Now you can add digital journeys to your Amazon cart – Washington Put up

Amazon enters the travel game virtually.

The company launched Amazon Explore Wednesday, which allows you to book virtual, interactive experiences such as sightseeing, art walks, local shopping, and expert-led animal experiences. For the time being, however, bookings are only possible by invitation.

Amazon Explore lists dozens of experiences around the world that vary in price and length. For example, users can pay $ 90 to virtually explore Kyoto's Higashiyama neighborhood with a local guide. $ 45 to cook traditional Bolognese with a remote Italian chef; $ 70 for shopping in Quebec's quaint Petit neighborhood; or $ 39 to get up close and personal with sloths and toucans in Costa Rica. On the private tours, users can point out their interests and direct the guide with a click of the mouse.

The offers are provided by local tour operators who are trained and supported by Amazon. (Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.) They are conducted over private video calls that allow users to ask questions and improve the experience without being on video.

The offers are currently all "invitation only" and only bookable in the US. Users can request an invitation to one of the tours by logging into their Amazon account and browsing the offers, each with a request button. Most “tours” last between 30 and 90 minutes.

Amazon Explore offers a sushi class with a chef in Tokyo. (Amazon)

Amazon spokesman Dan Benelisha said in an email that the platform was launched yesterday and is in a soft launch beta phase.

Once an invitation to book a tour is secured, Amazon Explore experiences are two-way audio and one-way video. This means the host can hear questions and comments but cannot see the participant. The two-way audio aims to "create a sense of" being "rather than just passively looking at a screen," said Benelisha.

Amazon Explore Experiences enable shopping so customers can visit and browse local stores and markets, ask questions, and purchase items for shipping as if they were shopping on Amazon.

If it sounds like an asset to travelers craving culture and history, it's also a potential lifeline for businesses and tour guides that Amazon invites to submit their own experiences as listings on the website.


With an Amazon Explore experience, you can virtually take a French baking class taught from Montreal. (Amazon)

"Amazon Explore offers a flexible option for small businesses," Benelisha said in the email. "Store owners, guides, teachers, chefs, stylists, artists and artisans can access millions of customers on Amazon while setting their own prices and hours."

The Explore experiences are limited to one device per session, and attendees can take screenshots as an alternative to taking vacation photos.

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