Rick Steves Net Worth: The Fortune Behind the Travel Guru

Rick Steves’ net worth is pegged at $15 million in 2024. The American travel guru earned a lion’s share of his fortune from his travel and tour business, television shows, radio programs, book sales, mobile applications, and more.

Steves started his travel and tour business during his days as a student at the University of Washington, and after graduation, he went on to build what is today regarded as one of the most successful travel and tour companies. It was thanks to his interest in tourism around the globe that he wrote over 30 books on traveling and created his TV and radio shows.

Rick Steves’ Net Worth is in Excess of $15 Million

Rick Steves’ net worth is $15 million as of 2024, which is quite huge considering the fact that he started from scratch as a university student. The exact amount Rick earns as an annual salary has never been mentioned in the public space, but it has been speculated to be quite huge. The travel and tours guru paid his dues through the years as he gradually climbed up the financial ladder.

The Milestones that Contributed to Rick Steves’s Net Worth

Rick Steves is one of the richest travel gurus today, thanks to the milestones he recorded on his way up the financial ladder. While he was attending the University of Washington, the Barstow, California native was dreaming of spending his adult life as a piano teacher – a career path that rubbed off on him from his dad, who ran a piano shop in California.

However, his views changed as he started embarking on lone traveling adventures from the age of 18, especially during the summer holidays, and it was usually on budget travel. Steves would normally live out of a backpack while exploring different parts of Europe, and on his return to campus, he would share the knowledge he acquired with friends and other students in the university, and that marked the birth of a travel mogul.

By 1980, Rick Steves gave the piano the back seat in his career pursuit, and it didn’t take long before he finally gave it all up. Instead of teaching piano, he found himself teaching travel. Going forward, other things naturally followed, like writing travel books, launching shows on television, launching radio shows, writing for newspaper publications, and a whole lot more.

This is the story that led up to the man known as one of America’s most renowned travel experts with over 80 employees under his belt. Talking about how far he has come in life, Rick Steves described himself as a man of truth. According to the travel tycoon, he enjoys the right to always stand vocally and rigidly for the truth and what he believes in. In his speech, the Californian native enjoined those who are affluent and free to also embrace truth at all times without minding how it will affect their business.

Breaking Down Rick Steves’ Net Worth and Major Revenue Streams

Rick is one American travel mogul who has done a great job of diversifying his income sources. Though he started in the travel and tours business, the University of Washington alum soon diversified into other fields.

Today, Rick Steves’ sources of income include

  • Travel and tours.
  • Book sales
  • TV shows
  • Radio programs and more

Steves Started Making Money During his Days as a Student

Rick Steves started earning income from his student days at the University of Washington. In his early 20s, the future multi-millionaire joined the league of travel classes teachers at The Experimental College – a non-credit classes program run by students of his college. He usually has time for his teaching jobs during the summer holidays but would go back to his studies once the vacation period is over.

Important to note that he was also experimenting with life as a piano teacher during this period, as that has always been his life ambition.

One year after Rick was done with acquiring his first degree from the University of Washington in 1979, he became an author. That was when the first edition of his travel guide, Europe Through the Back Door (ETBD), hit the book stand. The guidebook entrepreneur is quite distinct from other writers of his ilk as he combined his craft with a storefront business. He cited the store in his hometown, Edmonds, north of Seattle, where the head office is still located to date.

At the initial stage, the store served the purpose of both a piano teaching studio and a travel center until he decided to give up the piano.

How Tours, Merchandise, and More Contribute to Rick Steves’ Net Worth 

After he abandoned his piano dreams, Rick Steves continued holding travel classes at the shop, including slide show presentations and travel consulting. From time to time, he would organize a handful of group tours and update his books. At this stage in his travel and tours business, Rick wasn’t buoyant enough to provide his clientele with standard travel agency services such as ticket booking and the like.

In fact, he managed his scarce resources so well that when the time came to incorporate his business, he named it “Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door”.

