Urban Adventure Quest: The Real Deal with Christie Walker
Christie Walker and her family set up an Amazing Race style touring company called Urban Adventure Quest.
Tell us about yourself! What do you do when you’re not traveling the world? Where are you from? Where do you currently live?
We are a family business. We all live in Southern California: half in Big Bear Lake a mountain community in So Cal, and the other half in Camarillo, south of Santa Barbara. We all grew up in Southern California and love the outdoors, camping, traveling and playing games.
What first inspired you to start your tour company? What’s your company’s mission?
We were inspired by our love of travel, by our love of gaming AND by the television show The Amazing Race. We thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to be able to participate in an Amazing Race-like adventure without having to quit our jobs?”
Yeah, we wouldn’t win a million dollars but we would have a great time. So we came up with the idea of making urban games that encouraged people to get outside, play some fun games, solve puzzles and follow clues—all while learning about a great urban location.
Our mission: we sell fun! If you don’t have fun on our adventure we have a 100% money back guarantee. Even our phone message is fun. Check it out and listen all the way to the end for option number 7!
What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced in running a tour company? What are some of the highlights?
In the beginning, the biggest challenge was the technology. Our game is played on a smart phone via our website. Of all the skill sets we had, technology was not one of them. So the first challenge was to find someone who could create what we wanted. We found a great guy who has turned our ideas into reality.
Our second challenge was letting people know about Urban Adventure Quest. We didn’t have millions or even thousands to spend on advertising, and we learned quickly that print advertising was very expensive and NOT where our customers were looking. They were looking online, so that is were we went. It’s taken years to build up our advertising network, but now when you search for “things to do in Austin” or “scavenger hunts in Denver” the odds are good that we will come up.
How have you spread the word about your tours?
At first we used calendar site, even though we weren’t technically an event. We also joined resort associations and chambers. We are in over 40 different cities so that means creating relationships with 40 different resort associations. It can be a bit overwhelming.
Word of mouth has picked up, now that over 75,000 people have participated in an Urban Adventure Quest. We have a customer loyalty program that gives discounts and prizes to Questers who play in multiple cities, too, which encourages people to play not only in their hometown but wherever they travel
What do you wish you knew before starting your company?
I wish I knew more about smartphones, websites, and social media. Have been taking webinars and such, but we still need our tech person. I’m sure, since we are all in our 50s and 60s, that we are not taking advantage of social media the way we should. We’re on Facebook and have a Twitter account, but that’s about it. Pathetic, I know. We need to hire a someone in their 20s.
What are some of your company’s upcoming tours/trips?
We are constantly adding new tour cities every year. It’s the fun part of the job—traveling to the city, spending time learning about the location and then creating our interactive games. In 2015 we added Charleston, Savannah, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Santa Barbara and Paso Robles, plus a new game in San Diego.
Next year we plan on adding Boise and Philadelphia for sure and maybe Memphis and Nashville. We look at a map and say, “Where do we want to go now?”
Are there any tips you’d give someone else considering starting a tour company?
Try to come up with something new or a new take on an old concept. There are so many travel companies out there that it’s hard to be original. We have competition, but of course, we think the WAY we present our games and the complexity of the puzzles, plus our awesome customer service make us stand out from the rest.
Find an area where you can shine and remember the customer experience is #1 and you’ll do great.
Photo credit by Christie Walker.