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Amazon Explorer gives one-on-one tours around the world via live streaming

(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

It’s difficult to travel these days because of COVID-19, but Amazon Explorer is looking to come up with a solution by creating one-on-one virtual tours, not that it’s at all the same thing. Geekwire’s Todd Bishop joined Seattle’s Morning News to discuss how it works.

“Well, it’s essentially a marketplace where Amazon has set up relationships with different tour guides around the world, and you can go on and select your experience,” Bishop said. “And, as you said, it is one on one. So it’s a little bit different than experiences like Airbnb has put out where it’s small groups of people.”

“I was able to get a walking tour of Quebec City for 45 minutes directly with a tour guide, and she essentially had her phone on a selfie stick and was walking around showing me the different aspects of the historic city,” he said. “And then later in the afternoon, I was able to go down and get a cooking lesson in Argentina. I learned how to to make empanadas.”

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Though many might assume this was created in reaction to the pandemic, Amazon had actually been working on this long before COVID-19 hit.

“I had the same assumption … The tour guide that I got the tour from in Quebec City, she said Amazon initially contacted her last November, and at the time she had a full book of in-person tourists and she wasn’t really interested,” Bishop said. “Then the pandemic hit and she became very interested. And she’s actually been able to keep her tourism business and her tour guides working through the pandemic because of this Amazon experience.”

Can you make requests and ask the tour guide to go into certain areas?

“The tour guide can hear you, but they can’t see you,” he said. “I can see the tour guide as the customer taking the tour. But the other thing is that on my computer screen, I could take my mouse and click on the video that she’s live streaming to me and say, ‘Hey, I want to go to that building or that building,’ and it actually basically creates a little bit of a marker on her screen so she can see what I’m talking about.”

It’s not a travelling substitute, but has perks

While the tours are entertaining and have a certain benefit, Bishop isn’t under any illusion that it’s at all the same thing as touring a place in person.

“I don’t feel like I literally walked the streets of Quebec City or sat in that kitchen in Buenos Aires to get a sense for how to make empanadas,” he said. “But it was better in other ways because if I had been there in person, I likely would have been with a larger group walking around. This was one on one and I was able to have a direct conversation, and the thing about the Quebec City tour was she was very good, and she asked me a lot of questions right up front about my interests, and so she tailored the entire experience.”

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Bishop says the Quebec City tour cost about $70 and the empanadas in Argentina about $30. The overall prices range from about $10-200. Of course, what is the same as doing an in-person tour is that you can still buy things.

“The one other thing that really struck me that’s a little bit different here is you can buy items from the local shops as you’re taking the tour,” Bishop added.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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