COVID-19

London guide battles lockdown blues with virtual tours

Victoria Craig Mar 24, 2020
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Look Up London's Katie Wignall has found a way to keep guiding through the crisis: virtual tours. Courtesy Katie Wignall
COVID-19

London guide battles lockdown blues with virtual tours

Victoria Craig Mar 24, 2020
Look Up London's Katie Wignall has found a way to keep guiding through the crisis: virtual tours. Courtesy Katie Wignall
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Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday night enlisted the country’s residents to suit up in the battle against COVID-19.

Unlike in wars of the past, though, marching orders this time were simple: Stay at home.

Residents are only allowed to leave their homes for essential shopping trips, to exercise outside once per day and to travel to work if it’s absolutely necessary.

That now means most people are working from home, most shops are closed and only the likes of grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurants are allowed to operate.

For Katie Wignall, founder of tour company Look Up London, that could be a devastating blow to her business.

But, she’s found a way to keep guiding through the crisis: virtual tours.

Using the street view on Google Maps, her own photos and extensive knowledge about London history, Katie walks people virtually through both some of the city’s well-known and lesser-known sites. She’s garnered thousands of views on tours of Covent Garden, Guild Hall and Tower Hill.

Katie explained how she got the idea to move her business all online ⁠— at least temporarily ⁠— to the BBC’s Victoria Craig on the global edition of the Marketplace Morning Report. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Katie Wignall: When I posted saying I was explaining and rescheduling all of the walking tours, I had a lot of lovely feedback from people saying they were going to miss the tours. And I kind of felt like, “There has to be a way now with technology that we can keep the tours going.”

Victoria Craig: You had people from all over the world ⁠— Frankfurt, Israel, Brazil, D.C., South Africa ⁠— on your first tour, didn’t you?

Katie Wignall: Yes, it was amazing. Someone from Taiwan, someone from Tasmania. I think what people really felt was in that time they were along for the virtual tour, they were really connected and just able to, for 20 to 30 minutes, just forget about whatever they were focusing on before and enjoy a bit of London history. What I’m trying to do is encourage people, who might be tempted to go outside, to stay home, but still  feel a little closer to the outdoors.

“What I’m trying to do is encourage people, who might be tempted to go outside, to stay home, but still feel a little closer to the outdoors.”

Katie Wignall, Look Up London

Victoria Craig:  This is a great innovation for your businesses, but we’re also talking about livelihood. You run walking tours all over London every day. So without being able to do that anymore, are you able to make a little bit of money, at least, doing these virtual tours?

Katie Wignall: People have been incredibly generous. I’ve been overwhelmed with donations that people have been sending over PayPal. I definitely see the potential of doing virtual walks, and I think it could be a really exciting time actually to see how this changes things.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

New COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. are on the rise. How are Americans reacting?

Johns Hopkins University reports the seven-day average of new cases hit 68,767 on Sunday  — a record — eclipsing the previous record hit in late July during the second, summer wave of infection. A funny thing is happening with consumers though: Even as COVID-19 cases rise, Americans don’t appear to be shying away from stepping indoors to shop or eat or exercise. Morning Consult asked consumers how comfortable they feel going out to eat, to the shopping mall or on a vacation. And their willingness has been rising. Surveys find consumers’ attitudes vary by age and income, and by political affiliation, said Chris Jackson, who heads up polling at Ipsos.

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

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