours! It's the other information that I want.

Curious to see if anyone from the office will respond to these concerns, but I have a feeling they won't, because they've already made their decision. At least Andrew and Kate are fixing the other website issues (I realize they don't have control over what questions are asked...).

Posted by
130 posts

Agree with every single one of the above comments. I really dislike the redesigned website. I felt the former website was more user friendly, and I especially dislike the new website due to the omission of the previous tour review section. Like others, I have obtained very useful information from the answers to the questions in the old tour review section asking how the RIck Steves office could have prepared tour members better and from the comments section. The Rick Steves organization has done a real disservice to its loyal travelers by omitting this section in this new redesigned website. Anyone who has taken a RS tour expects the tour to be a "Wow" tour. Therefore, those "Wow moment" comments are utterly useless as far as gleaning information. Take a poll, Rick. I'm sure a vast majority of your followers want the old review section back.

Posted by
558 posts

Nancy, I wanted to mention they've gotten rid of the old link to the old reviews now. :(

Oh well, it was good while it lasted.

Posted by
6589 posts

Well, that's a bummer! I used it the other day so it must have just disappeared. Wonder what was in those reviews that they don't want us to see? ☺

Posted by
102 posts

I would also like to see a more useful comments section. I too used it and the tour scrapbooks to figure out what to see (or not) on the trip. The new set up is not useful, unless you are evaluating staff.

Posted by
2116 posts

A veteran of many RS tours, I also (use to) read the tour reviews for help in making a choice for the next tour. Can't/won't be doing it any more. I agree; this new format is useless and offers no real information. I agree with Nancy in saying that I probably won't bother filling out any more evaluations either. What's the point? It would be a subjective number of *s and 1 WOW moment. Hardly worth the time. I miss the information available through the old format. Please rethink this change. I'm sure somewhere between the "old" and "new" formats is an agreeable and more useful compromise for prospective tour members.

Posted by
526 posts

I am a veteran of 9 RS tours, and I am about to leave on my 10! I have always filled out my tour report, but must admit I didn't bother to this past tour. I was disappointed when they stopped posting reports that I didn't want to waste my time. Now, I feel the new format is a waste of my time to read. They include nothing that gives any clue what the tour is actually like. The rating system is a joke, why is a tour given 3 stars, what was lacking? The report is filled with glowing remarks, no indication why it was given such a low score. I really don't understand this website's sudden fixation with stars and badges.
I still recall the tour reports being the deciding factor in booking my first tour and every subsequent tour I have taken. I, too wish the tour reports would return to the original format.

Posted by
815 posts

I would suggest that instead of just deleting the email and skipping the report, put a brief note in the 1st response box explaining why you're not filling out the report. It's what I'm going to try. Perhaps they've coded the feedback so you can't submit it unless you answer every question, but if they haven't then 1 box will be sufficient to register my objection.

If people simply decide not to fill it out then it just looks like their response rate has gone down. Oh well, they never got 100% responses anyway. But if a few hundred people gave a response indicating they don't support the new format then the reception of the customers will be clearer.

Posted by
558 posts

Hello All,

I'm just wondering if anyone followed John's suggestion to fill out the tour evaluation with a 'refuse to answer these questions' answer? Did you hear from the company in response?

Thanks,

Posted by
672 posts

I have three tours coming up this summer/fall and I fully intend to follow John's suggestion to fill out the tour evaluation with a 'refuse to answer these questions.' I'm really missing the old reviews in my travel planning.

Posted by
15326 posts

While I understand the desire to protest, the evaluation forms are probably for feedback for internal use and the bits and pieces published on the website were incidental. While it's useful to have the information here, if you are thinking about a tour, wouldn't it be much more important to let the RS people know what you especially liked or disliked?

If you find another way of protesting, let me know and I'll join you.

Posted by
10690 posts

Actually Chani, the way the comments were set up before, your entire comment was entered into the website. I thought they might cherry-pick but very soon after I entered my tour eval it popped up on the website verbatim. My brother did his at the same time and ours were listed back to back. On one section I marked not for publication as I wanted to give some direct feedback about our guide (good but with personal details about a tour member that I did not want published) and that was not put on the site.

I do agree, however, that my main purpose for completing the eval was for the RS ETBD staff to have feed back and opportunities for improvement and not as advertisement for future tours.

I did look thru the reviews last year and usually never saw any negative comments so I did not think they were helpful in making a decision anyway. Not that I wanted to see anything negative!

