A collective of Sydney tourism operators including Sea Life Aquarium, Dreamtime Southern X and Sydney Harbour Boat Tours star in a new interactive destination guide, co-funded by the City of Sydney. Sydney360 is an online city guide using 360 degree photography from the air, land and sea to create a stunning virtual tour of Sydney with local experts showing off their favourite hideaways.
The concept is the brainchild of Mark Dalgleish, owner of Sydney Harbour Boat Tours whose family-run business was devastated by Covid-19, along with the rest of Sydney’s tourism industry. “We were all in the same boat. Hundreds of small businesses and guides who relied almost entirely on international visitors were facing closures and unemployment. So rather than sit back and wait for handouts we got a small group of operators to think outside the box and fight back” said Dalgleish.
Although Sydney360 includes some of Sydney’s major attractions such as Merlin Entertainment’s Wild Life Zoo, most of the businesses are small independent operators such as Margret Campbell from indigenous tour company Dreamtime Southern X, who’s haunting Welcome to Country sets the scene. “This was an opportunity to do something truly innovative and be able to connect with travellers ‘virtually’ and show them why Sydney is so important to our culture.” she said.
Alan Toner runs EcoWalks Tours, which came to a grinding halt with Covid-19. “I loved the idea of 360, it really brings the national parks and Sydney bushland to life and gives us a new marketing channel for local and domestic business.”
The guide is free and accessible on any device. Online users get a bird’s eye view of Sydney and can navigate their own journey to places and activities of interest. Filming was done by one of Australia’s leading virtual reality specialists Ondrej Koucky of Rapturous Media, who says the guide represents the future in holiday planning and virtual travel, allowing people around the world to experience the wonders of a destination from the comfort of their living room.
But according to Dalgleish, despite using state-of-the-art technology the most compelling part of the guide is the inclusion of authentic Sydneysiders. “The best way to learn about a place or discover something unique is to hear it from a local, so we gathered some of the most knowledgeable Sydney tour guides and got them to show us their favourite haunts, then by shooting in 360 these passionate story- tellers and places come to life … it’s the next best thing to being here!” says Dalgleish.
He plans to expand the concept to include other sectors doing it tough during the Covid-19 pandemic, including boutique accommodation and dining. “Our aim is to support local tourism operators by adding content to Sydney360, expanding to regional NSW and taking destination360 throughout Australia and to major global tourism hubs.”