Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Long time no see

Life moves on. My new venture is http://www.lovemytours.com. Guided adventures in St. Augustine, Florida. Come see me.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Join me

The New Year brings a new home for this Travel Blog. Join me over at http://guide.trustedtours.com/ for the new and improved wordpress version! Very excited about the possibilities so please update your RSS feeds, bookmarks, etc. and thanks to everyone for all the support.
Trusted Tours and Attractions is growing by leaps and bounds so take a look. http://www.trustedtours.com/ Happy New Year! - John

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

IAAPA was great!

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Expo in Orlando, Florida last week was wonderful!

This showcase brings so many different vendors under one roof that it makes your head spin. Special effects, inflatables, hot dog carts, rides, animatronics, scenery, vending, ticketing, maintainance, popcorn machines, software, 3-D theaters and even dinner in the sky.

The sights, sounds and smells were amazing!
One of my favorite displays was from Scarefactory. This animatronic headless horseman reared up on it's hind legs while the horseman swung his sword...very cool.

The Expo can be overwhelming in it's size and complexity. Preplanning helps but so many things grab your attention once inside. This is the place to find amusement and attraction vendors and see the latest in the industry. IAAPA will be returning next fall to Orlando and non-members are usually invited on the last day. I'll see you there!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Being all things to all people

Aesop once said, "Please all and you will please none."

Trying to please everyone is a tempting trap but doomed to failure. Chuck McKay at Fishing for Customers has a great post about the benefits of specialization. He makes the point that specialists are more successful than generalists but everyone is afraid of leaving potential customers behind. Chuck argues that it doesn't work that way. He makes a good case for rethinking your strategy and defining yourself more precisely.

This applies to hotels, restaurants, tours, attractions, museums, people and every aspect of the tourism business. What is your brand really? What are you known for?

Even cities have a certain quality, a distinct personality that sets them apart. Boston isn't the same as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami or Washington, D.C.; the list goes on and on. They don't even try to be. But there is something I see more and more in my travels. The homogenization of many aspects of these cities. The loss of local flavor and personality. Starbucks is a classic and overused example. So is Walmart. But it exists on a smaller scale too. How many times can you visit similar sites, tours, eateries and experiences everywhere you go before it doesn't matter where you go. It's all the same.

Travelers today seem to want familiar and unusual. Variety and sameness. The opportunity lies in specialization whether for yourself or your tourism related business. Don't try to be like everyone else. Don't say "me too!" anymore. Decide who you are and be it with all your might.

Will you "miss" some customers at the end of the day...yes. The upside is developing a true identity in the marketplace and creating loyal, even rabid, fans.

Who are you and why should I give you my money? Better decide before it's too late.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Spy secrets revealed

When you tour Washington D.C. you have to visit the very popular International Spy Museum. This one-of-a-kind museum has hosted over 3 Million visitors since it opened in 2002. Here's a nice video of the concept from VOA. Here are some good photos at Flickr, too! Fun example of taking an interesting subject like spying secrets and turning it into a tourist attraction. What's your interesting idea?

Monday, November 05, 2007


Air Force Brigadier General Paul Tibbets just died. He was 92 years old and requested that no funeral be held and no marker be placed on his grave. He was concerned that these memorials might draw protest. Protest for what he and his crew flying the Enola Gay did on August 6, 1945. They dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. It's estimated that over 200,000 people lost their lives as a result of these two explosions. Six days later World War II ended with the surrender of Japan.

My Uncle Harry was one of almost a million U.S. soldiers staged in the Philippines at that time...waiting to see if the bombs ended the war. If they did not, an invasion was planned.

I learned this weekend about a program called Honor Flight dedicated to bringing the remaining World War II veterans to Washington D.C. at no cost to tour the WWII Memorial in their honor. They estimate that 1200 of these veterans are passing away each day. I saw a man in the street that wore a t-shirt saying "Freedom isn't really free." The Sky and Sea Spectacular took place in Jacksonville, Florida this weekend featuring the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. It all reminded me of my mother and my father and a visit I made earlier this year to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. It all made me pause and reflect.

During these challenging times, I think it's important to take the long view. Now is an excellent time to look back on American history and see where we came from and where we are going. Here are a few spots to get you started.

