Day tours canceled in Italy

By Norman Dailey
This item appears on page 28 of the December 2018 issue.

Our first stop for sampling wine, cheese and meats. Photo by Norman Dailey

When my wife, Susan, and I travel to a new city, we have certain "go to" ways to find the best way to see local sights. In no particular order, we might go on a free walking tour, take the hop-on/hop-off bus, search the Web for guides or use ToursByLocals (toursbylocals.com) or Viator Private Tour Guides (tourguides.viator.com) to hire a private guide or book a day tour. (We generally avoid group tours.)

For a trip in July 2018, we used ToursByLocals to book four tours in Great Britain and Ireland, and all went off with no problems. ToursByLocals always provides 24-hour emergency and nonemergency phone numbers.

Through Viator Private Tour Guides, six months in advance, we also hired a private guide for two tours outside of Venice, Italy, later on that same trip, one on Saturday, July 14, and one on Monday, July 16.

On Thursday evening, July 12, we received an email from the guide indicating he had been in a car accident and was canceling both tours. We immediately contacted Viator, but their site had no contact method other than the completion of an online form, with a notation that someone would respond within "48 business hours."

I filled out the form, writing, "Our guide canceled our two tours, on Saturday and Monday. Will Viator assist in finding a replacement or only provide a refund?"

The response came in 23 hours, informing us, "We are sorry to hear your guide has reported themselves as unavailable on the date you selected for your tour. We are verifying your cancellation request with your guide to determine if a refund is authorized. We will send you an e-mail when the refund is processed…. Please feel free to go back to our website… and select a new guide if you wish…."

We found that there was not enough time to make other arrangements, not only on Viator's private-guides site but on its main site (www.viator.com), so we went back to one of our standard operating procedures of going online to search for guides.

We found Foodie&Tours (www.foodieandtours.com), a tour-booking site somewhat like Viator but with a web-chat function. Through them, we were able to book a "Half-Day Food and Wine Tasting" tour in Treviso. (Coincidentally, this tour was also listed on Viator but with no availability for Monday, July 16.) The cost for the two of us was 360 (near $410).

Norman and Susan Dailey at DCOG Winery, with the Dolomite Mountains showing just over the vine tops. Photo by guide Simona

We were directed to go to the Plaza Roma on Monday and look for our guide, Simona, who would be holding an "Urban Adventures" sign. (Simona explained that Urban Adventures (www.urbanadventures.com), a subsidiary of Intrepid Travel, is another tour-booking site that lists tours by local companies all around the world.) We ended up sharing the tour with one other couple.

On our day tour, Susan and I thoroughly enjoyed every stop, consuming prosecco and snacks. Even our unusual request to drop us off with our luggage at the Venice airport was easily accommodated.

We hadn't heard of Urban Adventures before, but they are now in our bookmarks to search for tours as we continue traveling around the world.

NORMAN DAILEY
Alexandria, VA

 

ITN emailed a copy of Mr. Dailey's letter to TripAdvisor (uspr@tripadvisor.com), the parent company of Viator, and received the following reply.

We were concerned to hear of Norman's experience. Incidents of private guide cancellations are extremely rare. Unfortunately, the private guide he booked with was involved in a car accident and canceled the tour as a result.

Our customer service team immediately processed Norman's refund and directed him to other available options for his travel dates. It sounds like Norman wasn't able to find a suitable replacement through our site, and we're sorry he didn't have the positive experience we want for all Viator travelers.

MOLLY BURKE
TripAdvisor.com