Virtual Calls With Santa Replace Traditional Visits Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “Virtual Calls With Santa Replace Traditional Visits Amid Coronavirus Pandemic” – below is their description.

    Then one foggy Christmas, Santa logged onto Zoom. Grotto visits are going online this festive season, as the coronavirus outbreak limits traditional physical visits to Father Christmas and his elves. A London entertainment agency has launched a digital alternative, backed by the founder of online encyclopedia Wikipedia. He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice… he’s also logging on and adjusting his webcam. These Father Christmas performers are being schooled in a skill that’s become essential in 2020 – conducting online video calls. “Santa is very old and crotchety sometimes, and this new IT can be a little bit difficult for an old dog to learn, but I’ve got there and every child can have a visit,” says performer ‘Santa John’. England’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown is set to end next week. But most people will continue to face tight restrictions on socializing and business, with pubs and restaurants ordered to remain shut across much of the country’s densely populated Midlands and north. Facing a December with few bookings, The Ministry of Fun is launching a digital alternative to physical grotto visits. The London entertainment agency traditionally supplies Father Christmas performers to stores and shopping centres across the UK through the festive season. But managing director Matt Grist expects at most 15 percent of usual bookings this year. “It’s huge for the events industry, it’s huge for the entertainment industry, as the whole year has been, and certainly for all those Santa performers that usually go out and meet children from the end of November every day, all the way up to Christmas, that’s obviously a big change,” he says. “So, we wanted to make sure that that wasn’t the case for their benefit, but also and mainly for the children, obviously.” That’s why the company is launching a new digital online experience, called SANTA HQ. Young users can access daily content throughout the month, including singalongs, dancing, arts and crafts. A one-on-one live video call with Santa is one of the highlights. “It became very apparent that as well as live events, there needed to be something as well, there needed to be an alternative offering,” says Grist. “And the obvious way, obviously, for Santa to still be able to meet as many people as possible was to also enable him to communicate online. So, that’s where Santa HQ was born. So, he can talk to children actually all over the world, direct into their homes from his home in the North Pole.” Santa video calls start from 30 British pounds. Grist says the price isn’t far removed from physical grotto visits, taking into account travel costs and more. The project is backed by internet entrepreneur and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who had an idea for a similar project this summer. “I started thinking about how everybody was moving onto Zoom and doing all these things virtually, and it just struck me that, wow, actually this year it’s really important that we give kids a great Christmas,” says Wales. “It’s been a tough year for everybody. And a lot of bad news is quite scary to young children. And I realised we also shouldn’t be congregating in the shopping malls and department stores to visit Santa Claus, and it should all just move online.” Wales says the virus outbreak may have shifted the way we socialise online. “This year, for the first time, the number of minutes people spent on Zoom is now higher than the number of minutes they spent on Facebook, which is kind of a weird comparison because they’re a completely different thing. But it’s interesting, isn’t it?” he says. “And I do think that the idea that a social network is really just about clicking like on your friend’s photo as opposed to real socialising is something that may change now.” This Father Christmas performer is looking forward to speaking to children from this connected grotto instead. He says many are in need of a magical Christmas, after a difficult year. Subscribe to our YouTube channel: Bloomberg Quicktake brings you live global news and original shows spanning business, technology, politics and culture. Make sense of the stories changing your business and your world. To watch complete coverage on Bloomberg Quicktake 24/7, visit, or watch on Apple TV, Roku, Samsung Smart TV, Fire TV and Android TV on the Bloomberg app. Have a story to tell? Fill out this survey for a chance to have it featured on Bloomberg Quicktake: Connect with us on… YouTube: Breaking News on YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram:

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