The pandemic has forced much change in how we do things, and the travel industry has been no exception. Travel came to a standstill overnight, leaving many careers in limbo: destinations went without visitors, meaning freelance guides especially had no income.
While some parts of the world are slowly returning to a ‘new normal’, most of us in travel have been, and many still are, deeply affected by this sudden crisis.
So, what did the most passionate of tour guides do when their guests stayed at home and their streets were empty? Many of them pivoted to running virtual tours. But what are they exactly, and how do they practically work?
What is a virtual tour – and what makes a great guide?
What most guides have in common is a love for their destination and a passion for sharing their in-depth knowledge with visitors from around the globe. The backbone of a guides’ profession is creating connections – with their guests that join them on their tours, the locals they usually work in partnership with, and of course with the places they visit.
Virtual tours are most easily described as a walking tour, where guides interact with their guests through their phone screen. With the help of technology such as zoom, all the guide needs is a stable internet connection.
Although communication styles may be different, good virtual tours can still give an amazing level of insight into the culture, local life and the personality of the tour guide themselves. It’s as if the guests were walking with them through the alleyways of their hometown, uncovering hidden secrets that none of us would find when walking around on our own.
Delhi Virtual Culture Shock Tour
I recently travelled to Delhi to experience a Virtual Culture Shock with Komal. We jumped on a Tuk-Tuk and buzzed around different markets, temples, and street food vendors. We learnt how local people haggle the appropriate price at the market, watched beautiful illustrations emerge during a Henna application, circled around cows hanging out in the alleys and ate Komal’s favourite street food. Plus, we were able to ask tons of questions about the do’s and don’t’s when travelling through India.
It dawned on me that virtual tours offer so much more than just passing the time while we are sitting at home, dreaming about getting out of our comfort zones around the world.
What’s changed since Covid-19?
At some point, we will get to travel again, but how will it feel to be in foreign lands, large crowds, and unknown cultures after this time of hibernation? Will it feel purely exciting, or perhaps a little scarier to navigate customs and rules of other places after such a long time at home?
This is where guides like Komal and their virtual tours enter the scene. At first, I was admittedly sceptical. What will I gain from this? Why not just watch a documentary, with better filming equipment, curated and quality content?
What a documentary can never have, though, is the level of connection that comes from walking through the bustling markets of Delhi with a bright and inspiring guide. Someone who answers our questions on how women can best navigate India safely, explains how we can prepare for our future trip, or helps us re-visit places we may not want to travel to right now.
What’s the future for virtual tours as travel returns?
Maybe we don’t want to travel by ourselves, or maybe we have made the conscious choice not to fly anymore; maybe we don’t have the financial freedom to travel or have health concerns. Maybe we are looking for a team getaway that goes beyond our local pub round the corner. Virtual tours can help educate us in so many ways not previously imagined.
With virtual tours such as the Delhi Culture Shock with Komal, we can dial into one specific topic for one hour and learn all we want to know about it. It is personalised content from a friend who will give you the direct insights into her culture you wouldn’t receive during a 1-hour documentary. We directly support the local economy, as we pay Komal directly and she spends some of this money with the vendors at the market. We can tip her, just like on a normal tour, and we know exactly where that money will go.
Whether you’re already travelling again, or local restrictions still have you sitting at home waiting for borders to open, a virtual tour is a great way to dip your toe into another culture. Learning how to better navigate culture shock with Komal, I was transported to India for a moment, tasting the food, feeling the heat, navigating the busy streets, travelling with my mind. It widened my horizon just a little bit more, and I cannot wait to visit and meet Komal in real life one day. Want to join us and book Komal’s tour? Grab your spot here.