A day tour company that offers guided walks has put a new
twist on virtual travel, launching live tours for a nominal fee.
Walks, a Signature preferred supplier, unveiled the
innovative concept for keeping guests connected and guides at least partially
For $10, anyone can sign up for the virtual events, which
include cooking classes and tours of landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and
the Sistine Chapel. There is a built-in tipping option, and the company said
that 100% of gratuities go directly to the guides.
Those who sign up for one of the one-hour, interactive
virtual tours gets a $25 credit for a future Walks tour that is good for two
Walks co-founder and CEO Stephen Oddo said it was a great
way to keep some of the company’s nearly 700 guides working and engaged with
guests, while giving travelers an interactive way to see new things or
reconnect with a guide they have used previously in their travels.
“We’re going to do this for a couple of months and see how
it goes,” Oddo said. “I’m not super hopeful that international travel will all
of a sudden go back to normal. This could be something that we do forever.”
Douglas Quinby, co-founder and CEO of Arival, which tracks
the day tours industry, said the virtual tours from Walks are just one example
of what tour operators are doing to try to help partners and their workers,
most of whom are independent contractors.
Several food tour companies, including the Culinary
Adventure Co. in Toronto, Unexpected Atlanta and Milwaukee Food Tours, are
offering “food tours in a box,” which contain meals and snacks from
participating restaurants and are delivered to clients’ homes. Culinary
Adventure also includes a coupon for $50 off a future in-person tour.
Most virtual content that has been launched by travel
companies in the wake of the pandemic has been free, designed mostly to keep
their brands and travel front and center in people’s minds.
But Quinby said that even with paid content, the impact of
the travel shutdown is still expected to be grim for the day tours and
activities sector, which is made up mostly of one- and two-person companies.
According to Arival’s latest member survey, 43% of respondents said they were
at risk of failing within three months.
“While these are all novel ideas designed to support
operators and their guides, they are not really business saviors,” Quinby said.
“You can’t use a sink stopper to stop a dam from collapsing.”
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