Forget guides, get free audio tours from phone apps

TouristsThe Union Tourism Ministry has decided to roll out mobile phone-enabled audio tours loaded with relevant information to help tourists. (AP Photo)

Soon, tourists may not need to hire local guides to enjoy tours of some of the most famous destinations in India, as the government is preparing to launch smartphone apps equipped with audio tours free of cost.

The Union Tourism Ministry has decided to roll out mobile phone-enabled audio tours loaded with relevant information as well as anecdotes and legends about monuments, churches and museums across India.

After downloading the app for free on either iPhone or Android-based devices, tourists will be able to enjoy the audio tours, which will give them a step-by-stem guide to the place of interest in nine languages, Indian and foreign.

The only catch is that there will be advertisements in between, which will be the source of revenue for the private service provider. The user will not have to pay for anything.

The ministry last month approved the project to develop in the first phase audio tours for destinations in Delhi, Mumbai, Agra, Old Goa, Hyderabad, Amritsar and some other places and the app along with the content is being developed right now by an Indian firm, AudioCompass.

According to the ministry's estimates, the audio tours might find the most takers in independent tourists like backpackers and budget travellers who are not attached to any touring party and want to enjoy a place at a leisurely time.

While officials said tourist guides, who earn a living by providing the same service for a fee locally, may have to let go of a part of their business to the free app, industry professionals said audio tours cannot replace their services.

"Just because the audio tours will be free of cost does not mean we will become redundant. In fact the monologue of a recorded voice cannot match the skills of a guide, who gets to gauge the pulse of the tourist and fine tunes his presentation accordingly," said P Asoka, president of the Approved Tourist Guides Association of India.

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