Watching the Tour de France the past few days has me dreaming of pedaling along the French countryside. (We’ll just ignore the prospect of taking on the Alps for the sake of this post – I’m no Lance.) Which is why I was so intrigued to hear about the latest offering from the swoon-worthy Tour d’Afrique. This tour company, which specializes in trans-continental bicycle trips that let you transverse Africa, slice through Europe, follow the Silk Road, and ride around South America, is now letting you plan your own cycling “DreamTour.” Touting “if you can dream it, you can do it,” these trips incorporate a web 2.0 touch and seem pretty incredible.
Here’s the deal: You log on to their site and design and name your trip, plotting the route, uploading photos and picking out the places you’d want to visit. You set the costs for the number of riders, plus hotels, food, crew, and support, and if it’s a “do-able” trip, Tour d’Afrique will set you loose to convince your friends and family — via the social web of course — that they need to come on board. They can comment and make tweaks, and if you get enough to commit to going, Tour d’Afrique will make it happen, and better yet, you’ll get to go for free.
Convinced that this was a novel way to make my dream trip happen, I immediately got the scoop from Henry Gold, the founder of Tour d’Afrique and builder of the Dream. Check out the interview after the jump.
How did you come up with the concept of the DreamTour?
There were two underlying thoughts that were on my mind for a while:
1. After successfully implementing three transcontinental bicycle tours, the Tour d’Afrique, The Orient Express Bicycle Tour and the Silk Route, and having the fourth one, the Vuelta Sudamericana, on the drawing board, I started thinking about the limitations that those epic adventure tours have. And that is they are epic and most people who have the time, do not have the money, and those who have the money do not have the time, as they are busy with raising a family or having jobs that will not allow them to take off long periods of time.
2. At the same time, both former clients and all of us in the office kept talking about adventure trips, both long and short, that we would like to do on bicycles. Having the experience of designing the transcontinental trips in some very challenging areas of the world, we now faced the issue of “OK, we come up with a new trip, we’ll spend a lots of time scouting and designing a tour, but how do we really know that we will get enough people to do them”?
So thinking about these two issues and hearing about web 2.0 and all this crowdsourcing, the “intelligence of crowds,” and providing the clients what they want, I thought ok, let’s see how this could all be combined. I went on a long walk, and about half way, I had the essence of the idea figured out.
Can you explain a bit how the trips will work once you’ve recruited enough people?
If enough people from our website (and from the originator spreading the word) show interest, [we'll come in and make it happen]. We scout it, come up with a final cost and market it as our regular tour. And the tour “founder” will go for free. We are creating incentive for young adventurers who do not have the money, but have internet skills to spread their ideas about their tours and if it is a good idea, they get the reward – a free tour of their own design. A self-designed adventure.
Do you intend to replicate the tours if you find that they’re successful?
Absolutely, if the tour is a success, then why not? But I actually I see a possibility of this taking a different direction, essentially redesigning the tour from year to year to fit the clients’ vision and needs. For example, we now have a tour on DreamTour called the Amber Route, a six-week tour from St. Petersburg to Venice. It is designed as a camping trip with some hotels, averaging about 50 miles a day. But perhaps a year later, there could be a group formed who would say “I hate camping, I want to do it in hotels only, but want to average 70 miles per day.” Or a group of students could say “we need to make this cheaper, let’s camp, and prepare our own food and do it slower.”
That’s the beauty of this approach. We will do what the clients tell us they want rather than what we design for them. And then every trip is much more adventurous as there are always new elements. But of course it has to make sense both logistically and economically.
Ready to make it happen? Log on to Tour d’Afrique and start dreaming.
Photo: Tour d’Afrique