│PENTRU LIMBA ROMÂNĂ APĂSAŢI AICI│Free tours are no longer a novelty. It is a successful concept which quickly developed all over the world. The news is the success of freetoursnetwork.com a website that brings together all these tours, or whatever, most of them. About this project and much more in an interview with the Englishman Robert Rosenthall initiator of this project.
Mario Csipai: Hello Robert! First of all I would like you to tell us a few words about yourself. Who is Robert Rosenthall?
Robert Rosenthall: I am 35 years old married to Catharine with 3 children, Pablo 16, Lydia 15 and Esme 10. I am from Leeds, England and have lived there all my life. I am a Head of Planning for a large Outsourcing Call Centre company; I have worked there for 18 years and have always enjoyed my job. In my spare time I am heavily involved in the City of Leeds Diving Club where Lydia and Esme both dive, Pablo also used to dive in his younger days. Lydia is currently in the Great Britain squad and recently competed in the Junior European Championships in Bergamo, Italy. I love football and played at a high level during my youth but my main passion is traveling. I have been to 33 countries so far and soon to be 34 when I visit Latvia in September.
Mario Csipai: What can you tell us about freetoursnetwork.com?
Robert Rosenthall: freetoursnetwork.com is the world’s largest collection of free tours. It currently has 143 tours in 114 cities in 57 countries across 6 continents and is growing all the time.
Mario Csipai: When have you first heard about free walking tours concept?
Robert Rosenthall: I first heard of the free tours concept when researching my original idea.
Mario Csipai: What was your original idea and how did you get the idea of creating this site?
Robert Rosenthall: My original idea was born when on holiday in Zadar, Croatia in April 2013. There was 4 of us and we wanted to visit Plitvice Lakes for a day trip. When we approached the tours in would have cost us 280 euros to go, we couldn’t afford it and were quite upset that we wouldn’t see the lakes. I then thought about creating a network of people throughout the world who would take normal budget travelers around their home place for free and for day trips just for the cost of travel and entrance fees. The idea was that I would go to Rome for instance and someone would show me round, someone then would come to Leeds from Moscow and I would show them around, someone then would go to Moscow from Bangkok and be shown around and so on and so on. When researching this I realised there were dozens of organised tours already in place which were ultimately free but with a tip given at the end if the tour was enjoyed. I changed my scope of the network to incorporate as many of these tours as I could to get the network up and running.
Mario Csipai: Was it difficult to build this platform? Did you find cooperation from tours owners and managers?
Robert Rosenthall: The website itself is not very difficult to build as I chose to use a platform with wix.com where I didn’t have to write any code. In regards to the tours owners and managers I have had a brilliant response. Really what this is free advertising for the free tours. I get nothing for doing this except the joy of learning about the places featured; meeting new friends like yourself and helping people get real value tours throughout the world.
Mario Csipai: What are your projects for the future regarding freetoursnetwork.com?
Robert Rosenthall: I have a few ideas that I’m pursuing at the moment. I would love to build my network up to include the many wonderful cities of the world where there aren’t any organised free tours. To do this I will need lots of volunteers who would be willing to show people around their home town if someone ever visits. I’m not sure how to approach this at the moment, I know that it wouldn’t take up a lot of people’s time but I need to convince them about this. With my work I spend time in India and now have lots of contacts out there, with these contacts I am confident that I will be able to offer new destinations throughout the whole of India which will offer something completely different to people. In regards to what I currently do I still have a lot of tours to add to my website but it’s just finding the time to do it. I want to expand and add free tours to attractions like museums and breweries so that when people visit different places they can do other things for free. I also want to grow my Facebook, Twitter and Flickr pages.
Mario Csipai: How do you think this free tours concept will evolve?
Robert Rosenthall: I think that the free tours that exist today seem to be doing very well and with the right promotion they will continue to do well and hopefully grow. People today are always looking for bargains and the amount of people that I’ve spoken to don’t know free tours even exist.
Mario Csipai: How many free tours did you take part? Which one are you favorite if you have one?
Robert Rosenthall: As this idea only came to me a year ago I have only been on one free tour so far. It was in Sofia, Bulgaria and was absolutely fantastic. You can see that the tour guide loved doing what he does and really held everyone’s concentration with his stories and passion for his city.
Mario Csipai: Do you intend to develop other tourism-related projects?
Robert Rosenthall: I would love to be involved in other tourism projects but at the moment I need to concentrate on what I am doing and try to make my other ideas work.
Mario Csipai: A few words about Romania… Have you ever visited? What do you know about this country? What do you think about tourism industry here?
Robert Rosenthall: I’ve not visited Romania yet but through doing this I have a real urge to visit. I don’t know much about tourism in the country. What I know about Romania used to be very football based, I loved Lăcătuş then Hagi, Dumitrescu and Răducioiu but now I have learnt more about the actual cities through research after finding free tours in different cities. I have looked into traveling there and would love to visit one day. It would be easiest for me to fly to Bucharest from the UK and travel to Braşov and Bran as they are the closest places I know about. One day though I would like to visit Cluj and Arad, purely through what I have seen on my network.
Mario Csipai: What about free tours of Romania?
After the UK Romania is the country where most of my visitors to my website come from! It was also featured as my first “Spotlight On…” which proved really popular. Currently there are 4 tours in Romania in my network, Bucharest, Braşov, Cluj-Napoca and of course Arad.
Mario Csipai: A conclusion for the end?
Robert Rosenthall: Yes an anonymous quote “We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us”.
Mario Csipai: Thank you!
Photo: Robert Rosenthall personal archive