Innovation That Matters

Tour guides for virtual travel — Update

Travel & Tourism

Last year, we featured a virtual travel agency that offers tours through the virtual world of Second Life. That agency, Synthravels, now has 5,000 volunteers offering themed tours focusing on everything from architecture to virtual love for sale. Three recent spottings reveal that other long-time residents are providing similar services. Since volunteers make wonderful guides, but can’t always be relied on to show up at the agreed time and place, SL Tourguides is offering newcomers professional tours for a fee. The company focuses on business travellers: “You will learn the lingo, learn the protocols, ask questions as you go and find the places/experiences you need to know about. Once you’ve done a tour you will be better placed to decide whether you want to do business in SL.” SL Tourguides offers a 30-minute training session to get to grips with handling an avatar, learning to move, take pictures and store locations. Once they’ve covered the basics, customers can take shopping tours to see what’s happening in virtual retail (90 minutes), or visit examples of what other companies are getting up to in SL (90 minutes). All tours are priced at USD 10 per 30 minutes. SL Tourguides works with freelance guides, who pay the agency a 20% commission fee. Dutch speaking travellers are catered to by AmaZingg Travels, which offers corporate clients personalized tours lasting an hour, pointing out potential business opportunities while teleporting from one SL location to the next. AmaZingg Travels has been guiding clients around SL since July 2006, and charges corporate clients EUR 115 per hour, allowing up to 8 avatars to join in on a tour. The company’s founder, Danielle Jansen, also gives in-house presentations for larger audiences in RL (real life), using her alter ego Gwendolyn Kronsage to give corporate groups an insider’s view of Second Life. Jansen has noticed a shift in what clients are asking for: at first, they were still trying to figure out what SL was, and were mostly interested in general tours. Now, companies and non-profit organisations are more tuned in and requesting specific tours that are relevant to their brand or industry, or in-depth forays into the virtual world’s technical possibilities. AmaZingg’s most requested tours by corporate clients are Education, Politics & Government, Collaboration & Meeting, Architecture & Urban Planning and Art. Last but not least, an actual, physical guidebook has been published by St Martin’s Press: The Unofficial Tourists’ Guide to Second Life. It’s a light-hearted guide that introduces first-time visitors to “an online tourist destination where you can shop for virtual designer clothes in a shopping mall atop a live volcano, teleport to an underwater gig by U2, before taking a new friend back to your personal spaceship for virtual coffee.” The book was written both for business travellers and casual tourists, and contains basic but important travel information like what to wear, where to go shopping, and how to find the hottest clubs. In short: while the huge burst of media hype surrounding Second Life might be behind us, there are still plenty of opportunities for minipreneurs who can help businesses find their way around virtual environments like Second Life or World of Warcraft. Same goes for social networks like Facebook or Bebo: corporate clients need to discover whether these are platforms they can work with(in) and require knowledgeable guides to show them the ropes. Websites:



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