Amazon rolls out virtual vacation tours that include shopping

Photo: Amazon
Oct 08, 2020

Amazon has introduced Amazon Explore, which allows consumers to virtually take classes, tour exotic places and (surprise, surprise) shop at exotic locales.

Consumers can book one-on-one live-streamed sessions with local tour guides, instructors and personal shoppers. Most sessions last from 30 to 60 minutes. Prices range from as low as $10 for some shopping sessions to as high as $210.

Among the 86 experiences currently being offered across categories:

  • Cultures & Landmarks: Virtually tour the Berlin Wall ($99), a 500-year-old mansion in Peru ($70) or Mexico City’s urban art scene ($47). Amazon’s says the experience will enable participants to “see famous landmarks or discover quiet corners where only locals go.”
  • Learning & Creativity: Learn how to tango from the streets of Argentina ($90), throw a home sushi party from Tokyo ($49) or make Montreal-style bagels ($129). This options will enable participants to “learn skills from picture taking to empanada making and more.”
  • Shopping: Virtually shop for traditional arts and crafts from Old Town Ljubljana in Slovenia ($69), for cookware from Tokyo’s Kitchen Town ($45) or for wooden boxes and bowls at a gallery in Costa Rica ($45). “Browse boutiques and markets to find one-of-a-kind items you can’t get anywhere else,” according to Amazon.

The sessions are interactive and customizable. Users can ask questions of the host or even a shop owner. Participants can direct the host to spend more time on one part of a tour or lesson and skip another, and take screenshots throughout the experience.

In-session shopping is available across many experiences. Purchased items are charged to the individual’s Amazon account and shipped out by the session’s host.

Amazon is recruiting hosts “to share what you love and get paid to do it.” Amazon Explore is currently in beta and only available to U.S. customers by invite.

Amazon Explore merges a number of virtual offerings that have loomed larger amid the global pandemic, including online cooking classes from stores and one-on-one virtual shopping from social networks and retailers, including Amazon Live. With restrictions placed on travel, major tour companies have introduced a number of virtual tours, although most don’t offer opportunities to shop for souvenirs.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think virtual shopping at faraway locales will hold appeal for American consumers? Do you expect rival retailers or companies in other industries to offer similar programs to Amazon Explore?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"I can see people signing up for this, especially now, and in the future this can be a great option for people who don't have the time or budget for a real vacation."
"This can enable extremely talented craftspeople to reach more customers in a much more personalized way."
"Sign me up. Having a passion for travel and exploration and given the limitations imposed as a result of COVID-19, I’m antsy."

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19 Comments on "Amazon rolls out virtual vacation tours that include shopping"

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Dave Wendland

Sign me up. Having a passion for travel and exploration and given the limitations imposed as a result of COVID-19, I’m antsy. Not only will Amazon Explore provide opportunity to visit places people have considered going and get a flavor for the culture, etc., but they will also have the chance to shop some local wares.

If this works — and I think it will — and is found appealing by consumers, other retailers and brands will surely follow.

Neil Saunders

This will never replace the thrill of actually visiting and exploring places in person, but it is nevertheless a smart and creative idea that fits in with our currently socially distanced lifestyles. Aside from the pandemic, I see this as one of the ways in which online shopping will become more immersive and interesting. Sure, it will never replace more transactional means of online commerce, but it is a nice addition for those looking for gifts, for special items, or to be entertained. It is also a really great way to showcase global retail talent and to get store and brand owners in front of a much wider audience. All that said, the success will depend on execution. The promotional video looks good, but that needs to be replicated into the actual experience.

Suresh Chaganti

We have weird stuff happening. People are missing travel so much that there is demand for flights to nowhere. For Amazon this is yet another way to nudge shoppers.

I think the uptake will be small as a percentage of Amazon shoppers, and it will be a niche product for quite sometime. But the sheer number of Amazon shopper means that in absolute terms it could rival someone like Pier 1 Imports in its heyday.

Raj B. Shroff

I think virtual shopping absolutely holds appeal for consumers. And I love this idea as it evolves the way we use the web and engage with physical experiences. There is also a tremendous amount of learning Amazon will get on how to engage people in their homes via a web interaction. I could see this evolving into full suites of e-retail similar to Zoom trade show rooms and many other possibilities as e-commerce evolves.

There are a few Chinese companies doing remote retail via web but it’s not clear if they are doing the classes and tours part. I don’t see large retail rivals here doing this, they aren’t set up for it and are trying to catch-up with their traditional digital efforts. If anything I would see Netflix, Facebook or Google/YouTube trying to do something similar to capitalize on their ecosystems. I love to read about exciting things like this and I hope it pans out the way they envision and more.

Paula Rosenblum


Rodger Buyvoets

I think this is a new market that not only provides an opportunity for retail or travel agencies, it also taps into the global gig economy where, worldwide, the number of tour guides will rise. With travel being restricted for an unlimited time, I certainly believe there is a market and demand for this need. People will have the budget available to digitally travel the world and get exclusive shopping opportunities from different places, all while staying on the couch!

