I haven't been to Europe in close to two years. Instead, I've been reliving my favorite European memories: gliding silently through Dutch polder land villages in a canoe, learning how to make the perfect cannoli in Sicily, tossing handmade dice on a backgammon board while sucking on a three-foot-tall hookah in Turkey, marveling at how the bark of a cork tree in a Portuguese forest ends up capping bottles of wine…and so many more.
I savor decades of memories like these — vivid souvenirs from a lifetime of travels. And as I think back on each one, there's usually a top-notch tour guide standing by my side, making sure I get the absolute most out of every experience. Guides are the experts, teachers, and friends who allow us at Rick Steves' Europe to do what we do — whether producing travel TV, researching our guidebooks, or leading tours. And as we emerge from COVID and resurrect our travel plans, we're particularly tuned in to just how important guides are to our travelers…whether you're venturing to Europe this year on your own, or next year on a Rick Steves tour.
It's clear that travelers are eager to get on the road. Our 2022 tours, announced just a few weeks ago, are already more than 80 percent sold out. (But for those of you hoping to join us, we still have thousands of seats open on hundreds of departures.) Out of an abundance of caution, we're being conservative about restarting our tour program — waiting, most likely, until 2022, when we expect Europe to be fully ready for us.
In the meantime, we know that many travelers will be heading to Europe on their own later this summer and fall. And for those of you getting a head start, we're excited to launch a fun and creative new way to connect you with our amazing guides. Many of them have been underemployed for a year and a half. They're eager to get some work, sure. But, as teachers at heart, they're also itching for the chance to bring meaning to your next European adventure.
That's why we've organized a "Local Guides for Hire" directory in our Guides' Marketplace, listing talented Rick Steves guides throughout Europe who are excited to connect with independent travelers. To keep things simple, these guides have agreed to a fixed, discounted rate — you simply email them, set a date, and tell them what you're interested in seeing and doing. I believe this is an excellent value for any traveler wanting to get the very most out of their 2021 trip, with the luxury of having their own private tour guide — and it will be a big help for guides looking for a little income to tide them over until 2022.
Learn more about our great guides in this month's Tour News, where you can take a tour of London with "Blue Badge" guide Tom Hooper, get better acquainted with a handful of guides who'll be leading tours in 2022, watch a video of our guides in action, get the skinny on our guides from tour members, and check out our weekly picks from our Guides' Marketplace for tales from an all-guide tour of Turkey, Viking language lessons, packing tips from a pro, and more.
Looking ahead to the next several months, we're happy to be able to play "matchmaker" for your independent 2021 trips…and thrilled to offer the tour experience of your dreams in 2022. One way or the other — and maybe both — we remain committed to helping you travel in a way that's smart, affordable, and packed with the most vivid travel experiences.