While the tourism industry is down, I gathered tourists from around the world to show them the best Philippine destinations.
I remember waking up at 11:00am of April 4, 2020 where I realized I badly miss tour guiding. It has been three weeks since the Philippine government declared the ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine). This means no business for the tourism sector for now. No tourists, no guiding, but not for me.
4:00pm on the same day, I attended a webinar about tourism enterprise recovery via Zoom. As I listen to the speaker, I did see myself on the “host box,” speaking. Suddenly, photos of Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park appeared on the screen.
As soon as the next photo was shown, my brain squeezed in and came up thinking about a live tour guiding. Live tour guiding via Zoom! I nodded three times with a smile on my face and said “game on!”
At around 7pm on the same night, I started to think on how to guide the most innovative way during these challenging times . Hours after refreshing my commentaries on tour guiding, I end up using Google Street View.
It was not an easy start. Using Google Street View requires a lot of patience, and a very good internet connection too! Google Street View allows the user to virtually see the actual picture of the surroundings. I also incorporate supporting photos using PowerPoint and VLC Player for videos both through the Screen Share option on Zoom.
I started the live tour with my close friends so I can also solicit honest feedback from them. I wanted to start with Paoay Church and Calle Crisologo in Vigan City, but my local knowledge about my city tells a lot, so I chose to start mastering the City of Baguio. I am a Philippine Department of Tourism accredited tour guide since 2015 and I know I can still hover my expertise in the region.
Doing the commentary is always a challenge as you need to choose the best words that meet and balance both the information and entertainment values. So I started to do a short but interesting “City Walking Tour.”
The itinerary? The tour starts with the first loop: The University of the Philippines Baguio, then a walk through the creative SM Baguio, followed by the historic Session Road.
Minutes of commentaries thereafter, I lead my tourists to Baguio Cathedral. Sharing them it’s role during the World War II is something that everybody should know.
Next is escorting my virtual tourists to the Central Business District along Lower Session Road. The powerhouse restaurants are just there waiting to give some good treats!
After sharing a bit of city’s history, I now accompany them to Magsaysay Avenue and Abanao Street until we reach the City Hall.
I take the tourists for a leisure walk from the City Hall down to Burnham Park passing by the famous Rizal Park. Then, I give them some time to “virtually” enjoy the Rose Garden by telling them to close their eyes and feel the fresh air that surrounds them.
After minutes of enjoying the flowers, I escort them to the tour highlights – the Burnham Lake, giving them a quick and fun commentary. Wrapping up the tour is through another mind interpretation, asking them to imagine that they are on the boat with their loved ones and enjoying. The tour ends visually at the biking area.
The 45-minute live virtual tour is enough for the short “Baguio City-Center Loop Tour.” And when my tourists ask for Strawberry Farm, Mines View Park or The Mansion? I invite them for another round of live tour as these are under different sets of “tour circuit.”
So far, I have done live tours in Baguio City, Vigan City, Paoay, Laoag and some parts of Pangasinan. I block my Thursdays and Saturdays for those who sign up for free virtual tours. The live tour is 100% free, but if my tourists are happy, they may give tips.
Truly, the corona virus can’t stop me to enjoy and continue my passion, because I know I can still manage to give smile to my tourists, even if we are miles apart.