An industry that helps International students settle into their new environment is the tourism industry. We spoke to Robert Jones, the owner of Lundgren Tours, a company operating out of North East England to get an inside look into his tours and how they have continued to operate despite many roadblocks in recent months.
We asked Robert what he thought set him aside from the competition and the Northumbria native said “ you could be a tour guide that’s going on and on…’in AD 122, Hadrian’s wall was built’, or there’s just being a drop off service and transporting people”
Jones continued, “We have combined the two to try and provide a great service to people from across the globe.”
This method of touring has led to rave reviews from clients, so good in fact, that TripAdvisor did not even believe the reviews that were being put up. “The site took down over 30 five-star reviews because they thought it was my friends being biased.” It’s clear that Robert has a great reputation in his industry.
The tours are meant to ‘bring the history to life so that they appreciate the area’ and along with usual historical trips there are other excursions that may appeal to those of a more fantastical nature, with tours of Alnwick Castle in Edinburgh, which many would recognise from the set of the first two films in the Harry Potter series.
This tour is part of one of the most popular trips Lundgren Tours offer, which is a day trip around the Scottish Capital city of Edinburgh. In this trip there is everything from nature walks to an in-depth look to the historic Scottish town.
There are also tours of Game of Thrones film locations in the North East of England with a view to expand to Northern Ireland at some point in the future, we touched on the Game of Thrones presence across the water in a blog entry recently, check it out here.
These tours are all well and good but recently, the industry has been left with many questions and there have been points where tours weren’t even possible.
“Until September we didn’t run away tours whatsoever and instead adapted to help our clients hold virtual events”, Robert said, “Whenever unessential travel is made illegal, that is when we have to stop the trips.”
There were difficulties in Robert’s company because, “we wanted to continue to grow the international market rather than focus on domestic massively and switch our marketing up.”
A lot of work went into making sure the tours were up and running for September, “Say a 53 seat coach goes at half capacity, that’s 25 students we can take. Also each person is treated as an individual household.” This ensures social distancing is maintained.
Also, to help the tours run smoothly, guests were clearly reminded of how fortunate they were that tours could go ahead and what is required for them to keep on going. “The trips are only happening if you behave” was the gist of the message conveyed by Robert to his clients.
This message was well received by the students and by and large was followed, and there was minimal need to intervene, however, “If anyone was too close to each other, it would be a case of stepping in and saying, ‘sorry you’re a bit too close there can you step back please?’”
On the whole, the industry has suffered a big blow due to the lack of international tourists coming into the UK. However, with the roadmap out of the last lockdown laid out, tour guides up and down the UK have been able to set their eyes on the horizon and look to the future.
Mid April will see students return to campus and this means COVID secure trips return and they aim to see 12 tours and “300 international students” take place “between the 12th of April and the end of May.”
This will be a huge boost for the company as 75% of their revenue comes from student tours with Newcastle University, Northumbria University and Durham University. They also aim to expand to Sunderland and Teesside universities.
Tour companies like Robert and his team will certainly be thankful to open up the tours albeit a limited version, but the real benefactors from the tours returning will be the international students that rely on these excursions to find out more about this “Area of outstanding beauty” with “so much to it but so little is known” and many more around the country.