It's the perfect COVID-era last-minute gift for the adventurer in your life.

By Rachel Chang
December 22, 2020
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Last-minute holiday shoppers: your procrastination has paid off. Last week, Amazon launched gift card options for Amazon Explore, a virtual travel platform that allows users to engage in one-on-one experiences with expert hosts around the globe.

Whether it’s an up-close experience with jaguars, sloths, and monkeys at Costa Rica’s Las Pumas Rescue Center; a shopping trip through Tokyo’s Kitchen Town; or making alfajores and dulce de leche in Buenos Aires, you can now give the gift of adventure through Amazon Explore, which hosts one-way video, two-way audio livestreams for bespoke virtual travel experiences. The set up allows for a “real-time interaction, on-the-move exploration, and a sense of ‘being there’ as opposed to simply watching passively on a screen,” reps for the company explained.

The new gifting option — available in $25, $50, $75, etc. denominations — is just like an Amazon gift card, but emblazoned with Amazon Explore. The gift card can be delivered to the recipient via text or email. They’ll then be able to select their own experience — a perfect way to gift a safe and responsible virtual cultural immersion for travel lovers who have been sidelined by the pandemic. Additionally, the online tours help support the local tourism industry in each community.

“While no one is traveling or afraid to travel, Amazon Explore has provided an amazing way for us to connect with people,” Francis Taylor, operations director of Central American Tours, one of the partners that operates the Amazon Explore tours, tells Travel + Leisure. “They can also consider Amazon Explore like a movie trailer for future trips to Costa Rica, to know what they can experience here. Amazon Explore has been incredible for our company, for our family, and for the explorers.”

Dadaocheng in Taipei
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Amazon Explore, which launched in beta in September, offers live-stream experiences in three major categories. The Cultural and Landmarks offerings include walks through the traditional Dadaocheng neighborhood of Taipei, the Vigeland Outdoor Sculpture Park in Oslo, or the socialist architecture in Slovenia. Learning and Creativity sessions include a sushi and miso soup demonstration from Tokyo, a maple syrup cooking experience from Montreal, or a pottery class from Seattle. The shopping category allows for in-session purchases with custom scarfs in Australia, handmade gifts in Peru, and indie home goods in Cleveland.

Sessions are typically 30 to 60 minutes long and hosted directly through Amazon. Specific times can be booked on the individual tour’s site, with cancellations and changes allowed up to 24 hours before the start time. The hosts include tour guides, teachers, chefs, artisans, and personal shoppers, all who have a particular expertise in the sessions they’re leading.

Just like a real-life tour, the platform even allows for in-session photos to directly capture the moment through Amazon Explore simply by clicking the camera icon. While many destinations have been hosting virtual tours since the start of the pandemic, the move to bespoke experiences is the new way to facilitate one-on-one cultural connections via livestream. Earlier this month, Intrepid Travel and Local Purse launched two livestream shopping events from Marrakech’s Medina, with plans to also launch one-on-one experiences in the new year.