Tour Boston and walk the Freedom Trail. Visit Paul Revere's house and tour Old Ironsides. Stand in the Old South Meeting House and visit Fanueil Hall.

Tour Washington D.C. and see where laws are made. Tour Mount Vernon and Ford's theater. Stand at the Wall and visit all the monuments to our Nation and it's citizens.

Tour Philadelphia and see the Liberty Bell. Be moved at the National Constitution Center and visit Independence Hall. Experience where it all began.

There are thousands of stories and places and people but time is running out for some. Spend a little time with the Greatest Generation before they are all gone. Thank them for their sacrifices and humble service to America. Travel and tour the places where history was made. Do it now. Thanks, Mom and Dad...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

We're Expanding

A spirited discussion at Theme Park Insider about ride seats not being big enough for many guests. It seems that adults and children are getting bigger since many of the attraction rides and vehicles were first designed. This debate extends to the travel industry also. It's a sensitive subject for many and the leading tourism, travel and hospitality industries are rethinking and redesigning for today's larger guests. A good time to look around your vehicles and facilities to see if you are keeping up with current trends.

From my perspective, guests are getting larger in general. School groups now have ten year olds as tall as their teachers. This is a trend that is not going to decline. So, how do we accommodate this trend? As you'll see from the discussions, some believe we shouldn't at all. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ghosts and Gravestones for all

The Night of all nights is here!... they all scream.
Samhain...Walpurgisnacht...All Hallows Eve.
The shadows lengthen as the moon soars up high.
Witches and goblins and ghosts will fly by.
Tonight is the night to enjoy Ghosts and Gravestones.
Legends and stories. Headstones and fake bones.
The Trolley of the Doomed will soon take you there.
Twisting and turning...stopping to stare.
It's all in good fun. It's all meant to please.
Join us right now... your fears we will tease.
Some characters you'll see to give you a fright.
Happy Halloween to all and to all a good night...
Join us in Boston, Savannah and St. Augustine year round for Ghosts and Gravestones...if you dare!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I love Disney

I love Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida because of the details. The extraordinary details of every experience within those walls. Yes, I understand that it is a created world. Yes, I will still visit Europe even though I've been to Epcot and yes, I get the part about the crowds, prices and merchandising. Still, I love it.

For example, I was there for the weekend and wanted to ride Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom. Got there early and headed for "Asia" to get my fastpass (sweet). Imagine my surprise when I crossed the bridge, looked to my right and there was "Everest" rising up above the river. Everyone stopped to look and snap photos. No, it was not even close to the size and grandeur of the real Mount Everest but that's not what it's intended to be. I love Disney because I take it for what it is. A themed experience. A recreated wonderland of sights and sounds. An appetizer and a dessert and sometimes the main dish. Now that I saw the mountain, I couldn't wait to ride the ride and wasn't disappointed. From the fantastic Tibetan queue line scenery to the exciting runaway train premise that pushed us back in our seats to avoid the Yeti, this coaster experience delivered.

So many attractions and tourist offerings fall short for me because the details are missing. They just go part of the way with just a little theming or a mediocre program. Lackluster staff or dirty grounds. You can tell when effort is made and that's one of the ways Disney stands out for me. They make the effort every day.

My highlights for this trip included Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom, Tower of Terror at MGM, Test Track at Epcot and of course, the Food and Wine Festival. This is my third year at the festival and I enjoy it every time. Started with pomegranate kirs and escargot in France and finished with sushi and Kirin Ichiban's in Japan. It's fun to speak to the staff from the native countries represented but I was baffled by Oklahoma this year. The whole staff was from Michigan! Go figure. Even Disney can miss the details once in awhile. More photos of my Disney adventure at Flickr.

Another great visit to Walt Disney World because I paced myself and took the time to explore. Hope you get a chance to visit the Food and Wine Festival before it ends. I can't recommend the lamb chops but I can suggest the 12th anniversary Sam Adams Lager. Good stuff. See you in Orlando.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

San Diego Zoo animals are safe

The Disney Blog reports that animals at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park are safe but some of the grounds were damaged. Employees are on hand to help with fire control and care for the animals. Hang in there.