Digital travel guide start-up Horizon Guides is waiving all sign-up and monthly fees for its tour operator partners to help them save costs during the coronavirus pandemic.
The firm, which also helps smaller travel firms with digital marketing, making the offer to independent tour operators or specialist accommodation providers so long as they are either based in destination or have operations on the ground.
Founder and chief executive Matthew Barker said: “Independent tour operators and accommodation providers are among the most important sectors in the entire industry.
“In a globalised and extractive industry, SME operators are our moral compass: the people on the ground who live and breathe their destinations with genuine expertise and passion, creating livelihoods for ordinary local people, and making the magic happen for free-thinking and open-minded travellers.
“And when this is all over, they represent our best hopes for rebalancing the global tourism industry back to its more sustainable grassroots.
“But first they need to make it through the storm which is why we, in our small way, are doing as much as we can to support our partners and the wider community of independent/specialist operators.”
The company has paused all billing for its existing partners. Barker added: “We’re a well-funded and lean operation so we won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. For as long as this crisis lasts we’ll be passing all trip requests to our partners free of charge.”
New sign-ups will get partner profiles, which Horizon Guides will publish with itineraries or experiences on offer from the operator. During the period, it will pass on all trip requests free of charge.
Operators and accommodation providers must meet Horizon Guides’ membership criteria, which includes “an obvious emphasis on low-impact and responsible/community tourism” – it will not list operators offering direct-contact wildlife experiences or only use chain hotels.
Barker said: “In the scheme of the disruption we’re a drop in the ocean, but we’ll do whatever we can to help the community of independent and specialist tour operators make it through. And when the dust finally settles, we’ll be standing by to help with the recovery.”