During the time of Covid health of myself and my clients could only be assured by implementing several measures. Some are fairly easy such as cleanliness and sanitising. As the tours I am running are in the open air with room for social distancing, I opted not to use a mask unless clients requested. Not only would it ruin the traditional costume effect but would impede lip reading and communication of my expressions.
However, the most important measure maintaining social distancing- brings extra challenges. I teach tour guides and I am always stressing the fact that in the days of apps and recordings we have to use the advantage of being real people - show our personality, read our audience's mood, use eye contact and body language. This gets more difficult the further away our clients are - as does another important role of a guide keeping clients both safe, away from traffic etc. and comfortable out of sun, rain wind whilst also doing our best to not disturb businesses and other members of the public.
At the time of writing, in Wales we are only able to guide one other household but I hope that soon this will be lifted as, after all there are more than one household in the shops at anyone time and that is inside. I planned for when we can have many households but every household in the group will have to be two metres away from every other so my first measure was to limit the number in a tour to 8. Also, though I have a loud voice, it is not fair on people outside the tour if they have to endure a loud commentary ruining their quiet enjoyment of the streets.
I also have to be heard and know from previous experience clients generally like the technology of listening devices where the guide speaks into a microphone and clients have ear pieces and can hang back to walk slowly or take a photograph without missing the commentary. It also means a commentary can take place whilst moving.
However, this technology does require guides to change their techniques. For instance we can't do our usual "on your right.." as you don't know which way they are looking and you have to be extra careful with safety advice to ensure clients come to no harm if they are guided, while walking, to look up at say, a rooftop. I have also had clients lose me as they hang well back reassured by my voice and then find in a crowded place or roads with lots of alleyways they don't know which way I've gone if directions are not spelled out.
My first decision was to decide between apps on phones or self-sufficient machines. There are quite a few apps that work between the guide's phone and the clients. Some use blue tooth, some data and some wi-fi - locally if available or via the guide carrying a portable router. There are disadvantages and advantages in all of them. Overseas clients would find data expensive and in parts of Wales you cannot even get 3G. The apps are evolving quickly with add-on such as "find me" if clients get lost or the ability to download images such as "what this ruin looked like" However the main disadvantage I could see was the time and complications for clients who would have to download an app. My tours are short generally less than two hours and I didn't want a large portion of that time to be wasted setting up the technology. Also, my primary reason for using them being constant social distancing and the variety of ages and operating systems on clients' phones meant that I wouldn't be able to just say "give me your phone and I'll sort it" So I decided to purchase "play and go" hardware.
The main disadvantage of this - for me - was cost and thereafter maintaintance. I then had a techie friend look at specifications and bit the bullet, swallowing the cost of several hundred pounds and ordering a set from China.They took two months to arrive.Testing will be awkward as again, i am only allowed to meet one other household. How will it go? I'll let you know!