In today’s episode I speak with Quinn Laroux of NOLA Drag Tours — New Orleans’ first drag tour company, which focuses on sharing the city’s queer and feminist history. Within the first few months of launching, NOLA Drag Tours was met with resounding success and became the number 1 activity on Airbnb experiences in New Orleans. This is an impressive feat for any start-up tour company, but especially impressive to achieve in New Orleans, which is probably one of the most highly competitive tourism destinations in the country.
Quinn talks us through her experience launching a walking tour company, including the major challenges she faced as a queer woman running this business on her own. She also shares an absolutely genius marketing strategy she used to organically grow NOLA Drag Tours so quickly. It’s so simple but effective, and something that never would have crossed my mind, so I promise you’ll want to stick around to hear it.
Now, this episode was originally recorded in the fall of 2020 and unfortunately Quinn is no longer taking bookings for NOLA Drag Tours. The good news is that she’s found another job doing something else that she loves after an incredibly difficult year in the tourism industry. Still, her tours will be very much missed.
But, as Quinn so eloquently writes on her website, the end of NOLA Drag Tours is another part of the city’s long story:
“Remember this tour as a story of the city too. Remember a sad, trans girl still in the closet started a small business with less than $100 in her bank account and for a brief moment was one of the most booked tours in the city. Know that people came from around the world and learned to see themselves in the history of sex workers, queers, and club rats. Know that telling these stories made her stronger than she could ever imagine she could be. Know that for the first time in her life, she became confident enough even to go off in search of something even better. Know that she is a happier and better person for having done it, but also for moving beyond it.”
Launching the first drag tour of New Orleans
Quinn Laroux launched NOLA Drag Tours in 2019 so that she could share a part of New Orleans’ history and culture that wasn’t represented in other tours of the city. She recalls originally training with another walking tour company and being horrified to realise that not a single woman was mentioned throughout the tour. She then asked that company if she could incorporate queer stories into her tour, but was told no because they weren’t ‘family friendly’. Quinn then decided to leave that company and start her own.
When designing her first tour route, Quinn focused on the stories she wanted to share rather than specific sites or places to point out. She admits, “the only negative feedback that I’ve gotten is that there aren’t a lot of building to look at,” to which she laughs “well, it’s an underground history of the city.”
Challenges with drag tours
Quinn also shared some of the biggest challenges of running a drag tour in New Orleans. On a practical level, it was difficult to know how to dress for ‘street drag.’ Most performers spend several hours getting ready for a drag show. However, Quinn quickly realised that she’d need to adapt her normal drag routine since she was leading so many tours every week and doing so outside in weather that was often unpredictable.
She also had the added challenge of having to deal with drunk people on tours, which at times was especially dangerous for a trans woman in drag. “Street harassment can get pretty extreme from all kind of angles, like people feeling really entitled to touch me, people feeling really entitled to film me. Things like that are pretty heavy.”
However, Quinn takes a no-nonsense approach when it comes to managing these situations. She laughs, “I built in a strict policy that I could kick someone off if they’re terrible. I basically start off the tour with a threat: do you really want to be kicked off the tour by a drag queen? Is that really what you want for your weekend?”
Becoming the top activity on Airbnb Experiences in NOLA
Quinn used a simple but highly effective marketing strategy to quickly become one of the top activities on Airbnb Experiences. “The smartest thing I did was going to bartenders that worked in gay bars and asking if they’d like to go on the tour for free, and just building a relationship with bartenders — more so than the owners,” she explains. She knew her ideal customers would be visiting gay bars and going to drag shows, so she figured the best way to reach those customers was through the local bartenders working in those places.
She then turned to Airbnb Experiences to further grow her business. Quinn knew that her ideal customers wouldn’t be staying in hotels or using concierge services. Instead, they’d be in an Airbnb and therefore likely to use Airbnb Experiences in search of things to do in the city.
However, though this sounds like a well thought out marketing plan, Quinn is quick clarify that her company’s growth was organic and that she always put the community first. “I approached it more about the people I was bringing on the tour and thinking about it from a community stand point rather than a customer stand point. I ended up building really strong relationships with the people I had on the tour.”
More from this episode
How does Quinn continue giving back to her community? What advice does she have for other aspiring entrepreneurs hoping to build a business with little money? How else did she manage groups that got out of hand? What does she chat about on her podcast, Loose: A History of Sex and Vice? Tune in to hear more from this incredible woman!