Tour guides are still working, despite international tourism’s shutdown, thanks to cooee.co – a brand-new online platform for booking live-stream, one-on-one tours.
Guests book, pay for, and experience 45-minute tours, using smartphones to connect with and interact with guides, one-on-one and live.
Boutique tour operator Aspiring Adventures launched cooee.co on April 2.
The response was immediate and powerful, with 46 tours booked within a week, all through a small mailout to Aspiring Adventures’ previous guests, and word of mouth through the guides’ own social media.
‘The idea was to create some income for our guides,’ says Steve Wilson, co-founder of Aspiring Adventures, ‘but it’s taken on a life of its own.’
Lockdowns have proved to be a positive.
‘Where guides are stuck at home, it’s not even a tour in the traditional sense – it’s a whole new thing, and something we’re very excited about,’ says Wilson. ‘The shared experience of the pandemic, and both guide and guest being at home, seem to create a shortcut to human connection.
‘It’s really got us thinking about where we could take this. All over the world people are struggling and isolated, and at the same time, they have access to a new kind of social connection, through technology … we’ve tapped into something powerful here.’
Guides embracing the opportunity include Aldo Sanchez, of Cusco, Peru. Aspiring Adventures’ longest-serving guide (since 2012), and the first to join cooee.co, Sanchez describes his first virtual tour in early April as ‘amazing and emotional’.
‘Guiding a tour from your home is like moving to the A-league,’ he says. ‘No scenery, just you and your words. I am surprised how powerful it is. I hope this will keep going even when we have tourists again.’
Cooee guest Janine Calsbeek, of Orange City, Iowa describes her lockdown tour as ‘a relaxed experience with a new friend.’ Sasha Grahovac from Melbourne, Australia noticed ‘a very intimate dynamic… I learned more about Peru in this 45 minutes than in my whole trip there in 2012.’
Cooee.co lists guides in Peru, New Zealand, Nepal, Croatia, Costa Rica, Fiji, South Africa, and England. Australia, Spain, Sri Lanka and Cambodia are in the pipeline.
‘Cooee’ is a word used in Australia as a way of calling out over a distance. It means ‘come here’ in the indigenous Dharug language.
Cooee.co is accepting applications from professional tour guides all over the world.
Company Name: Cooee
Country: New Zealand