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Hong Kong walking tour firm moves online to survive pandemic

/ 04:37 AM August 25, 2020

ONLINE TOUR Paul Chan, tour guide and CEO of Walk in Hong Kong, speaks during a livestreamed tour, following the COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong, China. —REUTERS

HONG KONG — A 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 focused 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.

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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 ($13) per person from next month.

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The tours are filmed with a phone and a gimbal, and are interactive, with specialist guests like 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.

“We are thinking about turning it into a program 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,” Tang said.

Tourism in Hong Kong has been crippled in the past year first by prodemocracy 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.

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

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

“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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