Walking Tours Offer Intimate Destination Experiences

Sponsored by Smart Meetings

By Sara Robertson, Smart Meetings

As incentive travel continues to be a critical tool for retaining and motivating talent, planners are looking for ways to make excursions more meaningful and memorable. One of the simplest ways to do so is by employing a locally organized walking tour. 

A walking tour is a minor commitment in terms of both budget and time, but a major investment in attendees. They can get a closer look at the true culture of the destination by seeing areas they never otherwise would have explored. 

From Crash to Impact 

Andrew Luan started ExperienceFirst Walking Tours in the wake of the 2008 financial crash. At the time, he was working as a trader for Deutsche Bank. When a friend visited from Vancouver, he joked about Luan giving him a Wall Street tour. Luan, however, took his request seriously. Upon conducting extensive research, which included taking other tours of Wall Street, he found that nobody was talking about the recent crisis. “I thought this was a travesty,” he says. “How can you not talk about the biggest financial event to impact our lifetimes?” 

Andrew put together a tour for his friend centered around the 2008 crisis. From there, word spread amongst friends and family. One friend, who was a professor at Columbia Business School, brought his colleagues and some members of the financial media. Soon enough, Luan saw they had published a story about his tour. It was unlike any tour these people had ever been on. 

Luan quit his job, resolving to see where he could take this newfound passion. He took groups to two major investment banks and ended with a trading game as a fun team-building activity that stimulated what it was like to do open trading. “When you come to Wall Street, it’s really just a series of buildings. It’s not that exciting to look at,” he says.  

Memories are formed when you have an intense emotional reaction. That intense reaction is usually caused by a connection you have formed with that location—because something clicks within you. You find common ground and gain a new perspective–that aha! moment. That is what walking tours do, says Luan. 

As Luan’s organization grew, he began to hire tour guides around New York City: a professional actor would lead tours of Broadway; a 9/11 tour would be led by a person who witnessed that devastating day. “We believe that a tour guide who is a local, whether they’re an expert in their field or are very familiar with the area they’re speaking about, can provide context and connection for the visitor.” 

Now, ExperienceFirst holds walking tours all over the United States and in major international locations like Paris. These tours are always interactive, and the team is careful to make sure they never feel like a walking lecture. They want customers to feel like they are in a distinct, three-dimensional space, and have all their senses engaged as they gain historical understanding. 

Learn more at 

Written by

SITE Staff


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