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Walk from home: Hong Kong tour company moves online to survive COVID-19 pandemic

Walk from home: Hong Kong tour company moves online to survive COVID-19 pandemic

Julianne Chan, 27, joins a virtual tour about architecture in Kennedy Town, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hong Kong, China Aug 16, 2020. (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

HONG KONG: A Hong Kong tourism company has moved its walking tours online to reach a travel-starved audience unable to explore new places due to coronavirus restrictions.

The company, Walk in Hong Kong, runs free online tours in Cantonese focussed on local history and culture, with help from government subsidies and private donations. While bookings for its regular in-person tours typically took a week to fill, one recent virtual tour filled 70 spots overnight.

Paul Chan, tour guide and CEO of Walk in Hong Kong, and Charles Lai, architect, speak during a live streamed virtual tour, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hong Kong, China Aug 16, 2020. (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

It now plans to run such tours in English for an overseas audience on a permanent basis. It expects to start charging around HK$100 (US$13) per person from next month.

The tours are filmed with a phone and a gimbal and are interactive, with specialist guests such as architects available to answer questions. Eight people are working in two teams, one on the ground, the other interacting with the audience from a studio in between tour stops.

Paul Chan, tour guide and CEO of Walk in Hong Kong, speaks during a live streamed virtual tour, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hong Kong, China Aug 16, 2020. (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

"We are thinking about turning it into a programme that appeals to overseas guests, for example talking about Hong Kong's history and Hong Kong's current events, to explain what is happening to the city," said managing director Olivia Tang.

"We can have hundreds of people from all around the world attend at the same time."

Tourism in Hong Kong has been crippled in the past year first by pro-democracy protests, then by the pandemic. Many countries have also issued travel advisories after Beijing introduced a sweeping national security law last month that tightens the central government's grip on China's freest city.

Paul Chan, tour guide and CEO of Walk in Hong Kong, holds a smart phone live streaming a virtual tour, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hong Kong, China Aug 16, 2020. (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

Tourist arrivals plummeted 99.7 per cent in June from a year earlier to 14,606.

READ: Commentary: How did Hong Kong get to a third wave of COVID-19 infections?

Julianne Chan, 27, joined a recent tour about architecture in Kennedy Town, the neighbourhood where she grew up, after having to cancel a trip to London due to COVID-19.

Paul Chan, tour guide and CEO of Walk in Hong Kong, and Charles Lai, architect, speak during a live streamed virtual tour, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hong Kong, China Aug 16, 2020. (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

"During the pandemic ...there's not a lot you can do," she said.

"With these constraints, I would still go on a virtual tour, but if I can choose, I would always opt for just going abroad myself and seeing with my own eyes."

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Source: Reuters/kv

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