The role of initiating a business and wearing a hat of leadership is not for everyone and this honor can only be worn by someone with expertise and experience, in addition to inherent strength, grace, and dignity toward this responsibility. Sarah-Kate Redding, the passionate and driven woman behind Valencia Private Tours and Private Spain Tours, is a well-known figurehead in the tourism industry in southern Europe. She was born in America and holds dual citizenship with Spain. She is a trained Spanish and EU guide as well as a bilingual official local guide in Valencia. She has accumulated a great deal of experience over the years and has extensive knowledge of the industry as a whole.
In a recent conversation with CXO Inc Magazine, Sarah-Kate graciously provided us with a comprehensive overview of her overall journey, details of her business portfolio, and her future plans.
A Leader with Deeply-Rooted Qualities
Although Sarah-Kate Redding (who usually goes by Kate in English, and Sarah in Spanish) was born in Maine, in the US, she spent a significant amount of time in her childhood years in the Dominican Republic, where she learned Spanish at an early age. She feels that she has been guiding people her entire life, after joining her mother who led women’s groups down to the Caribbean, following her family’s travel legacy. She attended Bates College, a top New England ‘Little Ivy’, and proceeded to travel and study abroad in China, Germany, Ireland. She picked up the basics of several more languages that she currently uses when she travels throughout Europe and the wider world. Five days after she received her honors degree in philosophy, this inspiring lady arrived to Spain in 1999. She initially taught English in Madrid, thinking this could be “for a few months,” whilst studying for the LSATS to become a lawyer back in the US. But it seems fate had a different plan for her and she has lived in Spain ever since, with her Spanish husband and three trilingual children.
During COVID, she finally had the time to pursue a dream of hers, to study a Masters in History. Already a guide well versed in history, she was admitted to the renowned medieval history program at the University of Valencia and spent well over a year pouring over medieval documents from Latin and Catalan. She can now proudly say, that she is technically a published novice historian, as the translator of the history text book “Food Consumption of Medieval Iberia,” authored by the leading expert on medieval inventories of Spain and head of the Medieval History department of the University of Valencia, Juan Vicente Garcia Marsilla.
The Genesis of Private Spain Tours and Valencia Private Tours: From the Founder’s Desk
“In late 2006, I returned to Valencia, from a 5 year stint in Barcelona, where I had started in the tourism industry while still teaching English, in an educational tour company. Valencia was going through a major transformation with the completion of the City of Arts and Sciences and the new America’s Cup port. Finally, cruise ships were able to dock at Valencia’s deep-water piers once the port’s infrastructure was modified. Only two had visited Valencia annually before then; compared to 2023, where we have received 273! Many of my initial clients came from word-of-mouth recommendations from my prior travels; and a great deal of them were off cruise ships. At this time, it was still quite difficult to find a small private tour and cruise ships pushed their big group bus tours, with few alternatives. It occurred to me that there must be more people who would like this private, customized service and who did not want to join the mass style tours, for a variety of reasons: either they had mobility issues and were ‘too slow’ for the group, or the opposite, ‘too spry’ for a group and they wanted to be able to see more with their time. At this time there wasn’t a single website in my many web searches dedicated to private tours soley in Valencia, which I initially had searched so that I could seek employment! Instead, I bought the domain name, www.valenciaprivatetours.com and started writing and designing it myself. It was a terrible website! That was around 2007-2008, I believe! Although it was terrible, it was the first website you could find based in Valencia, specifically devoted to private excursions. I eventually, of course, hired a real website designer, but the original text is still all mine, which is just lots of hours of writing out what we guides do. At first, I had simply hoped that I could give up teaching, just because I was getting burned out on it, but I couldn’t then have dreamed of how big it could get!
After having done group tours for a number of years before this, I felt that, rather than relying on a pre-memorized monologue, like a lot of guides do, I could offer the traveler a more personalized, tailored, and genuine experience while they were in Valencia and Spain. It seemed that more and more people felt the same way. Since most people who travel are naturally curious and have sharp minds, I wanted our experience to be more of a dialogue and a meeting of the minds—which is, in my opinion, what almost every tour these days is and aim for the 20 or so guides that we have, to offer the same high-end service.
