A virtual tour is so much more than an on-screen stroll…
Professional tourist guides are using their imaginations to show so much more detail than when guiding on the street. What at first seemed an uphill mountain to climb…. creating tours for a small screen …. has developed into a quiet revolution – and a creative one.
Having now conducted several virtual tours of London, I feel like an artist who is putting together a piece of theatre. I have woven many tales, spoken to shopkeepers and service providers, and added short video clips to bring each story to life. Sometimes we see inside buildings for a glimpse of their spectacular interiors. Sometimes we delve into hidden corners to discover areas most people don’t notice. We can add extra details, like images of characters from the past, to enliven our stories. For the viewer, it is so entertaining.
Anna Targett conducting a virtual tour of London with St James’s Palace in the background. Photo Credit: © Anna Targett.
On the streets of London, we guide what is in front of us. We structure narratives around what can be easily seen, though some of us use extra images from iPads or books. On-screen, we can reveal so much more with fabulous visuals. Using photos and images of people and places, we enhance every tale and make the journey even more enlightening. We can choose the sections to talk about and jump ahead quickly from one corner to the next. An hour slips by, whereas it might take several hours to tell the same stories on foot.
Really good guides can alter their tours every time, adding nuances to stories by picking up on different threads. A discussion about shopping, for example, might turn to royalty, or perhaps swivel into scandal … it depends on the guide, and it can depend on the day. Each professional guide has their own personality and approach. And of course, Blue Badge guides are the best. They don’t prepare scripts, and they go beyond the guidebooks. Taking a tour with a professional really pays off … they know even more than they let on.
For a virtual tour, getting the technology right is key. It takes time and patience, as well as knowledge. Blue Badge Tourist Guides also have the experience to know how to get the balance right between the fascinating, the in-depth, and the entertaining. It is a work of art.
During these strange times, whilst travelling is difficult, a quiet revolution is taking place. Virtual tours can never replace the real thing, fortunately for us tourist guides. But for the moment we welcome the challenge of guiding differently … giving our guests a taster of London.
Hopefully, having seen and listened to our fabulous stories, they will want to meet us in real life when in London, to hear even more enchanting tales. In the meantime, while they are safely staying at home, may our viewers enjoy us taking London to the world!
Red London Routemaster double decker bus – Heritage Route 15. Photo Credit: ©Ursula Petula Barzey.