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?