Coronavirus News: NYC tour guides offer glimpse into future post-COVID-19

CHELSEA, Manhattan (WABC) -- As we dig deep into how to rebuild our economy after the coronavirus, New York City tour guides offer a glimpse into the future, from those who know the past.

Where most of us see a Bed Bath and Beyond, some see the invention of window shopping.

Elevated train tracks used to run down Sixth Avenue in Chelsea at about the same height as the great big windows of the department stores that are here today.

With department stores dying however, tour guides offer a look into when they were born.

"On opening day in September 1896, there was a riot in front of the building," Emma T.K. Guest-Consales of Guides Association of New York City said. "There was over 150,000 people trying to get into this building."

She says there was a post office and a nursery in the building. They even had a ladies lounge and a men's lounge with a separate door so that the men didn't have to see the women.

But these are tours that aren't happening right now because of the pandemic.

Tourism is a nearly $70 billion industry in New York, fueling 400,000 jobs.

So tour guides, the ambassadors of our city, are feeling the pain too.

"Guides are suffering along with everyone else," Kevin Lawrence of Big Apple Slices Tours said. "I think that they are often an overlooked segment of our tourist society."

Meanwhile, the industry has a solution for how to survive these next several months.

When restrictions ease, they will target New Yorkers who've been cooped up and dying to get out.

With no where else to travel to anyway, why not see your city as if you're seeing it for the first time?

"Tour Your Own City will be a way to get to know your city in a whole new light," Guest-Consales said. "And get to know it up close and personal, of course with social distancing."

Lawrence says a lot of tour guides like to do private tours with families and small groups because you get a more intimate experience.

And adjusting to the new norm might not be as painful as you think.

"You can use whisper systems," Lawrence said. "I know a lot of people who can use the squawk boxes. There are different ways and strategies that I think guides are gonna be able to develop to make sure they can keep that nice intimate feel."

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