After he started from scratch, the travel mogul gradually built his reputation as an expert in the travel and tours business, and with time, he built confidence in travelers all over Europe and America who leveraged his agency for most of their tours.

As more and more people use Rick’s company for their travel arrangements, it boasted his popularity and announced him to a wider audience. In addition to making him famous, it also goes to boost his bottom line.

Rick Steves’ Earnings from Bestselling Guidebooks

As earlier mentioned, Steves penned his first publication, “Europe Through the Back Door” (ETBD), in 1979, one year after he completed his studies at the University of Washington. The book, which was self-published by Rick, came in the form of a general guide about traveling in Europe and was written based on his personal experience as an enthusiastic traveler.

After he became a first-time author, Rick Steves has gone on to publish a plethora of city and regional guides, country guidebooks, and phrasebooks. He has also co-authored books such as Europe 101: History and Art for Travelers. Rick’s guidebook to Italy went on to become the United States bestselling international guidebook.

Leveraging the anecdotal Postcards he gathered from his tours around Europe, Steves started a new genre of travel writing in 1999, recounting his favorite moments and memories from all the scenic spots he visited. The year 2009 was when he released the book titled Travel as a Political Act. The publication is a special guide on touring more thoughtfully. His North American audience is the main beneficiaries of his books as most of the stuff is directed at them.

So far, the prolific author has over 30 books and still counting, and he leverages Avalon Travel Publishing company to publish his work. Avalon is a subsidiary of Perseus Books Group.

The portion of his $15 million fortune that accrues through book sales is not specified, but reportedly, it forms a lion’s share of the travel guru’s bank balance.

Television and its Role in Boosting Rick Steves’ Net Worth

Television is also listed among Rick Steves’ major income sources. In April 1991, the travel guru launched his debut TV show entitled Travels in Europe with Rick Steves, which was aired on public TV stations. The program had its full run in seven years and wrapped up production in 1998.

A couple of years down the line, in September 2000, the University of Washington alum hatched his second show on television called Rick Steves’ Europe. The program aired for 11 seasons till 2020, though it wasn’t consistent in producing every year.

Through his TV shows and publications, Steves reaches out to Americans, encouraging them to become what he described as “temporary locals.” What this means is that travelers shouldn’t just touch down in major cities and go back home. They should make time to go off popular tourist routes and go into the hinterland to cozy villages.

Together with his European escorted bus tours, mobile applications, radio shows, and guidebooks, Steves’s TV shows attract a fanbase known as “Rickniks”.

Today, Rick Steves’ is viewed as one of public TV’s top pledge drive hosts and has raked in millions of dollars from stations across the United States. His programs are written and co-produced by him, and he leverages his production firm, Back Door Productions, in creating his shows.

Highlighting Lesser-Known Avenues That Have Augmented Rick Steves’ Net Worth Over The Years

Apart from his travel and tours business, guidebook, and TV shows, Rick also launched other viable income avenues that have been feathering his nest over the decades. This includes his foray into radio, mobile apps, newspapers, and more.

He Functions as a Radio Host 

The year 2005 was when the American businessman launched Travel with Rick Steves – a weekly radio program that revolves around world travel with an emphasis on North America and Europe. Each of his programs comes with an interview session with a guest travel expert followed by call-ins from the listening audience with questions, suggestions, and comments.

Rick Steves is a Columnist 

Very few people know that Steves also functions as a columnist for the print media. The American travel guru finds enough time in his tight schedule to contribute quality content to Tribune under the Tribune Content Agency column. His job as a syndicated newspaper columnist started as far back as 2006 and is still ongoing.

Steves is Neck Deep into Politics

Steve is a diehard politician and has been supporting the Democrats for years. In addition to his unflinching support for the political party, the University of Washington alum has served in many capacities in the political arena. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws enjoys his services as an Advisory Board member, and in 2021, he became the organization’s board chairman.

He is associated with Initiative 502, targeted at legalizing tax and regulating cannabis business in Washington. When the ACLU sponsored the educational program tagged Marijuana: It’s Time for a Conversation, Steve was chosen to be the host. The program later became an Emmy nominee.