Revolutionizing the Panorama of Traveling
These days, it’s very easy to locate large, global organizations and buy a tour with just a click. However, one has no idea with whom they are truly communicating nor who is the actual provider for the service one wants. That is where Private Spain Tours and Valencia Private Tours differ: Clients book directly through Kate and her team, who are actual guides. Kate has guided in nearly every nook and cranny of Spain, Portugal and France. This means she and her team can then parlay their direct experience into the itineraries, logistics and creative experiences, tailored for the inquiring guest, better than any travel conglomerate or ‘agent’ who sells tours, to places they have actually never been to themselves. For a lot of people, writing the simplest of emails to convey what one wants, seems easier than dealing with the online platforms. The idea behind Private Spain Tours and Valencia Private Tours is to give the visitor the warm welcome by someone who actually wants to get to know this traveler, too, not just to introduce “the tourist” to the city. In fact, Kate says explicitly, “I don’t believe in the ‘dirty’ word of tourist, but that each guest is truly a traveling anthropologist instead.” Whenever plans may need to be modified or altered, or an incident arises, having one person who is responsible and accountable is necessary, but generally not the case these days with everything from flights to hotels. The type of traveler who desires a private tour is one who values speaking with actual people, not just listening, and sharing their own knowledge or experience that a certain site or monument brings up for them.
Despite having a small team, Kate oversees every aspect of every tour, from a 2.5-hour walking tour to a 2-week gourmet food and wine tour that takes participants across three countries. The leading lady guarantees that every tour will be completed to the complete satisfaction of her guests from the conception of a tour, to post tour reviews. She also personally selects and employs a team of excellent guides, taking into consideration their natural personality, their language skills, their knowledge and logistical capabilities. Private tour visitors enjoy having a single point of contact who is aware of every detail of their schedule, someone who remembers their names and their sometimes niche requests from emails sometimes months earlier, and someone who accepts the full responsibility for all tour matters. Sarah-Kate Redding is that person.
Edge Over Her Peers
As a global citizen, Kate, has a unique way of narrating the history of Valencia, Spain, and Europe while assisting her clients in comprehending the contemporary distinctions between Spain and their nation—differences that are the subject of fascinating current anthropological discussions. Because she is both foreigner and local at the same time, her insights are unique to the visitor here and she inherently knows what will be relevant to some people and less to others.
Connecting with interesting, distinguished, and curious individuals from all over the world is one of the things Kate likes most about her work— and she knows all of her guides feel the same way. She especially enjoys helping foreigners relate to Spanish customs and recognize their commonalities, in order to make them feel like they are actually interacting with Spain and not just passing through. The inspirational woman has maintained relationships with many of her guests over the years and enjoys running into them again in different parts of Spain on occasion. That’s why the company motto is. “You’re not just our VIP’s, you’re our personal guests.”
What makes Kate’s business so unique is that it revolves around private tours and customized trips. Despite running the longest-established and respectable private tour company in Valencia, she continues to conduct as many tours as she can herself, and maintains her desire for her clients to feel as though they are working with a personal friend. The natural growth of the business led to www.privatespaintours.com, where a great deal of her clients visiting Valencia, want to come back to other parts of Spain, Portugal, France and Morocco, for example, with the same trust-worthy contact.
Maintaining Resilience in a Dynamic Industry
Rather than just offering “tours,” Sarah-Kate and her team are always coming up with new concepts, routes, and “experiences,” which have become quite popular, for example the first Jewish Heritage tours in Valencia were offered on her site. While they can’t continue all new ideas, they always make an effort to try them out and brainstorm new concepts. This boss is now renovating a locale in Valencia’s Benimaclet district, to expand on her usual demographics of travelers who are 40 years old or older, to tap into the younger generation that prefer a shorter but genuine interactive experience, and that don’t mind sharing their time with other participants. Thus, “Spain Memories,” which aims to launch in February 2024, will be used for interactive, hands-on experiences for small, semi-private groups and may also be used for the business clients, who bring in small to large teams for conferences, incentive trips and the like. The business scavenger hunt of Valencia, for example, is one of the leading products of growth and now a space can be offered to gather after the business scavenger hunt or tour to Valencia, to taste some wine and hash out the findings.
Envisioning a Thriving Journey Ahead
Kate has been effectively managing her business and growing it to new heights to add a few other members to the team and join partnerships with other boutique travel agencies. Additionally, since there is so much more to offer just in the Valencia region, they want to market and sell more of their multi-day trips around Valencia, as well as their new “Valencia Wellness Tours” also starting in 2024. The first of the Valencia Wellness Series, includes a Women’s Wellness Tour, focused on hiking, walking and step counts, as well as adopting a Mediterranean diet during their stay and participating in healthy but fabulous cooking classes. They will also have optional mediation, personal trainers and yoga ad-ons, while they are taking breaks from their own professions and lives here. Private Spain Tours also organizes full Camino de Santiago tours. “We think the focus on wellness perfectly fits into the new age of travel here in Spain, while seeing, eating, and drinking one’s way around this magnificent country and her neighbors”, says this lady with dynamo energy.
Words of Wisdom
Kate quotes Confucious and says, “Find a job you love, and you will never have to work a day again in your life.” Creating a business is similar to caring for, thinking about, and investing a lot of time in a child. So one should carefully choose how they want to spend their time. The question to ask yourself first is “Where am I needed, how can I be of service?” not “How much money can I make.”