Why we will never sell our souls to Viator

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Who are Viator?

Viator are an online vendor for tours and tickets, which has become a global giant, especially since its purchase of the previously reliable Tripadvisor company, which people go to expecting impartial and honest feedback from previous visitors to another part of the world.

They are not upfront about the fact that they are merely the middleman, however. Their website cleverly makes it look as if they are an actual tour operator, and this makes it appear as a very successful and therefore trustworthy brand, as any company which can operate in cities in every country around the world must know what it is doing! Like any corporate bully, they are slowly but surely swallowing up and destroying the actual providers of your tours, and eroding the quality with which tours are being organised and conducted.

Real Rome Tours remains one of few tour operators in Rome who have not yet sold out to Viator. You can recognise this from our Tripadvisor page – anybody who sells their tours through this online ticket vendor has inviting yellow “Book Now” and “More Info” and other links to the Viator website, directing you away from the reviews page of the actual tour operator you were researching, to a third-party website which sells you tours on behalf of hundreds of local operators, which vary greatly in quality, and you never even know who the name of the actual local tour operator is.

Although it appears that we are fighting a losing battle, we will never sell our souls to this company. Here are a few reasons why:


They would hijack our Tripadvisor page.

Tour researchers who find our page on tripadvisor, read and like our well-earned reviews, would then click on the inviting link to “Book Now” and proceed to book the tour through Viator instead of us, taking a massive 25% off of the tour fee in order to pay Viator their middleman-commission. And after navigating from our Tripadvisor page to Viator’s, they are then invited to book one of the many other tours on offer while there. The problem is, the unsuspecting client thinks they are still booking tours with the great tour operator they have just been reading all those wonderful reviews about, when in reality they could now be booking with a terrible company that consistently receives bad reviews, because they are now booking through Viator, and do not know who their actual tour supplier will be.

Some clients even go away from Rome still believing their tour was with one company, even though they booked with a competitor through Viator after unknowingly navigating there from their tripadvisor page! We would therefore run the risk of receiving negative reviews for bad tours that were actually provided by another tour operator!

These careful researchers who decided to book with us based on OUR reviews, which were earned by OUR consistent dedication to quality tours and customer satisfaction, would then be tempted to book on the platform of a corporate giant which has absolutely nothing to do with our company but just wants to share in our profits, not very unlike the gangster who tells you he will “protect” your business from gangsters if you cut him in on your profit.


We prefer to keep prices low and give discounts to our clients, than pay 25% commission to a middleman.

Because we have always kept our prices as low as possible, while maintaining our four pillars of quality service – licensed guides, quality radios, small groups and great customer service – we cannot afford to give away 25% to someone to help us sell our tours. When we CAN afford to give something back, we offer discounts to our clients. This is much preferable to paying a commission to a third party, who has nothing to do with our product, and does nothing to help the visitor they have brought to us. The tour should be between the tour provider and the tour participant – and if we can afford to reduce our profit from a tour, we prefer to give it back to our client, not gift it to a middleman who only cares about bottom line.


Because we like to maintain control of our customer service!

Viator is very jealous of the contact details of clients who book tours through them, not sharing these details with the actual tour operator, for fear that the operator might tell the client the truth about the fact that they are only an online ticket vendor masquerading as a tour operator. This means that, when we need to contact our client to inform him of issues such as …

  • adverse weather,
  • strikes with city transportation
  • strikes at any of the sites they are scheduled to visit with us,
  • if the client is running late and we want to assist him in not missing the tour departure

… we would have to contact Viator to ask them to send a message to the client. This loses valuable time, especially in the case of clients who are running late for tours, as we have a short window in which we have to contact them. They do not go to the same lengths to make contact with clients as we do, only sending a text message. We exhaust all possibilities in trying to make contact with our clients – email, SMS, phone – in order to share important information that will help them. In the end, if we are not able to reach you, it is because you have not shared enough contact details with us or because you have left your phone turned off!

This is the attention to customer service that has made us a popular and trusted tour operator, and we will not allow a third party ticket vendor to bring our reputation down.


We can see the writing on the wall.

Slowly but surely, this company is convincing the whole world that it is an actual tour operator. People trust big brands, and if one appears to operate in many cities all across the world, people feel safer booking with them. Even though the reality is that you have no idea which actual tour company you will end up with. Because the wool has been pulled over your eyes.

The problem is, enough people trust this company and book with it, that they swallow up a large share of the market in every city they sell in. The actual tour operators in each city become nervous, and as each one sells out to Viator, it gives them a larger piece of the pie, leaving less and less for the rest of the actual tour suppliers to fight over. This leads to a domino effect, as one by one all the suppliers allow themselves to be beaten into submission by the big bully, rather than risk being left behind. “If you can’t beat them, join them”.

The problem with this is, before long they will have enough control of the market in several cities, that they can actually begin to open offices and make the local suppliers go to work FOR them! Honest, local, small companies, who started from nothing and worked hard to build a good reputation and a loyal customer base end up as nothing more than managers of a franchise.

And don’t expect the quality of your tour to be anything like what it was before, as Viator – once they are operating the tours instead of just taking a commission for selling them – will do what all corporate giants do … they will do cost analysis, streamline and put profit before people. This will surely mean measures such as

  • large tour groups – forget the guarantee of groups no larger than 13, as this is not profitable enough for corporate giants
  • lower quality radios (as is already currently in evidence at the Vatican Museums, where another large company has the monopoly for the radios used by tour guides – the only negative feedback we receive these days are for the poor quality of radios on our Vatican tours, but unfortunately this is beyond our control for reasons of monopoly and corruption)
  • Shorter tours – as they “get them in and get them out”

They will enjoy a monopoly over the entire tour guide business and therefore people will be told to accept the way tours are run now or go it alone.


In the end, we all end up with the service we demand, and although it may be a losing battle refusing to sell our souls to corporate greed, we will not give up on the principles that we started out with, which once upon a time were more important to people than big brand names and promises of low prices. Low prices, but at what cost? How large is the group? How good is the guide? How high are the quality of the radios?  How helpful is the customer service?

If we are to go down, we will go down with our heads held high. We will not become sellouts, to end up managing our company for a global franchise.

If you support local business against global corporations, we would love to have your support! Please send us your messages on our contacts page! Thank you.

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