Thursday, June 1, 2023

Dutch tour guides offer novel socially distanced tours

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Like the rest of the world, the Dutch travel industry was hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. With almost no tourists around, businesses in Amsterdam’s popular red-light district have reported a 90% loss in revenue, and the situation is similar across the country. In the hopes of saving these businesses, the Dutch tourism board NBTC is encouraging locals to travel domestically rather than abroad, along with the Netherlands’ 75,000 expats.

This aligns with NBTC’s Perspective 2030 tourism plan, which aims at making “all of the Netherlands attractive”. Locals are more likely to look beyond the country’s tourist hubs, which may help with Perspective 2030’s goal of putting “more cities and regions on the map as attractive destinations.” Would-be Dutch travellers are now looking towards individual and socially distanced activities across the Netherlands to occupy their holiday time and innovative tour guides like Mr Local himself, ​Willem Versteegh​, might just have the answer: audio tours.

Audio tours offer a self-guided and zero interaction method of travel. Tour-goers use their own smartphones and headphones, and the tour does the rest as the narration guides them through the most iconic and overlooked places in the city or town they’re exploring. And with audio tour companies like ​VoiceMap​, travellers would be supporting the local tour operators who created the tours and the small businesses that they visit en route.

While VoiceMap has four neighbourhood specific tours in ​Amsterdam as well as an introduction to the city, it also has a number of tours in neighbouring towns like historical walks around ​The Hague and ​Utrecht​. They also have a stroll through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Canadian War Cemetery in ​Holten and a tour in ​Hattem​. “Hattem is a picture-perfect, pocket-sized slice of the Netherlands, and easy to get to,“ says ​two-time VoiceMap tour creator Annette Welkamp​.

While the future of travel remains uncertain, what is clear is that there is an opportunity for sustainable tourism to grow and flourish with the help of technology. A ​New York Times article on the future of travel ​predicts that tourism will restart locally, with locals wanting to explore their own backyards before returning to overseas travel. Large group experiences have already started transforming into smaller, private offerings in order to accommodate cautious travellers, and this might be a lasting change that, in the Netherlands, could be a change for the better.

VoiceMap’s Dutch tours at a glance

Vondelpark & Old West Neighbourhood

Tour summary ​Explore Amsterdam’s Vondelpark and the diverse Old West Neighbourhood Main attractions ​the Vondelpark, Vondel Church, Kate Ten Market and De Hallen Amsterdam Type of tour​ walking

Language ​English and Dutch Length ​60 minutes
Where ​Amsterdam

Castles, canals and good folk in Utrecht

Tour summary ​Walk alongside canals and castles in one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands Main attractions ​the Huis Oudaen, Utrecht University and some of the 330 lantern sculptures around the town
Type of tour​ walking

Language ​English Length ​60 minutes Where ​Utrecht

An Amsterdam introduction: from fishing hamlet to trading centre

Tour summary ​Explore the origins of Amsterdam, from fishing village to trading powerhouse Main attractions ​the Amsterdam Central Station, Our Lord in the Attic Museum, and the Old Church
Type of tour​ walking
Language ​English
Length ​60 minutes
Where ​Amsterdam

Windmills, bakeries and possibly ghosts in Hattem

Tour summary ​Be charmed by Hattem’s history, good food and quaint Dutch atmosphere
Main attractions ​the Molen De Fortuin, the Anton Pieck Museum and the Nederlands Bakkerij Museum
Type of tour​ walking
Language ​English
Length ​45 minutes
Where ​Hattem

Red Light District

Tour summary ​Take a peek behind the curtain of Amsterdam’s Red Light District Main attractions ​the Dam Square, Oude Church and New Market
Type of tour​ walking
Language ​English

Length ​35 minutes Where ​Amsterdam

The Commonwealth War Graves Canadian War Cemetery

Tour summary ​Discover the stories of WWII Canadian soldiers on this short cemetery walk
Main attractions ​the Holten Canadian Cemetery Information Center, Stone of Remembrance, and the Cross of Sacrifice
Type of tour​ walking
Language ​English
Length ​30 minutes
Where ​Holten

Exploring the Historical Centre of The Hague

Tour summary ​Hit the bricks on this journey through the historical heart of The Hague Main attractions ​the Binnenhof, Mauritshuis and Escher in The Palace museums
Type of tour​ walking
Language ​English

Length ​30 minutes Where ​The Hague

A Tasty Stroll Around The Cool Spots of the Pijp

Tour summary ​Meander through Amsterdam’s quaint and cool Pijp area to find local hangouts Main attractions ​the Albert Cuyp Market and the Monument Samuel Sarphati
Type of tour​ walking
Language ​English

Length ​30 minutes Where ​Amsterdam

Amsterdam West Specialty Coffee Spots

Tour summary ​Cycle through Amsterdam and get your java fix from some notable coffee spots Main attractions ​the Ten Kate Market
Type of tour​ cycling
Language ​English

Length ​20 minutes Where ​Amsterdam

About VoiceMap

VoiceMap is a location-aware audio tour app for Android and iOS that gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace. The app uses your location to play audio automatically, at exactly the right time and place. You can start the tours whenever you’re ready and pause whenever you like. When you start moving again, playback will too. It also gives you turn-by-turn directions, making it much easier to put your phone away and immerse yourself in your surroundings, not the screen. We’ve helped passionate locals, journalists, novelists and podcasters create more than 600 tours in over 200 cities across the world.

For more information on VoiceMap please call +44 20 8638 8644 or email ​

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