Soundwalks: The Audio Guide of the Future
If you take a second to think about all the places where you encounter the human voice, you will realize that there is an abundance of different voices that we come across each day. Not only does the use of human voice make products more accessible, it also provides companies with new ways to innovate industries that already exist.
If you’ve ever traveled to a new city, you have probably wanted to explore everything that the destination has to offer. Perhaps you hired a tour guide or took an audio tour of a museum or other art exhibit. But did you really gain all the insights and experiences you wanted? As a traveler herself, Analucia Lecompte, CEO & founder of Soundwalkrs, noticed a gap in the travel and tourism industry and decided to create an audio guide unlike anything else that existed.
“The idea of Soundwalkrs is to leave behind and leave forever in the past, the traditional and somehow ‘boring’ audio guides and make it more immersive,” says Analucia.
Innovating an Industry: How Soundwalkrs Came to Exist
“I have gone on tours with guides that have given a lot of information and historical dates and facts. But to be honest, I don’t even remember what I learned from that, so that’s how the idea [of Soundwalkrs] came about.
“Wherever I go, I just like to know exactly what am I visiting – what is the unique experience that this destination brings to me? What really makes a difference to a traveller is ‘what kind of emotions do I get to live in that destination?’ And that’s precisely what a sound walk is,” Analucia says.
Soundwalks are turning historical tours into an immersive audio experience that every traveller can become excited by.
How Soundwalkrs’ Audio Guides Work
The soundwalks produced by Soundwalkrs started out in Latin America when the app was launched in 2014. It is now expanding to over 50 destinations worldwide, with the first American city on the map – Miami, Florida. The travel and tourism industry is growing year-over-year and the climbing numbers show that there is success to be had in this market, especially for those destinations that have not yet been able to make their mark on the travel industry.
Currently, the app is available in English and Spanish, with plans to include other languages such as Portuguese, Italian, Chinese, Russian and German to appeal to more travellers and more destinations.
The dream is to have travellers download the Soundwalkrs app while booking their hotel reservations and flight tickets – to be part of the travel experience before you even arrive at your travel destination. If you are booking your trip on popular sites like Expedia or Booking, you will have the option to also select which soundwalks you would like to partake in while you are there – this way you can schedule out your activities before you arrive.
The soundwalks that you are taken on consist of 6 to 10 chapters. Every single chapter begins and ends in a different place. “In a way, it’s like you’re treasure-hunting for the story,” says Analucia. “It’s not a continuous story that has been fed to you for 45 minutes non-stop, but rather a whole activity that you can plan out.”
Take, for example, the soundwalk in the city of Cartagena in Colombia. The narrator of this particular soundwalk is a pirate, who takes you through the city and the stories of the pirate attacks. “What better way to know the stories about pirate attacks, then from the pirate himself?” says Analucia.
The soundwalks, while rooted in historical fact, also weave in the creative liberties that Analucia and her production team work hard to make engaging for travellers, and enable them to be transported to a different space in time. This is all accomplished through choosing the right narrator and the right character to tell the story. As Analucia says, “History is often told from the perspective of the heroes, and it is not often you get to hear both sides – this is something the soundwalks strive to accomplish.
“In choosing the narrator, and choosing the voice, we [are able to] tell a story from a [particular] perspective. But we also try to highlight what the geographical or geopolitical scenario was [present] in that time,” says Analucia. “We make time travel possible. Sometimes, we have characters that have come from the past, or have [visited] the future. The concept of time is pretty much the arena in which we work.”
Not only can the narrator be from a different archetype, space or based in fiction, but it can also be an inanimate object. “We have soundwalks where you are walking in a plaza, and the plaza is telling you their story about what was witnessed by the plaza,” says Analucia.
Some popular soundwalks include the Mayan temples – for instance, Chichen Itza in Mexico (see video below). The ghosts of downtown walk in Cartagena, Colombia is a soundwalk that is recommended to be taken at night, with the goal of making you feel as though you are part of a movie.
How to Select Voices for the Audio Guide Script
In the app, the narrator is always interacting with the user. For example, the narrator might direct you to ‘look up and stare at this’ or guide you in a particular way, like ‘let’s turn right, let’s turn left.’ For any soundwalk, the whole script was been developed in a way that is very aware of the local area that the user is in. So, if the narrator is telling you the story of a particular monument – it is not just the monument that comes to life, it is the whole area around you, because it’s a walk, it’s not flat. You press play and start walking on your journey.
All of the voices selected are carefully chosen to ensure that the soundwalks are engaging.
“That’s the reason why we work with Voices, because we can have access to talented actors that are going to be performing scripts we’re producing in a unique way that is going to be universal to any traveller around the world,” says Analucia. “It’s quite an immersive and sensorial experience. This is something that we spotted that is the future of travel and we are very unique in the way that we do it.”
The Future of Soundwalkrs and the Travel Industry
Some features to look forward to in the future are curated lists that let you know the best shops, restaurants etc. in the vicinity of the soundwalk you are partaking in.
“We’re including gamifying features, which means that you will be rewarded for walking the soundwalking chapters with discounts and freebies to businesses along the way,” shares Analucia.
Soundwalkrs is also opening up potential sources of income for cities that are less traveled. “Travellers are the first ones to explore emerging destinations – especially backpackers,” says Analucia. “They are the first ones to explore a destination and put it on the map. And then the word is spread and it’s amazing for urban development, and an amazing way to bring profit to emerging economies,” she says.
“We are creating an industry which we feel is going to give a lot of jobs to voice talent and creative writers,” says Analucia.
About Analucia Lecompte
Analucia Lecompte is the CEO and Founder of Soundwalkrs. She has been in the travel industry her whole life. She has a Masters of Public Affairs and Economical Development and believes tourism is one of the main sectors to develop around the globe in order to provide new sources of income. Soundwalkrs is available for download on Android and iOS.