When you think of tourism, Amazon probably doesn’t come to mind. But the company is entering the virtual tourism space with a new service called Amazon Explore.
On Tuesday, the company launched a public beta for Amazon Explore as the pandemic continues to stifle tourism and travel across the globe. The service is designed to offer 40-minute to one-hour sessions with hosts based in the country you’re seeking to explore.
Virtual travelers will use a computer and web camera to communicate with their host as they’re taken on the tour. Programs include learning how to cook the local cuisine, visiting historical landmarks, and sampling the country’s wine.
According to GeekWire, Amazon began working on the program long before the pandemic began and has been recruiting tour guides since at least last year.
The new program may hint at Amazon’s larger ambitions to one day expand into the real-world travel industry. But for now, Amazon Explore is available as an invitation-only service to US customers. To receive an invite, you have to visit the website and click on a program you’re interested in. Prices range from $10 to $200 per session.
Amazon Explore also has an e-commerce component to it. During the tours, you can check out and purchase goods from local shops; Amazon will then ship the goods to you. For the cooking or wine-tasting experiences, the ingredient list is shared in advance, so you can go and buy the items, and then enjoy them with your host.
All the tours are also streamed live. However, the host will only be able to hear and speak with the customer, not see them. As a result, you won’t need to dress up.
Amazon isn’t alone in expanding into virtual tourism. Earlier this year, Airbnb launched Airbnb Online Experiences, a platform to connect with virtual tour guides.