City Surf Brings Audio Tours to Toronto

Self-guided audio tours have come to Toronto. City Surf appears to be first on the scene and already has tours for St. Lawrence Market, Yorkville and the Annex.

The founder, Ali Karbassi, is a friend of mine and it's great to see him finally launch the site which I know has been some time in development. What's made it more fun is he's had the help of some familiar faces along the way including moviesTO's Matt Brown and former blogTO podcaster Tori Allen.

Earlier today, Ali found some time to do a quick interview with me. Here's what he had to say:

What is City Surf?

City Surf is a set of self-guided MP3 tours for people who want to experience and interact with a city's local culture - the audio-tours are full of rich local knowledge, hints and advice on where to go and not-to-be-missed spots, and even tips on where NOT to go. The experience is like having a local friend show you around their city and take you to those hidden local treasures that most tourists miss.

How much does each tour cost? Who do you think will buy them?

Each tour costs $9.99. The tours are great for whether you have a few days to spend in the city, or simply have an afternoon off and want to see more than just a mainstream tourist attraction. I think tourists these days want to be more active and want to interact with the local culture, not just watch it passively and take photos - these tours help you really immerse yourself in the local culture.

How many tours do you think you'll end up doing in Toronto? What neighbourhoods?

For Toronto, I have made tours for St Lawrence Market, Yorkville, and The Annex. Kensington, Chinatown and Little Italy are next, as well as Church Street and The Beach. I also have plans to do more niche tours by interest - for example, an art tour of Toronto, which will not be tied to any one neighborhood; or an "Afternoon Off" tour for business travellers who may have a few hours to kill.

Why did you decide to start City Surf?

I saw a gap in the market - Toronto doesn't really have a product like this and it's not because there are no tourists here. Other cities like New York, Boston, San Francisco, Paris, and London have a number of these tours available - all of this proved to me that people want to see more than just the basic tourist attractions.

Also, I'm an avid traveler and have found that a trip is more memorable and exciting when it's more like an adventure. Tours like City Surf help build a travel adventure that's exciting and somewhat unpredictable - I think that makes traveling more fun!

How did the idea come about?

The idea has gone through many different iterations - the basic idea is to improve people's experiences through relevant information - it started out as a 'traffic report' phone-line to help drivers save time (and their sanity), and went to a "shopping help line" that would provide information on which stores in an area are offering discounts to help shoppers save money; City Surf uses the same idea to help travelers have more fun.

Where do you get your information?

Everywhere - from my writing staff who do an amazing and thorough job of researching each neighborhood, to tips from friends who live there, to people I talk to while scouting the neighborhoods - tours like this are more interesting and useful when the content comes directly from the neighborhoods and its residents.

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