WASHINGTON — Coronavirus cases are on the rise, jeopardizing our dreams of vacation. But if you can't explore a new city, why not explore your own?
UC Places is an app helping people do just that.
"UC Places is basically like having your private tour guide on your phone," said founder and CEO Uri Sperling. "It's a platform that allows anybody to create, share and sell guided tours."
The app, which officially launched in March, offers tours in DC, Boston, New York and Philadelphia.
When Sperling first created the app, he envisioned it as a resource for tourists. The company was forced to take a detour when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
"A lot of tour guides and touring companies actually started calling us and asking how they can create tours on our platform," Sperling said.
The platform became an unexpected resource for local touring companies and guides, who use the app to gain exposure and income during a time when people are social distancing.
"Those that want to take the tour in person and ask questions and engage with [an in-person] guide might be different than those who really want to do things in their own way," said Carolyn Muraskin, founder of DC Design Tours. "[UC Places] is really allowing an opportunity for us to expand our platform and get exposure in other areas that we otherwise wouldn't have."
Parents searching for educational, child-friendly activities have embraced UC Places as a useful resource.
"I'm a homeschooling mom so I thought that was a really cool way to do things kind of on the fly and inexpensively," said Lara Ecker, a local mom of three.
UC Places' popularity among locals has fostered the demand for more advanced explorations that go beyond tourist attractions.
The app's most popular tours "are slightly more advanced for people that actually live here, [people] taking them in order to learn more about the places they live in," Sperling said.
Most tours on the platform are free, but those that cost money go to a good cause: supporting local tour guides, who earn a commission every time someone purchases their tour.
You can download the UC Places app in the app store on your mobile device or visit their website.