Posted by
2 posts

Add me to the list of dismayed. I am leaving in a week for my first RS tour, and I was looking for the reviews specifically for tips on what to pack, a feel for the day to day activity, and other intangibles. For instance, there is only one link on "what to pack" that covers the entire world. I'm sure it's a great trip, but as with the others, I find the brief reviews completely unhelpful.

Since all this hubub has occurred over the last several months and the trip reviews still not completely posted, I guess this is just venting at this point.

Posted by
10690 posts

@Tcleeland, the eval questions were pretty specific regarding aspects of the tour. In the ones I looked at most made no mention of what they packed. I am not sure they would have helped you with the specifics you are seeking.

Posted by
89 posts

I'll add my two cents as well - I have taken 4 RS tours and every time used the information provided in the tour reviews not only to choose my tour but to see what other's packed, what they did with their free time, thoughts on their guide, things they discovered in cities that may not have been in the book, etc. I'm currently considering taking another tour next year and really miss all of that info directly from previous tour members. I understand the need for the company to put out the best info possible, but it really does not serve your customers at all to cherry pick and eliminate this kind of input. Either take out the reviews all together (because I see no real purpose served by what little info is there) or go back to the old format. I agree with the poster who said why even fill in the evaluation.

Posted by
1873 posts

I'm one of those who emailed RS when those complete evaluations disappeard. Like others, I valued those little of nuggets that were in there that gave hints as to how best to prepare. As I am now submitting my evaluations for our just-completed trip, I've decided I'll just post what hints I have to pass along under the Trip Reports with the tour's name. it's the only way I can think of to get that info.out there.

Posted by
260 posts

Hi again. Laura here. I did get a nice response from the R. Steves organization, saying the old format got overwhelming. I can understand that, but since at least one competitor (OAT) does provide lengthy reviews, I don't see why this company can't whittle down some of the questions but leave the candor in. My question now is: does anyone know of a site which isn't this one which does review R.Steves trips? One where we could possibly post review that are meaningful? I'm just back from a tour and will not fill out the silly evaluation form this time round.

Posted by
558 posts

Hi Laura,
Thanks for the update! Did you email the webmaster directly to find this out? Just wondering.

Also, I appreciate the idea to leave reviews and any info you may have about your tour on the trip reports page. However, the new tours Forum is a welcome addition (actually, I was hoping that they would add that forum for a while. I just never got around to emailing Andrew to ask him to do it, especially, after all the kerfuffle with the website changes in January).

I think it makes good sense to use the new forum to do exactly what the old tour review questions did. If people want to add their own "comments" and "pre/post-tour ideas, that would be helpful. Thanks for ideas and additions.

Posted by
1873 posts

Thank you, Susan, for pointing out that new forum topic. I hadn't seen that.

Posted by
815 posts

I had posted a longer reply to why I'm not going to fill out the tour surveys in a thread in that new tours forum. I was going to link to it here, but just noticed that other thread has been entirely removed.

Posted by
260 posts

Hi. That new forum is still up - although still hard to find - and very few posts - but what thread were you referring to? Curious!

Posted by
260 posts

One more thing: you can still find very thorough and honest on the OAT site - and they are starting to offer some trips very similar to R.Steves - with no single supplements. But some caveats: the "single-only" selection seems to sell out fast - so once they have allotted the slots, you can't have a single room on that particular trip anymore - and they don't include tipping for the main guide and driver (although they have heard feedback and now do not require tipping for every day tour guide - a major drag on the trip I took). You can also get airfare added, quite reasonably - but - yet another "buyer beware" - the routing can be ridiculous (rarely a nonstop even if you are flying through NYC or similar gateway). OAT is also very paper-intensive - send out a huge paper catalog and you can't evaluate the trips via e-mail (yes, crazy, right?)

Having said that, and slightly off-topic: I did very much enjoy the one OAT trip I took (Patagonia, Xmas-New Years) and am seriously considering them in the future (not abandoning my beloved R.S. but starting to question some of their policies and starting to run out of locations I'd like to do).

Posted by
815 posts

Hi. That new forum is still up - although still hard to find - and
very few posts - but what thread were you referring to? Curious!

It was a thread with a topic similar to this one. A moderator had actually started the thread, explaining that the evals are now for their use only and that the new forum was for discussions about the tours. There were a few comments, I added mine (in line with the forum rules, so far as I could tell), there were 3 of replies to my post. Now that entire thread is gone.

One more thing: you can still find very thorough and honest on the OAT
site

For those not familiar with the acronym (like me), what is OAT?

Posted by
9110 posts

Overseas Adventure Travel.

Small group tours of about two weeks of moving at just short of the speed of light at an exorbitant price --according to friends who've tried them.

