A virtual tour is not just sightseeing on a screen … it is so much more than that. A virtual tour is a creation. It enables the guide to show more detail and give even more visuals than when guiding on the street. What at first seemed a daunting task for guides …. to transfer our skills onto the small screen has developed into so much more.
I have now conducted several virtual tours and each time I feel like an artist who is putting together a work of art or a piece of theatre. I weave in many tales, speak to retailers, service providers and add short video clips to bring the story to life. It is often possible to see inside the buildings we normally view only from the outside for spectacular interiors. Sometimes I delve into forgotten corners to evoke an atmosphere normally missed from the street. In addition I show pictures of characters from the past to bring alive a personality or a scandal. It is highly entertaining for the viewer.
When we guide along the streets of London we use what is in front of us to tell our tales, we point out fascinating details and tell our stories that way. We talk about what we can see, although many also enhance this with a few extra images on an ipad or pages from books. The screen, however, enables us to show a lot more with fabulous visuals. We can select our stories without being confined to what is in front of our eyes outdoors.
In under an hour we can select which corners we talk about, we can skip in an instant to the end of the street and can divulge even more information than we would in 2-3 hours walking. Visually, stories truly are brought to life with pictures of old, portraits, images of people making it so much more colourful.
When a great guide takes a tour you can never be quite sure where you are going to end up because they have knowledge in so many different areas… for example when talking about Kings’ mistresses they might easily digress to discuss theatre, or maybe with the heritage of so many of our members of the nobility… There are so many links and each of us end up with a different tale… that is the benefit of taking a professional … every one of us qualified tour guides might tell a story differently.
Moreover Blue Badge guides are the best. This is not just some script which is reeled off, put together with snippets from guide-books. Creating a virtual tour takes time and patience to get the technology right… it takes broad knowledge to be able to weave together an entertaining story, and it takes experience to know how to get the balance right between the fascinating, the in-depth and the entertaining. This is a work of art.
Whilst we are confined to our home towns, whilst travelling is difficult there is a quiet revolution taking place. Watching on a screen will never replace seeing in real life… which is great for the future of tourist guiding. But for now… we are delighted to be able to guide in a different way and prepare our guests for their next taster of London. Maybe, having seen and listened to fabulous stories, they will wish to be entertained in real life once they arrive here in London. I do hope so, but I also hope that people will continue to want to taste before they eat!