Bluutour, a campus tour app that has recently launched at Texas A&M, is hoping to change the way prospective students experience campus on their initial visit.
Bluutour was founded in June 2018 by Bryce Liston, a graduate of Texas Christian University and former IBM strategy consultant. It allows any student to create and record a tour of their college campus, upload it to the app and be paid whenever someone takes their tour. Prospective students can choose a tour from the list offered at the school they are visiting, picking an option that aligns with their interests.
Students create tours by picking 10 to 15 locations around campus or around town, dropping a pin in them on the map, and recording an explanation of the site. Although it is free to download, Bluutour makes money when someone takes a tour. It costs $7.99 to download one of the student-created tours, a portion of which is then remitted back to the student who created it.
Currently on eight campuses, the majority of which are in Texas, Bluutour is trying to help high school students find the college that fits them best.
“I wanted to create something that I wished I had,” Liston said. “I wanted to see campuses through the perspective of a student similar to myself. Bluutour’s main goal is to help as many students as possible – both through helping prospective students choose the right college and through having current students make some extra money.”
That money is a significant incentive for students to create tours on the app. In its initial phase, Bluutour is paying a $50 bonus to the first 15 students to create a tour on each campus. When a student’s tour is used, they are paid $2. This may not seem like much, Liston said, but he stressed that the money would add up over the course of a year – and that after the initial recording, the student’s work was done.
Being paid for giving virtual tours is appealing to psychology sophomore Hannah Pierdolla, who is in her second semester as an official A&M tour guide.
“It is good for specific interests and to have more options for people who can’t make a regular tour,” Pierdolla said. “But I don’t think it can replace a real tour; it would be good in conjunction with one given by an official guide.”
Liston agrees with this – he does not position Bluutour as a competitor with the regular, official tours given by universities.
“Bluutour is a supplement, not a competitor,” Liston said. “Official tours give great information, but prospective students just want someone similar to them and to hear things that are personalized to their interests.”
But Kelli Hollinger, A&M’s director of visitor experience, believes that the tours run by her office provide something that Bluutour, or any app, cannot.
“Prospective students cannot feel Aggieland’s genuine friendliness through a screen,” Hollinger said. “In a digital world, real connections happen through human interaction. The in-person campus tour is a dynamic, five-sensory experience.”
Bluutour is still a relatively new venture, having been launched in the app store this spring, so there is no danger of regular tours being sidelined any time soon. There are currently over 25 tours on the app spread across the eight schools, but Liston said the company is undertaking a big marketing push on campuses, including at A&M, to spread the word about the opportunity the app gives.
Liston sees beneficiaries from Bluutour on all sides – prospective students can hear from like-minded current students, and college students get “the best job ever” in an easy way to make money and promote their school.