With the coronavirus pandemic having boosted interest in virtual tours, Istanbul has taken the lead in attracting online travelers itching to see the world.
Tülin Yücel Altaş, the founder of the mobile travel application Piri, said those who are stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic were taking an increased interest in virtual tours, especially for certain cities. “There are those who miss Istanbul. For this reason, Istanbul is among the most visited places. Overall, Dublin, Prague, Amsterdam and Cappadocia have attracted the most attention,” Altaş said.
In a statement to Anadolu Agency (AA), Altaş said that her application, which provides digital guides for various locations, was named after the famous Turkish explorer and cartographer Piri Reis.
Altaş explained that the company offered virtual tours with audio narrations voiced by experts and travel writers. “If we are talking about something to do with cuisine, for example, we try to find someone from the culinary field,” she continued. “For example, we have four culinary tours narrated by Vedat Milor. We also produce content with the best guides from abroad. Our guide to London, Ruth Polling, for instance, has won awards for her expertise.”
Altaş claims wandering around a city guided by those who know the area best is a leisurely experience that is not always possible for most. “There are those who do not have enough of a budget to afford guided tours, those who prefer to travel individually or cannot find a place in tour groups. For example, we work with Saffet Emre Tonguç, one of the guides who best describes Istanbul. His tours sell out quite fast. We want to make such formidable names accessible," she continued. “The app receives your location info and starts telling the story of a place, guiding you point-by-point along the way. In addition to the on-site tour experience, a virtual tour can be enjoyed from your own home, on the street or anywhere you like. Most of our users listen to our tours in their own countries first, in order to gear up for a trip or to get inspiration for their next trip before they leave. Plus, we have observed that our audio tours provide podcasts about the travel area.”
Altaş informed AA that the app had catered to the needs of some 500,000 travelers. “We have more than 150 audio digital tours and over 3,000 audio contents in 20 countries and 30 cities. There are 20-25 stops on each tour, with an average of three to four minutes of voice narration at each. To access the tours, travelers can download the Piri mobile app on their phones for free, listen to the free tours available or buy the tour they want to experience. The price of paid tours varies between TL 20-60 ($3-$9) depending on the length and guide,” she added.
In addition to city tours, Altaş recalled that free content was also available in the form of podcast-style programs, the most popular of which include "10 Stories from Topkapı Palace," "The Journey of Coffee," "The Amazing Story of Idioms" and "The 12 Most Exclusive Museums in Europe."
Altaş explained that efforts were underway to increase the amount of content and to cover all cities in Turkey. “We will soon introduce users to our Şanlıurfa-Göbeklitepe tour. In addition, our tours are heavily involved in art, and our users – who are mainly aged between 25 and 44 – are very interested in this kind of content. To this end, we have recently put out free audio called "Art in Quarantine."