Thursday, September 27, 2007

Theme Parks Sold

Theme Park Insider brings us the update from Orlando, Florida about the auction for Cypress Gardens and Wild Adventures Theme Parks I posted about earlier. I wish them well.

Restistance is futile

We resist Change. Change is inevitable. What now?

The buggy whip company and the iceman lose their market. I once read: "How many great railroad companies from the 1800's became great airline companies in the 1900's? Zero. They were too busy trying to promote the railroad at the time."
Surely the airplane is a passing fad?
Change is inevitable.
Great post at Passport to Dreams Old and New about changing at Disney. Sometimes the attractions we love or remember fondly go away and something new takes their place. This is a successful strategy for Disney and others. It keeps things fresh for the guests and allows them to return over and over. It's a blend and a balance of the old and the new. I suspect that the Haunted Mansion will never go away but elements will be refurbished, renewed and improved.
Fear of Loss is much more powerful than Desire for Gain. That is why change is difficult.
Is it time to change something in your world? Let me know.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Most Haunted Live. Mark your calenders.

Clear your schedule, pack a cooler and strap yourself in on October 19th at 9pm when the Travel Channel presents Most Haunted Live at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, just south of San Francisco.

A Seven (yes, I said seven) Hour marathon of paranormal investigation and things that go bump in the night. I'm exhausted already. How will they maintain such an event before the channel changes? I do not know. Guess we'll have to watch and a minute. No doubt, it's gonna be a hootenanny.

The Winchester Mystery House was creepy when I visited during the day. I can only imagine how it will be at night. Interestingly you can interact with the investigation team online offering suggestions for room searches, etc. Great way to lead up to Halloween my Friends. Just don't call me for seven hours on October 19th. (Whew!)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Red Bull Air Race in San Diego

Our SEAL Tour crew at Old Town Trolley in San Diego, California is all a twitter about the Red Bull Air Races this past weekend. Here is a great Youtube video from Between Random Planets showing an earlier practice takeoff from the USS Midway which is now a tourist attraction in San Diego.
The interesting thing for me is how events are becoming more like attractions in some places. The draw is often excellent and folks follow these types of events like concerts by their favorite band. It's an interesting, reborn model for tourism.
My first question would be, does it help the local economy?
Experience from the Superbowl would suggest that not every type of business benefits from big draw events in their community.
Can local repetitive events compete with standing tourist attractions? Are they an enhancement or a distraction?
With so many activities competing for our limited time and attention, perhaps these types of events are the wave of the future for some tourism businesses. Museums have great success with traveling exhibits like Tutankhamun. Then again, Cirque du Soleil reinvented the traveling circus and eventually developed permanent locations. Now they are sending out traveling shows again!
We sure need to be flexible these days don't we? I guess everything old is new again. See you in San Diego.

Space Shuttle Discovery Prepares

Space Shuttle Discovery has begun it's journey for a scheduled October 23rd launch at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Check out the process at Spaceflightnow. (Great photos too!)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Legoland: Still playing with Legos

Legoland in Carlsbad, California near San Diego, California has won the prestigious 2007 Golden Ticket Award for Best Children's Park.
I loved Legos growing up and spent hours playing with them. Now my daughter is amazed to see the complex sculptures that are made out of them at places like Downtown Disney in Orlando, Florida. Some things never grow old.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wowing your guests

Great article by way of Brand Autopsy from Jeffrey Summers at Building Better Restaurants about removing Host stands at restaurants. Makes a good case against them. But what takes it's place? How do you meet and greet your guests?

This of course applies to many tourist venues, not just restaurants. My best meet and greet experience happened in Baltimore, Maryland years ago. I went to a restaurant in "Little Italy" and could not believe how they handled me. I was warmly greeted at the door which was held open so I could see the next greeter at the bottom of the stairs who led us up to the next greeter at the top of the stairs who introduced us to our waiter who then sat us at our special table! Each of them was introduced by name and all the while they chatted with us and made us feel like family. Big smiles, great eye contact and what I call the "Verbal Embrace".

Nothing annoys me more than being greeted by someone who wishes they were someplace else. No enthusiasm, no interest. They just don't seem to care. By the time I reached my table in Baltimore they could have served me anything and I would have enjoyed it!

That's the power of good first impressions and sincere human connections. Of course, many tourism businesses rely on quality interactions with their guests. Is it time to spruce up your daily guest contacts? These moments should be like a dog wagging it's tail with joy when it sees you. Otherwise, I could just stay home.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Halloween is just around the corner and one of my favorite Holidays. As a kid, it was the candy. Now, it's the fantasy. I love seeing people dress up and become other characters. (You can tell a lot about people by the characters they choose). Pirates, Pop stars or witches the spectacle is endless.

The photo is from our Ghosts & Gravestones tour in Boston, MA. We also have them in Savannah, GA and St. Augustine, FL. All of them are different and each of them is a blast.
I'm involved with ghosts and storytelling year round but the height of the season is that day of days, October 31st. What are you doing this year? Countdown begins!