Rick Steves is also a Businessman

Rick Steves became a businessman when he launched his production company called Back Door Productions. The firm has proved to be a successful venture and is responsible for producing all his shows on both television and radio. It also takes on production jobs for others.

Steves has a Functional Mobile App

The mobile application, “Rick Steves Audio Europe,” belongs to the American travel guru and he launched it in 2010. The purpose of the App is to provide prospective travelers with the compiled version of Steves’ self-guided tours throughout Europe.

Also included in the mobile App are cultural insights and travel tips, which are very useful for travelers. The app has been in existence for over 13 years and has received very high ratings.

iOS and Android can download it for use through the Play Store. Reportedly, hundreds of thousands of users have downloaded this App, and all these translate to huge income for Rick.

Charitable Endeavors and Causes Supported By Rick Steves Using His Amassed Wealth

Rick Steves has proved that he has the milk of human kindness running through his veins by supporting multiple charitable courses in the United States. Notable among the travel guru’s acts of kindness is the helping hand he lent to homeless women and children all over the United States.

In a bid to support solutions to homelessness, Steve built a Lynnwood, Washington-based 24-unit apartment complex in 2005. The dwelling which he dubbed Trinity Place, was handed over to the local YWCA, which has been functioning as its administrator.

The purpose of Trinity Place was to provide homeless mothers and kids with transitional housing until they were able to get settled.

The Edmonds Noontime Rotary Club assists Steve in maintaining both the grounds and the buildings, providing all kinds of housing stuff, from flowers to furniture. The club also donated the sum of $30,000 that was leveraged in building a children’s play structure.

According to Rick Steves, building and donating the apartments to the YWCA was therapeutic to him as he understands what it feels like to be in need of an affordable room. Rick said he now sleeps each night knowing that his effort has provided 25 women who have experienced untold hardship a roof over their heads.

Speaking in an interview session, the American travel guru said that letting some underprivileged people out of their vehicles into stable homes won’t undercut capitalism but would be rather good for business. Talking further, Rick said nobody would love to be stupendously rich in a world that is desperately poor, even those who are solely motivated by greed.

Another charitable organization that gains from Rick Steves’ massive wealth is Bread for the World. The group is a movement to end hunger and has been getting royalties from one of the author’s books.

In 2011, Cascade Symphony Orchestra and Edmonds Center for the Arts received the sum of $1 million from Rick, who is an arts supporter.

The American Civil Liberties Union was the beneficiary of Rick’s January 20, 2017 donations. The day was the inauguration ceremony of Donald Trump, and the businessman decided to match the total of all the purchases on his website for the day and use it as a donation to the organization. The total purchase for that day came to $42,962, and he eventually gave the ACLU $50,000.

After he acknowledged that travel is a proven source of environmental destruction in 2019, Rick pledged to donate the sum of $1 million a year in mitigation of the carbon emissions from the 30,000 annual travelers leveraging his tour program. This donation goes to a portfolio of environmental nonprofits that is not mentioned.

Comparing Rick Steves’ Net Worth to Other Travel Industry Giants

The travel and tour industry has churned out some of the richest people in the world, and compared to Rick Steves’ fortune, these categories of travel gurus are quite big. Below is a list of the top 10.

No. Name Net Worth
 1. Jack Taylor and Family $11.4 billion
 2. John Malone $6.7 billion
 3. Elon Musk $6.7 billion
4. Micky Arison $5.9 billion
 5. Barbara Carlson Gage $3.9 billion
 6. Kirk Kerkorian $3.9 billion
 7. Marilyn Carlson Nelson $3.9 billion
 8. Martha Ingram and Family $3.4 billion
 9. Steven Udvar-Hazy $3.4 billion
10, Karen Pritzker $3.3 billion
Chidiebube has been writing and editing articles on movies, entertainment and other juicy things for several years. When he is not writing, he spends time outdoors, lost in the beauty of nature or simply travelling around the world. Thank goodness he can do the later with any internet-enabled device


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