Travel podcasts come of age

Podcasting is a technology that has burst onto the Internet with stunning results, and in the travel market it is starting to make inroads as well. The word had not even been invented five years ago, but today a quick Google search will bring you 360 million pages on “podcasts.”

Adding sound to websites, by using MP3 compression to make a smaller sized product coupled with broadband has allowed the fast delivery of sound to the Internet. This now means that travellers are not staring at silent pages anymore.

After all most people do not go home at night turn on the television and then kill-off the sound and the idea of using sound,  is catching on widely in the travel industry.

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic has a trial of nine podcasts that have been recorded in studio from a script and then had sound effects and music added.

The UK’s Independent newspaper
has launched a travel podcasting service exclusively with mobile phone company Vodafone.


Each podcast is presented by Simon Calder, The Independent’s travel editor, and hosted on the newspaper’s website. Vodafone and iTunes are also hosting the free advert-driven podcast.

Other pioneers, like freelance BBC radio journalist Tim Richards, offer more than 220 global destination podcasts at

He records all his material on location, from white water rafting in Arctic Finland to humming bird trilling in Jamaica. The site is trying to bring the genuine pulse of a destination and interviews with real local people.

European travel giant TUI is also experimenting with podcasts on its Thomson Holidays website, but once more these are not necessarily made at the destination.

Certainly the addition of audio to websites is bringing the browsing for travel information into a more vivid environment.

Now travel-related audio can be delivered by simple “click-and-play” technology, the slightly more complex downloading, or true podcasting using RSS feeds sent automatically to the recipient’s computer.

Travel podcasters argue that guidebooks give you the facts about attractions, museums, hotels, transport and the food scene, as well as photos, but do not capture the mood of a city—such as the sounds of the markets, its music, its traffic or bars.

“Printed guides cannot capture the distinctive way a city’s people speak their accents,” says Tim Richards, founder of Heartbeat Guides.

“Written guides cannot capture the sound of the great bells of Florence’s Duomo; of the astronomical clock in Prague or the hubbub of Barcelona’s Ramblas.”

His site provides podcasts of eight to ten minutes and cost two pounds sterling for each broadcast quality report.

“What’s it like to roar down an Olympic bobsleigh run? What does the original Geyser in Iceland sound like when it blows? The pulse of a destination and its mood can only be conveyed in a podcast,” says Richards.