I've looked at packages for areas I know well -- fat chance for me.

Posted by
260 posts

Actually, I've only done the one Overseas Adventure Travel trip -- to Chile/Argentina Patagonia. It was actually very reasonably priced, considering there were several internal flights because the distances were so vast. It was a continual group of travelers, and a very good guy. The price was also reasonable for single travelers, as there was no single supplement. The trips that they are advertising this coming year, for example the one to Sicily, compares in price very closely to the Rick Steves trip, especially if you are single. Just sayin'!

Posted by
168 posts

Coming late to the conversation, but I also really miss the old tour reviews. It seems to me that the ETBD organization is becoming more and more of a conventional business, and less of a friendly group of folks interested in promoting travel. I get this feeling even when I visit the ETBD offices in Edmonds; there's something sort of indefinable going on in that the people there (even including Mr. Steves himself) seem to be distancing themselves from the public. At a recent RS lecture I attended, Steves walked off the stage without a word when people in the audience were trying to ask questions. I guess he had places to go and people to see, but his abrupt exit was not very gracious. During that same lecture, he told a couple with a crying baby to leave the auditorium...again, not too graciously, though I imagine the folks seated near the crying baby probably appreciated it.

Tour prices also seem to be increasing far more than you might expect -- the 14 day Best of Europe tour I paid $3000 for 8 years ago now costs $4400, which seems extreme to me. Still, I'm grateful to that tour for teaching me how to tour Europe independently, which is what I've done since then at a cost I can afford.

Posted by
558 posts

Hi Terri,

It seems to me that the ETBD organization is becoming more and more of a conventional business, and less of a friendly group of folks interested in promoting travel. I get this feeling even when I visit the ETBD offices in Edmonds; there's something sort of indefinable going on in that the people there (even including Mr. Steves himself) seem to be distancing themselves from the public.

While I certainly don't discount their ability/right to become "more of a conventional business" I agree that the organization seems to be changing somewhat. I just returned from a tour one week ago and several of the members (who were repeat customers, myself included) noted that we got a letter from Rick about 2 weeks prior to departure that we had never received before. It reiterated the tour expectations re: exercise/caring for your belongings and the 'no grumps' policy in particular. Basically, it restated the RS travel philosophy, which I suspect is getting "lost in translation." I suspect as the number of tour goers has rapidly increased (they already have 19000 signed up for this year and I'm fairly sure that number is much larger than in past years -they are growing exponentially) and I think the tour members are becoming more "picky." I suspect that many new members have migrated over from other tour companies, because they heard "RS tours are great" but they don't really research the differences between other companies and RS tours. Then, thinking they were going on a tour that caters to their particular needs, they are disappointed in the way RS tours work ( I.e., Joe Schmoe was gonna sign up for Trafalgar/Globus/insert tour company name here, but their friend said RS is good too, so okay, I'll do that one). Then, they become relatively disappointed in the experience because their expectations weren't quite met. Therefore, they started to complain about particular issues. I would guess that's why we got the letter from Rick.

This also may be part of the reason they changed the tour evaluation questions. Interestingly, they have claimed they wanted to streamline the questions, but they doubled the number of questions asked and several are still text-based, rather than just rating-based. I don't doubt some questions make it easier to tabulate results, but based on the newer questions, I believe they are trying to cater to their newer type of tour member, who may be more likely to complain about a particular experience. They ask things like "How were your hotels", "How were your group meals", etc. which were never asked before. Of course, this is important information for the [RS] company. However, I think they've gotten complaints over the past 1-2 years, most likely from newer customers who don't know what they are getting into.

I'm curious to see what other changes are coming down the pike.

In the meantime, I will fill out the tour evaluation, even though I've been complaining repeatedly that they no longer post results online. I do think its important that the company's guides/drivers, etc get comments! I will also post the extra tour comments here, on the new 'Tour Forum' they have under the "Tours" page because I have specific info that tour members may want in preparation for their trip to the a South of a France trip.

Anyone else have any thoughts/comments?

Posted by
815 posts

In the meantime, I will fill out the tour evaluation... I will also post the extra tour comments here, on the new 'Tour Forum' they have under the "Tours" page because I have specific info that tour members may want in preparation for their trip to the a South of a France trip.

You are a saint for doing so! But here's the dig. Previously evaluation comments from all the tour participants that cared to reply would have been available for all to see. Now we depend on the relative handful that know about this forum and post. Instead of 6-10 comments per tour slot, many with things you'd want to know such as yours, we'll now be lucky if we get more than a small number ever per tour. I don't see how this is making things better for customers (repeat or new).

