Barkat and Moshe Leon 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat unveiled a website on Sunday offering free downloads
of audio guides for tours in the Old City, in an effort to help the more than a
million tourists who come independent of any group or tour each year.
guides were sponsored by the municipality, the Jerusalem Development Authority
and the Prime Minister’s Office.
The 10 paths, organized by themes such
as “On the Paths of Christianity,” “Markets” and “Zion to Ararat,” are available
Tours are currently available in
Hebrew and English, with plans for French, Russian and other languages. Tourists
can also download maps and brochures with the same information.
no other city in the world like Jerusalem, which 3.5 billion religious people
want to visit, especially the Old City and the Holy Basin,” Barkat said on
Barkat noted that helping independent tourists navigate the city
is part of his plan to increase visitors to Jerusalem from 3 million in 2010 to
10 million in 2020.
The new audio guides can be downloaded from the
website onto any MP3 player, including cellphones with 3G capability. There are
an additional five “accessible” routes that are appropriate for wheelchairs and
those with disabilities.
Currently, about 35 percent of the visitors to
Jerusalem are “independent tourists,” relying on books, word-of-mouth
recommendations and information centers, according to Jerusalem Development
Authority Director Moshe Leon. The authority is a semi public organization that
deals with tourism in the Old City.
Oren Mor, the director of the Jaffa
Gate Information Center, an initiative of the Tourism Ministry that is not
connected to the audio guides, welcomed the audio guides and brochures as
another way to help visitors understand the Old City.
around the Old City without explanations doesn’t have the same experience, they
can walk right by something without understanding the story behind it,” he told
The Jerusalem Post
. Mor said the lack of explanatory plaques and the high cost
of private tour guides meant that many people were missing important historical
aspects of the ancient city.
However, he said the audio guides are useful
only to people who plan ahead, either at home or at their hotel, because there
is no way to download the audio guide at the information center.
cannot connect their devices to the computers at the information center because
they are linked to a secure government network.
Mor said he hopes to work
out an agreement with the city to install a stand or extra computer where
tourists can download the guides.
Caroline Denno, a tourist from England
examining a well-thumbed copy of Lonely Planet: Jerusalem, said she wasn’t sure
whether she’d rather use a book or an audio guide.
“It can be great for
those who want to avoid a big group, because big groups can be quite
staggering,” she said, adding that she and her husband enjoyed the guide book,
which allowed them to jump around from site to site. “But with an audio guide,
you can’t have a conversation, it’s kind of a tossup,” Denno said.
audio tours feature between 10 and 15 shorts stops for short explanations, which
can be played in any order.
“The idea is to present the Old City to the
maximum amount of tourists,” Jerusalem Development Authority CEO Moti Hazan told
. “Yes, other companies have audio guides, but we wanted to give it away