Interview: Historical Tours in the Time of COVID-19

Soldiers’ National Monument in Gettysburg National Military Park

We recently asked Richard Blackmon, director of Historic America Tours, a few questions about the challenges of conducting historical tours in the time of Covid-19. Historic America Tours travels to places special to American history, including Civil War and Revolutionary War locales. Its professional historians lead tours of historic sites, battlefields, and museums, and help them come to life through stories of historical figures.

Are you currently conducting tours? We are not currently conducting any tours. We believed back in March that there would be a resurgence in Covid-19 cases if measures were not properly taken. They were not, so we did not make plans to reopen. Since proper measures are still not being taken, we are expecting a second wave after this resurgence. Many of the places we would visit on tours are still not open, or are only open on a very limited basis. For the safety of our guests, staff and the country at large, we are not offering any tours at this time. When do you plan to start running tours again? It is an uncertain future because of the spreading Covid-19 virus and as such we are not planning to offer any tours in the immediate future, perhaps not in 2020 at all. Back in March, if a cohesive, comprehensive plan had been implemented to contain Covid-19, we were planning to resume tours in the fall. Because there has been no plan and its spread continues, that does not look like a viable possibility. Are you engaging with your guests in other ways?

We are working on a blog site to be launched in the very near term. Also, we will be sending out periodic updates as to our plans to resume tours to our mailing list. Changes in tours, significant events at venues included in our tours, as well as additional tours (as we develop them) will also be posted to our followers. We have embarked on a program to assist our national and state parks by taking on documentation, interpretation, and preservation/restoration projects. With so many parks being closed, we can conduct these projects safely with appropriate health and safety measures. These projects include the location and documentation of unknown or neglected battlefields, earthworks, etc.; developing interpretive programs where there are none; and conducting preservation and restoration of battlefields, monuments, artillery pieces, buildings, etc.

And, as always, our staff continues to research and publish in their respective fields of history. Updates on all our activities will be posted on the blog and partially through the mailing list. What do you think the tour and travel industries will look like over the next 12 months? Unless measures are taken to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the outlook is bleak. Historically, there is always a “second wave,” which the United States has not even entered as of now. If the appropriate measures had been taken in March, that should have hit sometime during the summer, but we aren’t out of the first wave yet, so this year is not looking viable from a public safety standpoint. It will depend upon what measures are taken in the immediate near-term as to what 2021 will look like, but we are not anticipating anything in the near term. If Covid-19 can be contained and a vaccine developed, the tour and travel industries can resume normal operations, though it will be a very changed look.

Safety measures will still need to be observed, at least for a while, but nothing we can’t manage with everyone’s cooperation. A lot will depend upon people’s perceptions and expectations as well. If people don’t feel comfortable and safe traveling in groups, tours and the travel industry will not resume on a regular basis. Want to learn more about Historic America Tours? Contact them at:
P.O. Box 56561
240 Peachtree Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (404) 565-4427

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