I had posted a longer reply to why I'm not going to fill out the tour surveys in a thread in that new tours forum. I was going to link to it here, but just noticed that other thread has been entirely removed.

Just thought I'd add that thread came back online, along with a persuasive reply by a RS staffer. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/tour-reviews-evaluations-vs-the-tour-forum

Posted by
6 posts

I posted an evaluation last year and as far as I know it never got put up online. I checked back numerous times and never saw it.

Posted by
216 posts

I just got the request to evaluate our recent tour and I would like to use the old questions as a guideline. Does anyone have a copy of an old evaluation that they could use to post the old questions? I remember questions about pacing and "was there anything the front office could have done better" that aren't on the new evaluation.

EDIT: to answer my own question, here are the old questions (found an old evaluation)
1) most impt factors in choosing tour
2) favorite "wow" moment
3) hotels/meals/experiences - any especially good/bad
4) pace? any way to make use of your time more efficient?
5) could front ofc have done anything better
6) did our advertising mislead u in any way
7) rate ur guide: accessible, fair, engaged; clear orientation at ea stop; leadership; speaking and teaching; knowledge of history and art; grasp of contemporary issues
8) comment on guide's leadership skills
9) comment on local guides
10) comment on driver
11) more comments? would u recommend tour to others?
12) for next vacation, what length of tour are u likely to consider

And... I thought I could use the Wayback Machine to find the old evaluations, but RS has specifically blocked access to the old tour evaluations with a robots exclusion file (tours.ricksteves.com/evaluation is specifically blocked). For those unfamiliar with the way a robots exclusion file works, this means that the link to the old evaluations wasn't accidentally left out of the redesigned site, RS went out of their way to block the public access to it. I haven't read through all the "official" reasons as to why the unfiltered comments are no longer posted, but to me, it's one thing to have a change in the evaluation form and website design and another thing altogether to use a robots exclusion file to make it impossible for ppl to see old unfiltered comments - the latter smacks of trying to hide something. I think it's very unfortunate that RS is engaging in this sort of behavior, b/c being able to see unfiltered comments (I can see exceptions being made to protect the privacy of guides) was one of the reasons I trusted the company. My trust in the company has definitely gone down a notch and I will be protesting by posting as much info as I can in the travel forum instead of using the official evaluation form.
EDIT: I read the response below from the webmaster. The Wayback Machine has no pages archived for tours.ricksteves.com/evaluation (not even from many years back), so I guess the restriction in the robots exclusion file must have been in place long ago, else the Wayback Machine's crawler would have sampled the page. So I'll give Edmonton a little more trust, but I still think it's a shame that we can't see unvarnished comments.

Posted by
10690 posts

David, I for my recent RS tours, I posted reviews under the Tour forum. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours I debated about putting them under Trip Reports and then felt that more people new to the forum might see them under the Tour forum topic heading.

I used categories that fit what I wanted to talk about and what I thought people might like to know if they are thinking about a certain tour. I am not sure I would actually choose a tour based on either the current or the old questions from the office.

Hope you had fun on your tour!

Posted by
523 posts

David, thanks for posting the old list of questions. I had been kinda-sorta following this thread, but not giving it a lot of thought. I went on my first RS tour this summer, and filled out the new evaluation. But the old questions are so much better -- wow! I would love to have been asked which hotels/restaurants I liked best/least and why; asked about pacing; asked in such detail about the various strengths of the guide, asked about our driver (who was amazing, btw). The thing that jumps out at me most about the old questions is that it sounds like they were really, really designed to influence future tours. The new questions are much too generic. I'm sure it is possible that the company has just grown so much (so many more people taking tours) that it would just be too difficult to incorporate participant feedback, but it really is too bad that they have moved away from seeking the detailed valuable input (both raves and suggestions for improvement) that so many tour participants would be delighted to share and that could truly impact future tours.

Posted by
804 posts

"RS has specifically blocked access to the old tour evaluations with a
robots exclusion file... I think it's very unfortunate that RS is
engaging in this sort of behavior..."

This is a bit misleading and incorrect. Please allow me to clarify.

Exclusions in a robots.txt file only indicate that search engines and their indexing bots should not index those pages. It doesn't block a person like you and I from seeing anything if you have the URL for that web page. We are using a redirect to shift all traffic that is looking for Tour Evaluations to our new Tours site because that's where our evaluations are. This is meant as a service, not trickery, though I understand if the redirect, which inherently must point at one web page, isn't all that helpful because our evaluations are now posted on each individual tour's web page.

We've certainly understood that some people preferred the older format and I think we've explained and commented on the other concerns in this thread and others.