Mohamed Amer, PhD

Amazon Explore is the next best option to being there without the cost or current hassle of travel. The program takes advantage of our increasing use of video connections and the love of discovering the unique. The concept has legs and reminds me of a much more personalized version of the growing virtual museum tours. Expect others to mimic this as Amazon sets the expectations.

Lisa Goller

Hook me up with a croissant-making class in Paris! What an entertaining way to satisfy consumers’ pent-up demand to escape to exotic locales.

Immersive travel experiences deliver fun, engaging ways to see the world from the safety and comfort of our couches. Our untouched 2020 travel budgets can easily fund our digital globetrotting.

This launch adds even more value to the lucrative segment of Prime members who will shop at Amazon Luxury. All that’s missing are Instagram-worthy selfies.

Xavier Lederer

One of the big challenges of e-commerce is that it poorly translates the in-person shopping experience and personalized service. Some brands tried online bot assistants, with mixed results. This initiative seems to combine the best of both worlds: the comfort and convenience of your own home, and the personal service and listening skills that only a human can deliver. This can enable extremely talented craftspeople to reach more customers in a much more personalized way.

Bindu Gupta

Very interesting! I can see people signing up for this, especially now, and in the future this can be a great option for people who don’t have the time or budget for a real vacation.

Ricardo Belmar

This is intriguing on many levels. A combination of satisfying the urge to travel and visit far-flung locales mixed with shopping for items you might not otherwise discover. Throw in a little bit of learning (aka cooking classes) and this could turn into something meaningful for Amazon – certainly they will learn more about how customers are willing to leverage video-based shopping for future applications.

Some interesting aspects of this – one-way video, so there’s no pressure on the part of the consumer to be seen by the guide. And the fact that this is a 1:1 experience, which will appeal to younger demographics.

The one downside I see when I check Amazon’s site for more info is that it’s only available on a desktop browser experience and not mobile-enabled yet. That could be a limiting factor. Otherwise, I’m sure we’ll see many people signing up for this!

Jeff Sward

Creative and smart! The pandemic is forcing us to look for creative solutions and Zoom is teaching us that we can get stuff done sitting in front of a screen. It may not be choice #1, but it’s a workable option until choice #1 is available again. And even then Amazon Explore can provide a glimpse of the world that would otherwise be unavailable. I’ve said for awhile that Explore + Experiment = Experience. Amazon takes it from the real world to the virtual world.

Shep Hyken

This takes an online cooking lesson to another level. Let me explain. A chef offers an online cooking course. At the end the chef makes the mixer, pots, pans, utensils, etc. available for purchase in his online store. What Amazon is doing is taking that same scenario and creating a virtual excursion. Great idea and just another way for the consumer to interact with this online retail giant.


The more I think about this as an analogy, what Amazon is to physical goods but for services, the more I like this as a business. Amazon customers can now purchase digital services through the Amazon ecosystem (user accounts, payment processing, AWS) without leaving their homes. It’s a solid translation of the original Amazon value proposition that probably would’ve been five years away without COVID-19. As a consumer, I don’t get it – but I don’t need to get it for it to be successful. It’ll be very interesting to see how this does.

Gary Sankary

I’m skeptical. I think there is demand for this but it’s limited, and I don’t think that Amazon is exactly the right platform for this. People looking for new experiences and virtual travel I would expect would look to other travel and crowd sharing types of brands where local guides already have a presence.

Cynthia Holcomb

What will Amazon think of next? I like it! Fun, inexpensive entertainment taking interactive virtual experiences to the next level. A challenge will be executing a great experience given the number of human, language, and weather variables all intersecting at once. I bet Amazon has this covered. Which leads me to wonder about the end goal, the use case, the motivation for this new, multi-dimensional, experiential data collected via Amazon explore and how will this data be used by Amazon?

Ken Lonyai


Prague Stories
Virtually tour Prague’s Old Town Square
35 minute session

That will be one hell of a 35-minute tour to justify the outrageous fee–particularly with 25.5 million Americans receiving unemployment and about 10% of adults, or over 22 million Americans, claiming they sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat in the last seven days, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau.

$10-20 tours where the host gets 75% of the fee and all shopping-related tours free, that’s reasonable. But this is another Amazon grab that is offensive given the REALITY of our economy that those of us with unaffected incomes must always consider.

Jeff Sward

I like this idea, but have to agree that at that level of fee, it’s a hard pass.

Matt Cebulski

This is an interesting space that will spike during the pandemic but hopefully serve a real purpose for education, aging seniors and more when the world starts to go back to normal. Although it will never replace “being there” it could provide new experiences, culture, and information for those who might not be able to get there due to other constraints post COVID-19.

"I can see people signing up for this, especially now, and in the future this can be a great option for people who don't have the time or budget for a real vacation."
"This can enable extremely talented craftspeople to reach more customers in a much more personalized way."
"Sign me up. Having a passion for travel and exploration and given the limitations imposed as a result of COVID-19, I’m antsy."

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