“Necessity is the mother of invention.” So goes the proverb in Aesop’s Fables.
So, when the world locked down to limit the spread of COVID-19, Woyago Co-Founders Anto Montani and Peter Topercer got creative.
“If people can’t come to Paris, then we can bring Paris to them,” says Montani. “It was actually a very natural transition because our tours have always been designed to help visitors feel like a local in Paris.”
But how, exactly, does one “bring Paris” to people all around the world?
That was the challenge for Montani and Topercer.
There were already live streams from various tourist hotspots in Paris—you can log in at any time to see live cam of the Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysee, the Louvre, the River Siene, Notre Dame, to name a few—and countless online videos of people ranging from amateur tourists to actual tour guides sharing their Paris visits.
But creating something that makes people feel like they’re truly getting a taste of Paris? Virtually?
Montani and Topercer put their backgrounds to good use. Montani is a former IT manager (who notes that widespread 5G connectivity in Paris is a big plus for livestream tours); Torpercer has long practiced the art of hospitality. Both have extensive and global travel experience.
“One of the ‘gifts’ of the pandemic was so many people finding ways to maintain work and personal connections through digital services like video calls,” says Montani. “But we knew that people were also quickly experiencing varying degrees of burn out from these same services.”
The key, they decided, was the very thing that had always been the hallmark of their tours: interactivity.
While videos of their tours are available, what makes the Woyago offering unique is that you can book live digital tours with certified Parisian tour guides, complete with an actual “taste of Paris” option.
Hang out and “flaner”
Woyago’s guides are people who live in and love Paris. Just as they do during in-person tours, Woyago’s guides allow virtual visitors to fully participate in their tours.
“We don’t just talk AT visitors during a tour and we don’t do passive,” notes Montani. “Our tours include story-telling, chatting with clients, stopping for coffee and snacks or wine and cheese, teaching a little bit of French, playing games, going inside some shops—just having FUN.”
This is a uniquely French style, by the way, which has its very own uniquely French word: flaner (pronounced flah-nay). There’s no one-word English equivalent, because it means to stroll aimlessly through a city with no goal or destination.
Like a local in Paris
While fun facts and activities are included in every type of tour, Woyago’s specialty is connecting with visitors so that it feels less like a tour and more like hanging out with friends who live in and can show you the best spots in Paris.
If virtual visitors choose to include a taste of Paris in their package, they receive a box full of goodies in advance, to enjoy during the tour: a selection of wines and cheeses; or a picnic box of charcuterie, wine, cheese, sweets, and other treats.
“We have amazing, reliable partners in the US and in Canada who help us make sure the wine boxes and gift baskets are full of wonderful treats and they arrive in time for your tour,” says Montani.
A world of opportunity
Montani and Torpercer quickly realized that virtual tours opened a world of opportunity to more than just individuals looking for a quick get-away to Paris.
Team-building: In fact, they found that businesses (including Google, Netflix, PayPal, Apple, McDonald’s and others) looking for better ways to team-build are a perfect fit: a company can get an entire team together virtually for a team-building experience unlike anything they’ve ever done.
“You will absolutely come away knowing your co-workers better and feeing connected over this shared experience,” says Montani. “Because it’s not some stale team-building exercise from a book. It’s laughing and sharing and, yes, some creative problem-solving—but it’s also having a flaner through Paris together and even having a flaner through each other’s homes or home offices together.”
Planning: Many of Woyago’s virtual tours are used by people planning to come to Paris. Hosted by a Parisian, a virtual tour gives you an idea of the city, all that it has to offer, and helps in planning for a rich Paris experience.
Accessibility: No need to worry about whether your wheelchair will make it there in one piece. With a virtual tour, you can go places and have experiences that may not be otherwise accessible in an ancient city. You can even collaborate with the tour guide/s to wander off the beaten track, in typical French flaner fashion.
Paris on a budget: Virtual tours are also a great way to see Paris at a fraction of the price of visiting in person. No packing, no worrying about logistics, no jet lag, no passport/visa, no need to use up vacation days from work.
Montani and Torpercer would love to see you in Paris, in person or virtually: www.woyago.com to learn more.