Amazon has created an exceptional travel product that allows travelers to stay home, and follow a local guide who shows the agreed destination or, for instance, a cake recipe over the internet. The product, Amazon Explore, was made available to a limited number of beta users in September 2020, but the general functionality and purpose of the digital travel experience can be reviewed by anyone.
Amazon has categorized Explore travel products into three groups:
- Sightseeing: culture and landmarks. A local guide takes you to a tour that is streamed live to you only. You can talk with the guide during the tour.
- Shopping: shop in boutiques and markets with your personal local guide. Purchases are shipped to your home address.
- Learning: for instance, a Japanese chef can show you how to make sushi, or a tea expert in Argentina teaches you to prepare a cup of local tea.
The live sessions are personal. You (or your family or friends) are the only audience the local guide has for the purchased online period. At the moment, the guides are English-speaking. Amazon is requesting applications for more guides (known as hosts), and there is no requirement to be a professional guide.
A journalist who was invited to try out the Amazon Explore travel experience concluded that it worked well. The feature that pleased both the guides and the remote traveler was one-to-one personal experience.
You need a computer with internet connection and loudspeakers or headphones. The connection speed must be fast enough for live streaming. Amazon has a tool for measuring it. There is also a tool for taking photos of the screen during a session, and you can click items in a shop or during a sightseeing tour to indicate your interest.
The guide can only hear the virtual traveler, not see him or her. Remote guides set the price for their tours and learning sessions. At the moment, prices range from USD 10 to USD 200. Sessions are generally from 30 minutes to an hour.
Hosts can insert additional images to the live stream that help remote travelers to understand, for instance, the landscape or how traditional clothes are worn.
This is an Amazon product, completely run and managed in the familiar Amazon.com user interface.
Who wants to travel virtually?
Amazon must have given plenty of thought to the tough question who really wants a product that shows you the real thing but you can’t feel or touch it yourself. Well, Amazon is not the only one that wants to try it. Airbnb opened Experiences service for virtual travel in early 2020. It is roughly the same concept as Amazon Explore: hosts show you around a destination or teach you something online.
Here is my take which remote travel sessions will succeed in Amazon Explore and why:
- Sightseeing: probably not. If a tourist is interested in a destination, he can read a guidebook, watch a travel show on television, or find other information about the destination. Has Google Street View increased or decreased travel? It is often used to see around how a place looks like. If the place looks interesting, let’s go and visit it. The same could apply to Explore sightseeing.
- Shopping: in some cases, yes. If someone desperately needs something that is not readily available in his or her own city, Amazon Explore could be a solution. But why not shop at Amazon directly, it has the largest selection of products, after all?
- Learning: yes. Learning something new online is a proven concept. An online tutor can be valuable, for instance, when learning a new language, figuring out how to repair a bicycle, or prepare a special meal.