Bookings Double for Award-winning London Tours with Homeless Guides
Unseen Tours, an award-winning social enterprise that offers alternative London tours with homeless and formerly homeless guides, is enjoying a surge in interest from school groups, tourists and Londoners looking for a unique day out, with bookings in the first half of 2015 up by more than 100% compared with the same period last year.*
Founded in 2010 to provide income and opportunities for homeless and formerly homeless Londoners, the not-for-profit organisation offers walking tours through six of London’s most vibrant neighbourhoods, includingBrick Lane, Brixton, Camden, Covent Garden, Shoreditch and London Bridge, where a new route will be launched this August.
In its first year of operation, Unseen Tours showed 400 people around the capital, but after winning a Responsible Tourism Award and an Observer Ethical Award, and consistently receiving five star reviews on TripAdvisor, that number has now grown to around 3,000 per year.
Private bookings for schools and other groups account for 60% of ticket sales, with tourists and Londoners making up the majority of bookings during the spring and summer months, and at weekends. From the £10 ticket price, £6 goes straight to the guide and the rest covers the organisation’s running costs.
Cris, one of Unseen Tours’ six homeless and formerly homeless guides, says: “There are lots of tours to choose from in London, but we aim to offer something a bit different, to give people a unique perspective that they won’t find on other tours or in guide books. That’s why Unseen Tours appeal to Londoners who have lived here all their lives, as well as people who are visiting the city for the first time. When people come on my Brick Lane tour, I want them to have fun, to be entertained, to learn new things about London, but I also hope that after their tour they might see homeless people in a different light and better understand how gentrification of the area is impacting people’s lives.”
Faye Shields, co-founder of Unseen Tours, adds: “Sometimes we can be quick to judge people who are living on the streets, but homelessness can happen to anyone, for all sorts of reasons such as redundancy, the end of a relationship, or illness. Our hope is that by spending time with one of our Unseen Tour guides, people may be encouraged to rethink their perceptions of homelessness.”