How is Vox’s City Walks transforming the way we experience cities?
How is Vox City Walks transforming the way we experience cities? That’s the question we put to Vox City Walks Business Development Director Moti Erdeapel. He kindly penned this response.
This hypothesis in some shape or form was articulated by many of us in the experience sector over the last decade, but until Covid19 arrived and shook the world and the tourism industry to its core, it did not materialize – at least not to its fullest potential.
So why did smartphone technology not come to prominence earlier? And is now the right time for digital to become part of the ‘new normal’ in the Tours & Experiences sector?
How Vox City Walks is redefining the genre:
The Vox Group, a pioneer in the digital travel experience market, has recently launched a hybrid concept between a traditional guided tour and a digital experience. It is a Hop-on Hop-off walking tour experience designed for mass-market travel, and it operates in partnership with local tour operator partners.
It also offers a unique and exciting opportunity for local tour operators from around the world to take a pivotal role in the new digital revolution that has roots in the pandemic but will likely intensify in the aftermath.
So, let us start from the beginning:
Ever since smartphones were first introduced back in 2006, we have been using them during our travels. Navigation apps tell us to jump on the right bus and find addresses in foreign cities; booking websites allow us to reserve tickets and experiences on the go; and weather forecast applications tell us if tomorrow will be a good day to put on our snorkelling gear and hit the beach, or better to stay dry and explore a museum.
Alongside frequent technology, upgrades emerged a multitude of new and exciting apps designed to create experiences to enhance the way we explore a city or a destination.
Many of these are self-guided tours of museums or towns. Some other apps created action games to turn towns into gigantic escape rooms or treasure hunt grounds. Other apps allow us to go on a culinary quest in food markets. Then there are apps that use VR and AR to convey how archaeological sites looked like during antiquity. And more.
But with all these advanced tools available to travellers, mobile-app-based experiences sales have remained relatively small in terms of market share and, so far, have not become a “must download” for the average tourist.
It is not that there are no sales of digital products or lack of choice in the segment. According to Arival in 2019, one out of five tour-takers in the US bought a self-guided tour.
Around the world there are, by some estimations, over one hundred companies developing and offering self-guided mobile apps. The larger ones have portfolios of hundreds of different tours and activities available to download to our mobile phones.
So, what is stopping these products from becoming the new standard in travel? Let’s explore a few of the main bottlenecks:
Reaching mass markets is challenging for small start-up companies. They tend to excel in technological and product development but do not necessarily have sales infrastructure and marketing budgets to reach the consumer.
So far, these giants have been cautious about onboarding mobile products and have yet to develop a clear strategy in that regard.
Reasons include the lower monetary value of digital experiences, the fact that OTA first pages are given exclusively to best-selling products, and most importantly they hesitate to sell products that will be consumed on a third-party external app, which means letting go of the digital customer journey.
The upshot is that listing your mobile product on the OTAs (and more importantly, achieving a position that will ensure sales) is incredibly challenging for many players in the segment.
The human factor:
There is still, and probably always will be, a large portion of travellers who want to have a human and physical factor when buying a travel experience. They enjoy listening to a local guide, enjoy chatting, asking questions, and get personal tips on what to do and how to do it. They are more likely to enjoy the interaction with other visitors.
Tour operators and DMC’s:
The backbone of the travel industry, every city relies on them for the supply of tours, attractions, day excursions, etc. If they are cut out of this business, and not having a piece of the pie, mobile experiences will have no access to on-location marketing, point of sales promotion and visual advertising.
In 2021, Vox City Walks (VCW) changes the dynamic completely, with a live guide and a mobile app combination on which guests can join the best walking tours circuits guided by local experts whenever they wish, or self-guide at leisure.
After buying a ticket for 24, 48 or 72 hours, sightseers receive an email with a link to download the Vox CitY Walks app and city contents.
Upon arrival at the city of choice, they switch on the app, find the geo-tagged guide’s locations on a map, and navigate to their nearest joining point.
The guide greets the guest, scans their QR code and the client joins the tour. Travelers are free to decide to break away for lunch, relaxation, shopping, or perhaps visit a museum.
They have the freedom to re-join at any time, at the same spot, or at any other joining point across the city. It is all enjoyed in their own way and pace. Guided circuits are about one to two hours in duration and pass through the main monuments and hidden gems of the city.
Self-guided routes allow unlimited sightseeing, by day or by night.
On the app, guests will find lots of other points of interest, photo spots, Wi-Fi hotspots, and recommendations from the local guides. They can also locate their hotel, favourite shops or restaurants and navigate there, using the app’s full navigation functionality, by foot, bus cycling or scooter!
While on the guided tours, the live guide speaks English (and the local language, depending on the needs of customers), but if the traveller prefers another language, they can choose to listen to the same explanation through the app.
Conveniently, groups can be limited to a closed number of participants, and once someone hops off the tour the spot becomes available for other customers to join.
This functionality can be pre-programmed and adjusted by the operator.
Vox City Walks flexible combination of local guides and smartphone guiding makes this a highly desirable sightseeing and city experience for most visitors. The fact that the product is both free sale and HoHo turns it into a potential bestseller on OTAs and B2B channels.
Thanks to Moti for sending us a comprehensive response, I have invited the company onto the podcast so we can dig into this a bit deeper.
For more information contact Vox.
Don’t miss the important news in the tours and activities industry! Each weekday I send out a curated quick to read email with all the major news in our industry. Sign up for your free Tourpreneur Daily Briefing.
Tourpreneur is the world’s only weekly independent podcast focused on activity and tour operators. Available on all good podcast apps. Subscribe here and never miss an episode of the show.