COVID Time: Preparing For Tourism’s Return

“It is a dark time for The Alliance.” — Star Wars

My first tour this year was the morning of January 2. A Brooklyn Bridge/Brooklyn Heights tour.  The company that hired me asked me to repeat this one until January 6. So January 6 was the end of my 2019 season.

Today is Juneteenth, and the 2020 season hasn’t started yet. Travel to and from most of the world is still banned. Unemployment was at an all time high in May.

What have the world’s tourguides been doing? Planning.

There are many tourism and travel groups now, exchanging info. Scheduling webinars. Teaching and learning new skills. Professional Development Programs.

The future of tourism may soon be quite different.  Professional guide associations now are planning to make demands of the big tour companies. We guides have always been somewhat at the mercy of companies. The numbers of pax per group has slowly risen.

But, for our own safety and the safety of the pax, now we must work with smaller groups, spread farther apart. This means, if a school trip sends 100 students to Philly, DC or NYC on two 50-pax buses, there will no longer be just one guide snaking 50 students through the narrow lanes of old historic districts.

The consensus is heading toward limiting group sizes to 10, including the guide. A group of 50 must, in order to hear the guide, crowd together.  And that’s no longer safe. Groups of ten allow everyone to make some social distance.

Groups of ten are great for several other reasons:

The guide need not wear out their voice screaming to be heard in the back, or have their loudspeaker turned up to ’10’ in a quiet neighborhood.

It’s far easier for the guide to get 10 people safely into and out of the Subway, than 50.

10 people can walk on a meter-wide sidewalk much more efficiently than 50. (Walking tours move at the speed of the slowest person.)

Most importantly, every member of a small group feels they’re getting a better experience! The bigger a group gets, the more some pax feel ‘lost in the crowd.’ We want the experience to be safe, memorable and easy for both customer and guide.

Hiring more guides per group will cost tour companies more. It remains to be seen how they will deal with this change. Perhaps we can all work together, to make a safer, happier tourism industry.