Leave people feeling like they got more than what they expected. I want people to leave our walking tours with a feeling of “Wow, I did not know that, but now I do and I think it’s so cool!” I often say to people that a well-curated tour should make you healthier, happier and smarter. People expect to learn something new, but I love seeing the joy they experience when the brain lights up with a new fact or story or introduction to a historical figure brought to life. Sometimes people expect walking tours to be a bit boring, but there’s very little yawning on our tours!

As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Juanita Metzger.

Juanita Metzger is the owner and operator of Stroll Walking Tours located in Kitchener, Ontario, a business founded in 2019. She is partial to slow travel, leisurely local experiences and often travels without a predetermined itinerary to make room for the unexpected. Juanita holds high regards for community bulletin boards and local newspapers as the richest sources for tapping into local culture. She is usually late getting to where she’s going because there is always someone to stop and talk to in the neighborhood!

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My arrival to a travel and tourism career is a little bit circuitous, but all of my experiences over the past 20 years have been connected. I used to work in neighborhood community development with a focus on placemaking, urban space and getting people engaged and connected to the place where they live. While getting to know the issues, strengths, resources and people of a new neighborhood, I quickly discovered that I could make more progress by saying, “Take me on a walk in the neighborhood and show me what you’re talking about.” I began to see people open up, connect with one another, focus more on the positives and leave meetings with a sense of purpose after having walked and talked together. There’s a powerful connective experience when we walk together.

On the personal side, I always walk everywhere when traveling and my best travel memories come from long distance walks and hikes.

My shift into building and operating a walking tour business began when I semi-retired from community development work and was casting about for what I wanted to do next. Social work to walking tours might seem like a stretch, but there’s a beautiful symbiosis in my mind — it’s about connection. When we feel more connected, we become more engaged, when we’re more engaged, we’re more likely to get actively involved in something.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Before I started my walking tours as a business, I used to host some free walking tours during Jane’s Walks, an annual festival of free, community-led walking conversations. At the end of one of these walks, a couple told me that they had recently emigrated from Turkey to Canada and they were in the middle of deciding where they wanted to settle: Kitchener or Toronto, Ontario. Then and there, they decided they would live in Kitchener because they felt so connected to the stories and history shared on the walk, the conversations they had with other participants and the sense of community they experienced within 90 minutes. Their example has always served as a reminder to me of the power of walking together, sharing stories and fostering a sense of connection to places and people.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Kitchener, one of the cities in which we lead walking tours, used to be called Berlin until 1916. It was a predominantly German speaking town in the 19th century because of the earliest settlers who arrived here. For this reason, some of our walking tours have the name “Berlin” in the title. A few times, I’ve had to disappoint people from Berlin, Germany, who accidentally booked tickets on our walking tours! I’ve always known that using “Berlin” in the titles is a marketing risk, but it’s one that I’m willing to accept, for the sake of historical accuracy!

I’ve learned to be super clear in all my website descriptions, confirmations, meeting location details and communications with clients so they know we are located in Canada, not Germany!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

It’s hard to name just one person! Every project I’ve ever worked on has been a collaboration of some kind so there have been many people to whom I’m grateful for support, mentorship and good constructive feedback!

Starting a business as a woman in tourism is a unique endeavor, and I’ve been so grateful to women-led and women-serving entrepreneurship organizations in Southern Ontario, specifically the Women Entrepreneurship Centre at the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics (Wilfrid Laurier University). I had the opportunity to participate and receive support from their bootcamp and accelerator programs in 2022 and 2023. My business would not be where it is today without this specifically designed resources and support for women (and non-binary) entrepreneurs. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from other women at various stages of their own business journey who share real and honest truths about growing a successful business; there’s no question too unusual to ask because they’ve seen and heard it all within their experience.

Women approach business differently and I’ve been entirely open and receptive to everything these women entrepreneurs have to impart.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

I’m taking travel experiences back to basics by focusing on being as hyperlocal as possible. When so much of the travel industry is moving toward automation and technology-based innovation, going old-school, low-tech seems like a return to a foundational element of travel. People still crave personal touches and interaction, which is best done one-to-one. The simplicity of a walking tour is refreshing and leaves people feeling inspired, engaged and energized — unless it’s a boring tour, which it never is with our company! The simplicity of walking and talking together can’t be beat.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

“Hyperlocal” has become a buzzword and trend in the travel industry, which means there are a lot of experiences being passed off as “hyperlocal” when they couldn’t be further from it. It’s easy to be skeptical about whether experiences are truly local. That’s why each one of our guides lives and works in the neighborhoods where we love to walk and talk. Each guide leads the walking tour they lovingly researched and developed so guests always get the best guide for the walk they’re on — no one is reciting a memorized script!

