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Trash guidebook, pack a podcast

By Nick Easen for CNN

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Airlines, tourist offices and hotels are now realizing the importance of the mobile audio device.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Rather than packing a weighty guidebook into your already heavy luggage, you can now download a city tour using your mobile MP3 player, such as an iPod.

The technology, known as podcasting, involves downloading audio content from the Internet, and is being lauded by the travel industry as an upcoming trend for globetrotters.

The cutting-edge tourist aid is being used by one British airline, Virgin Atlantic, who is offering a series of free audio guides on New York city, including tracks focusing on popular restaurants, shopping, and sites that are off-the-beaten-track.

"Podcasting gives us a fantastic opportunity to communicate with our customers in a new and innovative way," says Breda Bubear, head of advertising at Virgin Atlantic.

The airline is looking at other podcasts for destinations it flies to.

You will be able to receive them when you register online and use its "podcatcher" software -- that way new podcasts will download automatically to your computer and then your mobile device.

The city of Glasgow is also utilizing podcasts, by piloting one of the world's first official "iTours." This free audio guide focuses on the city's musical hotspots.

Music and commentary from a local DJ are interspersed by advertisements for a local brewery, who helped support the project. It is accompanied by a map that you can download and print from the Web site.

According to the UK's Observer newspaper, similar music tours are being developed for other cities, including Manchester and Liverpool and New York.

It is not just airlines and tourist offices that are realizing the importance of portable music devices for travelers, hotel chains are also getting in on the act.

Hilton hotels in the U.S. are installing new clocks that have a connection cable for portable music devices so that guests can listen to their favorite tunes away from home.

While W Hotels have fitted iPod chargers in their suites, you can also borrow iPods from the concierge that contain music tracks picked out by the hotel. This is also true at the Hardrock Hotel in Chicago.

W hotels have also had musicians perform at its hotels and iTunes -- Apple's music company Internet download Web site -- have recorded the event and made a "live from the W" version available for download.

W hotels also has its own playlist on iTunes, which includes a compilation of music from its music collection.

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