There are many ways to travel the world and discover new places but none more innovative and satisfying than Stroll Buddy. Stroll Buddy is a unique way to see a new city in a whole new light and it is absolutely free. You just request a Stroll Buddy to meet with you and they will show you around their city and they will take you for a Stroll give you a guided tour from a very personal “local” perspective.
Too good to be true? Let us find out… We spoke with Jos Nusse who started it all and gave us a new and very gratifying experience on our travels around the world.
Jos, what is “Stroll Buddy”?
Well, it is simple, really. Most people that travel to a city which they have not been to before would like to meet up with a guide that will show them around town: if nothing else, just to get your bearings. On the other hand, there are volunteers that would love to show visitors around their city. We simply bring those two parties together which results in a stroll where the visitor experiences a very personalised tour of the city from the Stroll Buddy’s personal perspective. Not so much like a conventional guide but more like a buddy….
So how big is the current Stroll Buddy community?
That just depends on what day you ask me. The Stroll Buddy community is growing exponentially despite the reduction of strolls due to COVID19. We now have well over 250 destinations, over 1,000 Stroll Buddies and are getting close to 20,000 Strollers on our books. The growth is exceptional but like any organisation in this situation, we are trying to keep up with this phenomenal growth. So, we are always looking to find volunteers to help out behind the scenes.
The demographic of the average stroller is broad ranging from backpackers to 5-star travellers of all ages. The Stroll Buddies are predominantly a bit older: 50+, some retired looking to engage with other people and simply showing off how much they love and know about the city they live in. Saying this, we are seeing a trend that shows that more and more younger Stroll Buddies are joining the Stroll Buddy family which is very encouraging…
You seem to be very enthusiastic about this concept of connecting people. What is it that makes the long hours working as a volunteer behind the scenes worth it?
A – I think you hit the nail on the head when you said, “connecting people”. This is what it is all about. The underpinning value is the diversity of the people involved. If you are an accountant in the main street of a city and want to meet another accountant from the firm next door then you can contact your accountancy association, meet, share ideas and the interaction will ensure you grow professionally. To grow emotionally, you need to meet people that are quite different from you. Meeting people from a different culture, background, age etc. develops understanding which in turn develops tolerance. And the world can definitely use a bit more tolerance right now. Therefore, we use our little slogan, “Stroll Buddy: making the world a better place one Stroll at the time…”
Tell me why I would want to become a Stroll Buddy?
Many of our Stroll Buddies join because they simply love it but there are several aspects to this. Some are just super proud of their city and like to share their enthusiasm, knowledge and experience with visitors and they get a great deal of satisfaction from this. Others just love the interaction they experience with visitors. This is the “connecting people” part of the concept. They just enjoy meeting new people whom all have a different and interesting story to tell. There are also many strollers (visitors) that will become a Stroll Buddy because of the experience they had on a stroll. They enjoyed their stroll and think that they can do the same in their town or city. In general, it is a combination of all the above that motivates people to join as a Stroll Buddy. The retention rate is extremely high so that sort of speaks for itself… The same goes for the Strollers. Experiencing a free stroll through a city you visit is a great way to start your stay. You get to know the city from the Stroll Buddy’s perspective, and you get to know a new buddy. 99.9 per cent of first time Strollers will request additional strolls in other cities: again, this speaks for itself…
COVID19: what impact does this have or had on Stroll Buddy?
As you can expect, it has severely impacted the number of strolls around the world with international travel at a standstill. Naturally, we published some policies and guidelines about “best practice” based on the health advice we received but in essence, the whole concept is treading water until this thing is under control. Some countries are doing better than others. Australia for example has a lot of strolls happening based on inner and interstate travel. But even there the volume of strolls is only about 30% of what it was pre-COVID. What is important is that we utilise this time cleverly, so we come out at the other side bigger and stronger than ever. We are spending a lot of time and energy in developing our IT systems and restructuring for the future. Although COVID had a severe impact, I am pretty optimistic about the next few years.
Jos, who owns Stroll Buddy?
We are an approved not-for-profit foundation registered in the Netherlands. All directors are volunteers. We are in the process of setting up an advisory committee made up of Stroll Buddies, Strollers and other interested parties which will have a large representation on the board of the foundation. In the end, Stroll Buddy is owned by its members.
How is Stroll Buddy funded?
When starting this concept, it was funded by me but due to the growth, this is simply no longer feasible. In light of this, we are starting to approach entities that are willing to partner with us. We offer two different ways to do this. Firstly, we are approaching what we call “Champion Partners”. These are simply entities that champion the core values of Stroll Buddy and strongly stand behind Stroll Buddy’s idealism. They are usually larger businesses that benefit from progressive association with a great community-driven concept such as Stroll Buddy. Secondly, we are approaching what we call “Value Chain Partnerships”. These entities provide Stroll Buddy members with big savings as a “Preferred Supplier”. For example, hotel chains offering substantial discounts on accommodation, rental car companies offering big savings exclusively to Stroll Buddy members or airlines providing free upgrades to Stroll Buddy member. We are also thinking about launching a crowdfunding campaign to get some needed dollars in to pay the bills. We will be notifying people about this in the near future.
So Jos, where does Stroll Buddy go from here?
As I said, we are getting ready to hit the ground running when tourism will settle to a state of “new normal”. We are waiting for international borders to reopen and for travel confidence to return. In the interim, we are doing a lot behind the scenes to facilitate this “re-start”. I am extremely optimistic that we will see a spike in travel through the middle of this year. Perhaps not everywhere at once but gradually we will get COVID under control or at least learn to live with it because we are all itching to get out there to see new places and meet new people.