Nothing beats a good tour guide; not only do they know their stuff, the best take the time to build real relationships, and invest their groups with a real appreciation for the material and location. However, not all tour guides are good, not all are cheap, and often they are in short supply. Whether you’re having trouble finding or affording a good human tour guide, why not consider an audio tour instead?
Audio tours come in all forms. Some are free services provided by a government tourism board, others paid products created by small businesses. Some are long, in-depth histories, other short recorded factoids. More advanced audio tours use GPS integration to monitor the traveller’s location and automaticall activate the appropriate recording. They all share convenience, however, and a pause-and-replay-able nature that will suit any traveller looking to set their own agenda. One spot looking particularly enticing? Just pause the tour, and dally as long as you like. Your personal tour guide will be patient, and pick up right where he or she left off.
Audio guides also eliminate problems with language or accent, sometimes even letting travellers pick their narrator for a particular tour or destination.
Certain tourism boards have speakheaded this initiative, such as the Texas tourism board which offers guides to six of the state’s major cities. Private companies like TourCaster, SoundWalk and Acoustiguide let travellers pay for the same service, often selling the guides as individual tracks or city-spanning “albums” at a discounted group rate.
Even individual destinations have started offering audio tours, such as Washington DC’s National Gallery of Art; simply download the tour and walk the halls with a personal guide in your ear. Every work now has its particular story laid out for you. Combining high-level city guides with detailed in-house destination tours leaves many with only one real question: how can one person remember so much interesting trivia?
When the upper barrier to learning inevitably shifts to the capacity of the travellers themselves, and not to the services available to them, the system will be truly indispensible.