NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- A New York City tour business has been growing despite the pandemic shutdown by adding new viable services.
Cindy VandenBosch and Andrew Gustafson are the husband and wife duo at the helm of Turnstile Tours. Both of them have decades of experience in history, museums and tourism. Over the past 10 years, they've built a diverse portfolio of programs with unique New York stories at historic sites such as the South Street Seaport, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.
They focus on the "people in the place” to develop the most compelling content. That recipe translated to virtual tours in the pandemic, which helped them amass an audience outside New York.
"We've just been able to spread our wings and share so many more stories through the virtual format,” VandenBosch told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.
Quickly, they figured out a way to offer daily virtual tours on a variety of subjects to both educate and entertain. VandenBosch and Gustafson hosted more than a 100 consecutive virtual programs at one point as the coronavirus kept people home.
As hundreds of people signed up to participate in interactive virtual tours, they launched a monthly membership program.
"People sign up for a monthly membership, and then, they get access to a certain number of programs per month, and then, they can they can access our library as well," said Gustafson. "That ongoing revenue has been really important to us."
Now that Turnstile Tours is back in-person, they host members-only events to retain repeat customers for its premium service. They plan to continue virtual tours in some capacity even though COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted because of the opportunity to reach a mass audience.
It was their partnerships with non-profits that helped them become more than a tourism business.
"We could create this kind of suite of services working behind-the-scenes to help either existing institutions be better at what they do or to help them grow a new program," Gustafson recalled.
As they and their team learned video production and editing engaging content to capture a digital audience, Turnstile Tours began offering those in-demand services to partners and clients.
"This spring, we supported the Brooklyn Botanical Garden for their spring virtual festival. So, we were behind-the-scenes, our team, producing and directing, helping with their 'Making Brooklyn Bloom' programming, which they normally do in-person," said VandenBosch.
"We were really proud to have developed the skills just through practice," she added.