The Travel Podcast Comes Into Its Own

The Travel Podcast Comes Into Its Own


When it launched its World Nomads Podcast earlier this year, the travel insurance company World Nomads spent less than $4,000 to construct a professional recording studio. The podcast, which has covered topics that include how small towns in Croatia are being overrun by tourists, costs under $200 a month to edit and $20 for podcast hosting.

“There will always be a place for a few friends sitting around a kitchen table with a USB microphone and a laptop, as long as they talk about interesting stuff. It’s the wonderfully democratized end of broadcasting,” wrote Phil Sylvester, the communications manager for World Nomads, in an email.

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Among the audio tours that Detours offers is one narrated by the novelist George Dawes Green on the historic squares of Savannah, Ga.

Credit
Stephen Morton for The New York Times

Podcasting, of course, isn’t new. In the world of downloads, there are lots of prescriptive podcasts, from tips on how to travel more on a tight budget (Extra Pack of Peanuts) to touring by motorcycle (Adventure Rider Radio). The host Chris Christensen has offered destination advice via interviews in more than 580 episodes of Amateur Traveler since launching in 2005.

Traditional media, including Condé Nast Traveler magazine (Travelogue), The Associated Press (Get Outta Here) and Frommers.com (Frommers.com Podcast), also publish podcasts.

There are location-specific podcasts such as Londonist Out Loud and others devoted to forms of travel like the RV Family Travel Atlas. This Week in Travel explores current events and No Vacancy with Glenn Haussman focuses on the travel business.

Travel-related companies are hopping onto the podcast platform as a millennial marketing tool. In addition to publishing a travel magazine, the luggage company Away has a podcast, Airplane Mode, that explores “the reasons we travel and places we find ourselves.” A recent episode covered “narrow brushes with danger, souvenirs with a back story, and trips that end in unexpected situations.”

Among newcomers putting story ahead of service, hotels have been especially active in the podcast arena; some of the best have used the contemporary medium to explore the past. Originally opened as a men’s sports club in 1893, the Chicago Athletic Association hotel has used its Storytelling Series of live interviews as a way to examine the history of the building and the culture of Chicago. With many episodes newly available on iTunes, the series includes conversations with a Great Lakes surfer and local artists and musicians.

Some audio tours have also taken a more sound-rich approach to storytelling, including a new series that Mr. DiMeo of the Memory Palace did at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. As an artist in residence, he produced eight compelling recordings available on the museum’s website that provide the back stories on objects ranging from early American portrait paintings to the Egyptian Temple of Dendur. There’s even a scavenger hunt that includes directions to “find me a picture of a child and wonder for a moment who she or he grew to be.”

The audio tour company Detour has used film and television producers to capture and mix place-specific sounds on its walking tours, now available in 17 cities. Most are narrated by experts and figures associated with the locales, including the documentarian Ken Burns on the Brooklyn Bridge tour, the comedian Jenny Zigrino on a pub crawl around Faneuil Hall in Boston to taverns associated with Revolutionary War plotting, and the novelist George Dawes Green, also the founder of the Moth storytelling series, on the squares of Savannah (most downloads cost $7.99).

“The technology allows you to have an immersive experience,” said Stacey Book, the director of content for Detour. “You get something unique from someone speaking who you wouldn’t have access to.”

Professionally mixed sound and scoring enrich the stories and help create Detour’s aural landscapes. As Ms. Book said, “You can shoot a blank wall and still have an interesting story to tell with audio.”

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