Amazon has launched a new virtual travel platform that lets users book interactive experiences, like walking tours and cooking classes, while shopping for local treasures along the way.
Amazon Explore, now in beta, offers the opportunity to learn how to make authentic Montreal bagels, take a virtual tour of Kyoto’s Nanzenji Temple, travel across Argentina through a virtual wine tasting, and check out New York City’s sprawling Central Park.
Prefer to learn about coffee production from Costa Rica, sushi making from a teacher in Japan, or the secret to amazing smoked fish tacos, like the ones you loved in Mexico? There are experiences for that, too.
Most experiences are currently being managed by tour operators whose businesses have changed drastically against the backdrop of the coronavirus, though individuals with something to share also are invited to apply.
TechCrunch counts 86 experiences in 16 countries so far, and Amazon is promising to expand those numbers.
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Amazon Explore experiences are typically between 30 and 90 minutes long, and are available by invitation only. Amazon members can request invitations through the site.
And camera-shy wanderlusters can rest easy — only guides appear on camera during the experiences. However, audio is enabled for participants, allowing them to have real-time conversations with their guides.
The approach aims to create a “sense of ‘being there’ as opposed to simply watching passively on a screen,” an Amazon spokesperson told The Washington Post.
Unlike many other virtual travel experiences, those using Amazon Explore will have the opportunity to shop for souvenirs along their journeys. Amazon said its experiences allow users to browse local stores and markets as they might in real life, to ask questions of sellers, and shop just like they do on Amazon.
Shoppers will face some limitations, however. Popular souvenirs like alcohol, art, food, and children’s toys aren’t available for purchase, Amazon said.
Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets, and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.