London’s tourism industry has been hard hit by months-long shutdowns as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tour guides, many of whom are self-employed, have had to navigate to pitfalls of online guiding, grapple with closed or reduced capacity attractions, and deal with caps on group numbers, so how have they survived the last 18 months?
Blue Badge guide Clarrisa Skinner said she applied for the government grant for self-employed workers after work immediately dried up in March 2020.
She described the money as extremely helpful.
Skinner added: “Without it, I would have been seriously panicking. I think most guides feel pushed to breaking point work-wise.”
She turned to online guiding, via Zoom, as a way of recuperating some of her lost earnings during the height of the pandemic, but pointed out that not everyone was able to do so.
She said: “For some guides they have been great money spinners but for some guides this hasn’t been a good thing. They’ve kind of felt a bit left out because they’re perhaps not so into technology so it’s changed the whole face of guiding in a sense.”
Fellow Blue Badge guide Sarah Wood also turned to online guiding – but terms the sessions “virtual talks” rather than “tours”.
She organised a talk on London’s best tourism sights for a group of American university students who then visited the attractions, and also ran a handful of socially distanced tours for four undergraduates.
Skinner and Wood both said they are starting to see business return, with the industry’s resurrection tentatively set for the autumn.
But travel restrictions and a potential return to lockdown is – as in many other industries – hampering the return to normality and creating uncertainty.
“I just try to think of the positives and how I can make it happen,” said Wood.
Tour guides have had to navigate to pitfalls of online guiding, grapple with reduced capacity attractions, and deal with caps on numbers