“Mobile technology will become an ever more important tool to enhance destination travel experiences.”

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 materialise - 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?
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.

This product is so innovative and transformational, as to how travellers will experience cities,
that it deserves a proper introduction.

It is also a unique and exciting moment for local city operators from around the world to take
a central 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 out of the total experience market have remained relatively small in terms of market
share and, so far, did not manage to 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:
Distribution: Reaching mass markets is rather tough 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.

OTAs: The way most in-destination travel products arrive to market nowadays is via OTAs.
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 selling products that will be consumed on a third-party
external app, which means letting go of the digital customer journey. This suggests that
getting 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 probably also enjoy the interaction with other visitors.

Tour operators and DMC’s: The backbone of the travel industry, every city relies on them
for 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 VCW 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.
Travellers are free to decide to breakaway 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 for this day and age, 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.
VCW's 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.
Ultimately, Vox City Walks is an environmentally sustainable version of HoHo that utilises the
advanced smartphone technology we all carry in our pockets to provide an enhanced
multilingual guest sightseeing experience, while offering constant human contact and
An exciting new way to discover a city!

Footnote for local tourism businesses:

VCW is a unique franchise opportunity to join the digital revolution, increase cross-selling
and packaging sales, and be part of a global brand that will reshape city sightseeing as we
know it.
You will control local operations and sales with Vox guidance, but Vox has also recruited
some of the most acclaimed professionals in the HoHo and tours sectors to manage global
distribution, operations support and marketing, to ensure solid sales and consistent
operation for each world-wide location.
Vox is offering free webinars and private conversations with local tour operators and DMCs
from around the world to select, partner, and launch this product in your destination.
To date, over 20 cities are already confirmed, including Rome, Venice, London, Toronto, New
York, Melbourne, and Bangkok. By year-end 2021 there will be over 60 destinations.
Get in touch with us today to discuss exclusivity rights for your city.