Tour Company Owner Gets Creative to Support Guides
NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans tour guides are among the workers hard hit by the COVID-19 social distancing rules but, according to tour company owner Angela Monroe, they’ve been excluded from some of the tourism industry worker relief efforts.
So Monroe’s company, New Orleans Secrets Tours, which she co-owns with locals Mark Aspiazu and James Corbyn, has gotten creative about keeping its guides working.
Guides have been creating short, fun, interesting videos about lesser-known New Orleans topics to entertain people at home across the country. The company is posting them on Facebook one by one and they are also available on YouTube.
“Tourism in New Orleans has been closed during what is typically our busiest season,” said Monroe. “Money we earn now is what supports us during the slow summer. So we’ve been working very hard to help our nine tour guides with enough money to pay their bills.”
Monroe said the company is providing four weeks of paid leave for its nine guides, posting a virtual tip jar that will help its out-of-work guides (promoted on each video) and offering “tour from home” merchandise bundles that help provide a revenue stream for other out-of-work, gig-economy workers. Shoppers can choose from New Orleans-themed bundles and “experience New Orleans at home” from a newly created online store. These themes include coffee, crawfish, bar/cocktail, food, ghost, voodoo, and jazz at various price points and all proceeds are going to those in New Orleans affected by COVID19.
New Orleans Secrets is also hosting Facebook Live lectures featuring James Corbyn every Friday night at 8 p.m. CST. Each week a different topic will be examined and discussed with a question and answer session at the end, and often a special guest topic expert will be on hand for the session.
“While we employ our tour guides as W-2 employees, most tour guides work as 1099 contractors, making this an extra uncertain time for workers in this occupation,” said Monroe. “It’s a difficult and scary time for tour guides, as they are essentially gig-economy workers with no work and few, if any, protections or assistance since they don’t qualify for restaurant or hospitality relief initiatives.”