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

I see people moving away from mass tourism toward smaller, more intimate and personalized travel experiences. Travelers are more willing to explore beyond large city destinations to smaller, lesser known regions, maybe even rural communities. They are looking for experiences that connect to people, places, stories and histories of a place beyond what can be captured in an Instagram photo. People want a travel story to share that is uniquely their own.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

My perfect vacation experience would include staying in one location for at least three weeks with the freedom to roam to local cafes, farmers markets and independently owned stores, especially bookshops. I travel at a pretty slow pace and seek out bulletin boards and poster walls to find local events, gallery openings and concerts. I prioritize conversations with locals to learn about activities and events. I also love a vacation that includes wide open horizons and skies; this allows for quiet time watching the sunrise and sunset, disconnecting from social media and tapping into creative pursuits, such as drawing, journaling, daydreaming.

Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.

Our walking tours and experiences are all about connection! We aim to connect travelers to the places, spaces, and history of our cities through the stories of people and events that just might shift the travelers perspectives on the cities of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo. We make an extra effort to tell stories and share histories that have been untold, dismissed or forgotten. We want to dig into stories beyond the dominant Euro-centric, German and Mennonite narratives commonly told about our cities and region — there were Indigenous and Black people and women making history too, and we want to talk about it. We want people to see themselves reflected in the history, culture and art featured on our tours.

Also, walking and exploring on foot is one of the best wellness experiences one can have on vacation. Walking takes you to corners, alleys and neighborhoods that are best seen at a slower pace.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

1 . Know what you’re talking about and be prepared to back it up, without the b-s! We’ve all been through travel experiences where it’s clear that a guide or staff person has memorized a script or pulled information from Wikipedia — guests can see through this in a hot second, especially when the guide cannot answer additional questions beyond what they’ve just said. That’s why each one of our Stroll Walking Tour guides leads the walking tour they lovingly researched and developed, so you always get the best guide for the walk you’re on. And they can answer all of the follow up questions and share obscure, random details that bring stories to life. People know they are with a true local when this happens.

2 . Leave people feeling like they got more than what they expected.
I want people to leave our walking tours with a feeling of “Wow, I did not know that, but now I do and I think it’s so cool!” I often say to people that a well-curated tour should make you healthier, happier and smarter. People expect to learn something new, but I love seeing the joy they experience when the brain lights up with a new fact or story or introduction to a historical figure brought to life. Sometimes people expect walking tours to be a bit boring, but there’s very little yawning on our tours!

3 . Personalize the experience whenever possible. I always ask our guests if they have a special interest in the Stroll Walking Tour they’ve chosen or if they have a connection to the topic. This allows the guide to weave in any special details that might make the experience more meaningful and interesting for them. One time, a group of four young tech workers signed up for our walking tour called “From Busy Berlin to Tech Corridor” because they had recently moved to the area, starting a new job at one of the large tech companies in Kitchener. They wanted to learn the city’s industrial history and how it’s changed to become “Silicon Valley North” over the past 15 years. The guide was able to include additional history about the building where they now work, and the adaptive reuse of the factory building into an office.

4 . Slow down. No one wants to feel rushed through an experience; a walking tour that leaves your guests breathless with exhaustion is no fun for anyone! Slow travel is meant to accommodate the pace of your guests. If someone uses a mobility device on a tour, that becomes the pace of the group, not the speed walker.

5 . Follow up with additional resources to surprise and delight.
Need a recommendation for brunch or dinner after the walking tour? We’ve got those. Want to taste the best espresso in town? We know that place. Want to learn more about something mentioned on the tour? We’ve got a list of links in a blog post to share or, we’ll look it up and email it to you. Need ideas for what to do with a few free hours later in the day? We’ve got suggestions and we can point you in the right direction.
Because we’re truly hyperlocal, guests quickly know they can trust us to help round out their experience. You never know, someone could love it here so much that they decide to live here!

Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

One of the primary goals for my business is to dig deeper for stories and histories beyond the dominant white, Euro-centric stories that are often told on walking tours. I want to engage people from BIPOC backgrounds to research, develop and lead walking tours that share a more diverse history of our cities. I want to use my business to amplify the voices and stories that have been untold, forgotten and dismissed in the history of our cities.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

In my community, I’m known as someone who loves to connect people with others because of a mutual interest or because someone is the perfect person to assist someone else. I’d love to see a world where everyone is deeply connected to at least 4 or 5 other people in order to enrich their health and well-being.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/strollwalkingtours/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/stroll-walking-tours/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/strollwallkingtours/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio Clemente

    Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Media Journalist, #1 Best-selling Author, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor

    The Human Resolve LLC

    Savio P. Clemente is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), media journalist, #1 best-selling author, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLCHe coaches cancer survivors and ambitious industry leaders to amplify their impact, attract media attention, and make their voice heard. He inspires them to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit and to cultivate resilience in their mindset.

    Savio has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad.  His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.