These walks, and the people leading them, help us see the full picture of a place—as we travel, but also when we are still. Much of tourism remains centered around seeing the ‘best bits,’ but genuine understanding means taking a 360-degree view of the good and not-so-good, and seeing a place from different perspectives.
“It’s about raising awareness,” says Nic. “People have an idea of what a homeless person looks like, or where they’ve come from, or think it’s their fault anyway. So maybe they can just get some insights.
She says that these tours possess a genuine passion for London and its quirks and its weird bits. “Yes, we do go off on tangents, and that might be irritating to some people… But the tours have this charm of not being so polished.”
Being conscious of the tour companies we choose when traveling, as well as the accommodation we book and the food we eat, can generate a more positive impact on a place and its communities. In a recent World Travel & Tourism Council report, WTTC President and CEO Julia Simpson said: “Travel and tourism plays an incredibly important role in a city’s economy, not only boosting GDP, but also creating jobs and improving the livelihoods of those who rely on our sector.”
By choosing local guides who can fill in the gaps between what we know, what we think we know, and what we don’t know at all, we forge a richer connection to our surroundings—while having our own assumptions, biases, and misperceptions actively challenged.
“We uncover things that you wouldn’t usually think about… If you go on another tour, you’ll see things that everybody else sees,” as David puts it. “It’s a lot more personal than the big tours. It’s like showing a friend around.”