Friday, April 19, 2024

Some history, walking tours manage to stay afloat during pandemic

As some museums and other organizations continue to reopen in phases, others like history tours are in full swing.

“We’ve actually had a few tours and all of a sudden business has rapidly picked up for us,” said David Thomas, co-owner of Williamsburg Walking Tours, a private outdoor tour company.

Thomas said he thinks the uptick in business has to do with many attractions closing in Colonial Williamsburg.

Colonial Williamsburg closed Aug. 4 because of the Tropical Storm Isaías, and Thomas said he got calls because people were looking for something to do in the area.

The company offers several tours including Walk about History, which talks about the evolution of Williamsburg, the Civil War history tour with a focus on the Union Army occupation of the city and the African-American History tours which shows the entire Black experience from 1619 and on.

Thomas said the latter tour is very popular and a lot of African-American people are surprised to see it in Williamsburg.

So far, the people frequenting the tours are those from regional areas such as Washington, D.C., Virginia Beach and North Carolina and nationally like California.

People wear face coverings and practice social distancing on the tours, which he noted was a good thing.

“We’ve been doing relatively well, we’re still following safety measures and we find that people are too and as things gradually open…we’ve been doing fairly well all things considered and were grateful for that,” Thomas said.

But not every tour company is open.

“I’m shut down, I’m staying closed until this virus is over with,” said John Sutton, owner of Williamsburg Private Tours. “I went down and scouted out Jamestown and where we give tours and saw you can’t keep social distancing down there and I see people not wearing masks and they are supposed to be wearing masks.”

Sutton said he doesn’t want people getting sick on his tour nor does he want to get sick and bring the virus back home to his wife.

“If things improve in the latter part of the fall, if there is some kind of drug that comes out that can start helping people then sure I can open up in a heart beat,” he added.

The tours have been closed since March but he still gets calls from people inquiring about tour times.

He tells them they are closed but recommends other attractions for them to do like going to plantations, Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Jamestowne.

“I give people that call me for tours information about what is happening in our area and try to give the information about what they can see and do that’s open that might be fun so they don’t come and waste their time,” Sutton said. “I try to help them out as much as they can.”

WYDaily asked if people were social distancing and wearing masks, would Sutton reopen his tours?

“Absolutely, oh absolutely,” he said.


Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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