Last Updated on February 17, 2023
Brittany Palmer was born without arms below her elbows. The disability did nothing to discourage the love of travel she was born with. Neither has the joint pain in her knees which makes walking long distances challenging. The only thing to crimp Palmer’s travel style was the pandemic which forced her cancelling highly anticipated trips. That started her thinking about how to travel virtually.
There she was, a corporate attorney in her thirties who loved traveling, sitting home like the rest of the world. Her mind wandered. To the places she’d been and the places she’d like to go. To the 61 million adults in America with a disability. To the advent of Zoom meetings. Pondering how to travel virtually?
What is virtual travel?
When Palmer first came across the phrase “virtual tour,” a spark was ignited. A spark that before the end of 2020 would become Beeyonder, a premier virtual travel company offering personalized, interactive tours with local guides around the world.
Forget travel TV shows and documentaries, Beeyonder walking tours place you alone or with friends alongside experienced local guides in, say Berlin for instance, live via Zoom at street level. The guide wears a headset and converses with participants just like they would on any in-person tour. Locals and tourists walk through the background. The roughly hour-long tours occur in real time.
Virtual travel takes advantage of technology sending users – digitally – around the world.
How do you do a virtual travel?
Beeyonder virtual travel tours make it easy. Individuals book tours for themselves online after searching Beeyonder’s tours for locales or topic areas which interest them.
“Queer Argentina: The History of South America´s Friendliest Country,” “Explore India’s First Open Air Art District,” “Get on the TV Set of ‘Emily in Paris.’”
Find one you like and request a day and time. All tours are private with different pricing structures depending on the size of each group.
Requests then go to guides in the local area who are all licensed and have been vetted by Beeyonder. Guides manage their own tours and schedules. Once a time slot and tour have been agreed upon by guide and guest, the online purchase is made after which guides send guests links, typically to Zoom, for participation in the upcoming tour.
On walking tours, guides connect to guests via smart phone with a Gimbal support to stabilize the video and headphones to communicate then hit the street, or palace, or hop in a gondola in Venice, or go up in a hot air balloon. That’s how Beeyonder answered the question of “how to travel virtually.”
Presentation tours are fixed-setting experiences with videos, pictures and slides, still live with a local guide and interactive via voice or text chat.
How much do virtual tours cost?
Beeyonder does offer a concierge service which will manage all the booking details for you and a “sensory package” upcharge to any tour providing additional resources about the guide, weather, links to recipes, music playlists, books to read, souvenir information as well as details on how travelers can impact the country they’re visiting. The sensory add-on attempts to bring the smells and sounds and tastes of a place to Beeyonder users in addition to the sights. For instance, on Beeyonder’s Costa Rica Coffee Plantation tour, the sensory upgrade links to coffee for purchase from the producer being visited.
A self-service private tour for up to 15 people costs $225. Not bad for 10 folks spending an hour virtually sailing on the Nile River. Prices and group sizes go up from there with discounts for multiple tour bookings and seniors.
As of February 10, 2023, nearly 450 walking and presentation tours are being offered by Beeyonder with nearly 2,000 virtual tours having been enjoyed by 30,000 guests all since the company launched. Popular tours include the Pyramids in Egypt, a koala discovery walk in Australia–one of Palmer’s favorites–and an Ireland castles adventure.
How can I travel the world from home?
With Beeyonder virtual tours, you can travel across the world from home in hour long increments. New tours are continually added as Beeyonder welcomes guides from around the globe interested in partnering to reach out and introduce themselves, and Beeyonder also seeks out guides in locations its missing which have strong public interest.
As Beeyonder educates travelers to the advantages of virtual tours, it does so as well with guides, many of whom think all platforms for virtual tours are free. Beeyonder virtual tours pay guides competitively with what they’d earn from in-person tours, taking only a 20% commission on standard bookings.
Explore the world virtually
When Palmer launched Beeyonder, her vision was providing more equal access to travel around the world. From people with disabilities, caregivers who can’t get away, or individuals who are less mobile or not of age to travel independently, Beeyonder was designed to allow them to explore dream destinations while overcoming accessibility challenges.
Her biggest surprise to date in running the company has been how many other groups have become interested in the virtual tours.
“I started thinking this is going to be for people with disabilities and other conditions that prevent travel, like agoraphobia or fear of flying, but then you have people undergoing dialysis or getting treatment for cancer,” Palmer said. “A lot of seniors have limited mobility. Caregivers are a huge segment of this group. You don’t really think about people who care for others who can’t travel–two to three people for every person who can’t travel may also not be able to travel.”
Palmer quickly realized Beeyonder would appeal to a much wider audience. Paroles. Trainings for companies expanding into different locations around the world who want to introduce their employees to those places and cultures.
“We’ve had a woman who was a troop leader for the Girl Scouts and she wanted her girls to be able to earn their explore travel badge,” Palmer recalls. “Schools was a big one that I hadn’t even thought about. A lot of kids don’t have the opportunity to go overseas and travel and experience the world; what better way to learn about things you’re learning in school than to actually see them in the real world?”
The company started with two employees is now up to a team of 11 thanks to all the unexpected users virtual travel appeals to. When wondering “how to travel virtually,” start with Beeyonder.