Rod Cuthbert is one of the smartest travelers I know—and he has spent his life trying to make travel easier for others. He’s the founder of Rome2rio, a site that points you to your most efficient transportation option (train? plane? bus? ferry?) between Point A and Point B anywhere in the world. Before that, back in 1995, he founded Viator, a site that points you to local activities and excursions (day trips, half-day tours, even skip-the-line tours) in destinations worldwide. (Full disclosure: TripAdvisor bought Viator in 2014, and yes, I’m TripAdvisor’s Travel Advocate, but Rod and I became friends many years before that. In fact, he’s the reason Tasmania—where he’s originally from—is on my bucket list.) Rod’s personal insights and quirky tips have helped me travel better, so I wanted to share a few of them with you.
Job title and usual home location:
CEO of Rome2Rio; Melbourne
Most memorable travel moment:
Flying low over central London on a BA flight into Heathrow. One of those clear, cold days where it seemed you could reach out and touch the Thames, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye. I agree with Samuel Johnson: when you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life.
Touristy spot that’s actually worth it, and the trick to doing it right:
Waikiki Beach, Honolulu. Spend a day there, not an hour. Go surfing, or take a lesson; even if you’re terrible you’ll have fun. Talk to the beach people: the lifeguards, the board rental guys, the local surfers. Their life operates at a different pace to yours; maybe some of it will rub off on you.
Non-touristy spot people might not know about (or have thought much about visiting) but should add to their must-visit list:
Any courtroom in any city you visit. Real drama, and an instant insight into life in the place you are visiting.
Name two indispensable apps you use when you travel:
Rome2rio for how to get from where I am to wherever I want to go; and HotelTonight for somewhere good to stay once I arrive.
The travel gadget or gear that has saved your life…or your mind: Pad and pencil. Neither runs out of batteries.
Name one way the travel industry can do better.
Travel suppliers can do a better job of helping people anticipate their trip. There’s tons of research showing how important the anticipation phase of a leisure trip is, and how much impact it has on the traveler’s post-trip memories of their experience. It’s hard to get your head around but when it comes to whether or not someone will have positive recollections of their vacation, their pre-trip experience is almost as important as the things that happen in-destination.
Look into the future and describe one aspect of travel that you think will be different in 20 years:
One really interesting challenge for the industry is that many of the iconic attractions that we’ve been visiting for generations are putting up the “sold out” sign much more often. The growing numbers from China, India, and other rising economies are putting so much strain on iconic activities that they are frequently turning people away, or making them wait in unbearably long lines. If you’ve already seen everything, you’re fine. Otherwise, just imagine the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower!
Most effective thing you’ve ever said or done to get an upgrade or a special perk while traveling:
I ran into an old friend at the airport in Auckland. He was on my flight, traveling economy, while I was in business. I approached the counter, explained the situation to the check-in staff, and asked if there were two free seats together in economy where we could sit together. They instantly upgraded him instead!
You founded Viator (and congrats on the sale to TripAdvisor by the way). Can you tell us a bit about why you created it:
At that time—the mid ’90s—there was simply no good way to research the activities and sightseeing tours available at your destination. People waited until they arrived, then had their hotel concierge make bookings for them. And tour operators had no way of forecasting demand: 75% of their bookings were for the next few days! Providing an online venue for consumers to browse activities and tours, and for operators to promote their offerings and take advance bookings, was an obvious response to the gap in the market.
To make friends, I always carry…
First Class is overrated, but
If you were in my car during a road trip, you’d hear me singing…
The airplane movie that, unexpectedly, made me bawl was…
Sense & Sensibility.
When I travel, I’m not afraid of…
…but I am afraid of…
losing my glasses.