If you need some inspiration visit Bucky's Boneyard or the Monster List of Halloween Projects.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pirate Soul

Just came across a Historic Tours of America team visit pic from Pat Croce's Pirate Soul Museum in Key West, Florida. We were previewing it when it first opened and I have been back many times. It sort of combines acting and storytelling like our Shipwreck Historeum and the treasures of Mel Fisher's Maritime Museum with an enhanced, rollicking pirate theme.

Of course, the Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean, clone helps and snappy technologies imagineered inside are great but what I like best is the storytelling and authentic artifacts like the flag in the photo. This is one of only two, known, surviving Jolly Roger pirate flags in the world! In a fairly small space they have an astonishing collection of rare and interesting pirate regalia.

This just might be the museum attraction of the future combining authentic objects with recent technology, good storytelling and solid performance. It really strikes all of the senses. The debate rages on. It is important to preserve our past but I favor showcasing it in the most interesting way possible. (The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois and the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia are good examples.)

I predict with shrinking audiences and increasingly short attention spans that this trend will blossom and morph. "Don't bore me!" is the battle cry from today's guest.

What can you do to be more interesting? Let me know.

After Midnight in Savannah

Savannah, Georgia is like an old friend to me. The fact that it was founded in 1733 would be enough but I've also met wonderful people, eaten great food and been creeped out a time or two. My company operates Old Town Trolley tours and Ghosts and Gravestones here so I am fortunate to work with SCAD students and creatives all over town. (I even wrote a book about hauntings there called Ghost and Gravestones of Savannah, Georgia.) The charms of Savannah are endless and enticing. But time marches on.

Many years have passed since John Berendt's best selling novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was published and made into a wonderful movie directed by Clint Eastwood. Fewer and fewer folks are as interested or familiar with the story.
So what now? What do you do when the big thing that spurs tourism in your area begins to fade? You reinvent yourself. Yes, it is possible to continue promoting your attraction, area or service after things change.
Now Savannah is hailing itself as "The Creative Coast" and attracting talented artists of all kinds and the people who want to see them. Riffing off the successes of the Savannah School of Art and Design (SCAD) and cooking celebrities like Paula Dean, Savannah is forging a bright new future. The reality is that things change and we need to be willing to change too. Focusing that effort in a useful way is the key. Change for the sake of change is "confusing motion with action" as Hemingway once said. Developing solid strategy and bold innovation wins the day. See you in Savannah.

Shuttle launches dwindling

Just got reminded that the Kennedy Space Center Complex in Florida has only 14 more shuttles scheduled to launch before retiring in 2010. Better see one while you still can! The next one is scheduled for October 23rd.
Also got word about some very cool military aeriel demonstrations scheduled there in November. They are part of the 50 year celebration of space by the World Space Expo. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute teams will be there along with demo's of other great aircaft.

Baby Elephant's First Birthday

The Wild Animal Park , which is part of the San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California just celebrated the one year Birthday of this Baby Elephant, Khosi. (More pics here courtesy of NBC San Diego) They made the cake out of vegetables and ice with a carrot for a candle! Something about baby elephants just cracks me up. They look like old men in suits. Khosi now weighs in at 850 pounds. Enjoy...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We will always remember...

I was in a staff meeting at 8:46am when the world changed on this date in 2001. When I visited Ground Zero in New York City earlier this year it was unreal. The scope of this tragedy is hard to comprehend. Where this will lead in the future I cannot say. I do know that we will always remember this day. Travel well and be safe.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Got $17.4 Million?

The Disney Blog has a good story about the impending auction for two theme parks: Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Georgia and Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Florida. I really thought they were great regional theme parks but cash flow can be cruel. Got $17.4 Million?

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Going to BlogOrlando to learn, share and meet with other bloggers. Can't wait.

Epcot 25th Anniversary Celebration announced

The Disney Blog has a nice announcement about Epcot's 25th Anniversary Celebration in Orlando, Florida. I really enjoy Epcot and look forward to attending the International Food & Wine Festival in October!

Theme Park Fire

Sad story from Theme Park Insider this morning.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Celebration Success!

The 442nd Birthday Celebration for St. Augustine, Florida went off beautifully thanks to the efforts of John Fraser, Michelle Reyna and the rest of the gang at the Fountain of Youth. (You can see a few more pics of the event at Flickr.) A good time was had by all and I participated in the Historic Timeline as British Merchant and notorious scalliwag, Jesse Fish, along with the two esteemed gentlemen in the photo. The arrival of Don Pedro Menendez at the Mission of Nombre de Dios was met with great fanfare and cannon firings. There was a "first thanksgiving foods" cooking contest, cutting of the cake at the Colonial Spanish Quarter and a "Jollification" at the end of the night. We ended up at the Taberna del Gallo listening to my favorite group, The Bilge Rats, singing sea shanty's. There is no finer Shantyman then Brad Taylor-Hicks. All in all, a wonderful 442nd birthday celebration for the Nation's Oldest City.