MEL TYE  BLOG

March 29

  1. I SPENT FOUR DAYS WITH CUSTOMERS ON AN AMISH COUNTRY TOUR TRYING TO DISCOVER THE NEEDS OF OUR CUSTOMERS.
     
    This past week I took a group to the Amish Country trying to discover what our customers wanted and how to change this tour, to make the tour relevant to today’s market. I tried new things based on what my friend Lois S of Groups Galore suggested, and what customers had been saying on other tours. This is valuable information that needs to be shared.  
     
    We stayed at the Comfort Inn which was clean comfortable and in a good location for what we were doing on the tour.  The customer comments were that they would CHOOSE another because of the Styrofoam plates and Styrofoam and Styrofoam coffee cups. The hotels that don’t get that today’s customers will go someplace else, rather than use Styrofoam, needs a wakeup call. One customer comment even suggested that we provide our own disposable so that they don’t have to use foam. Several of our customers bought their own mugs rather than use Styrofoam cups the hotel provided.  I went so far as to buy a sleeve of disposable paper cups at the dollar store to meet our customer needs. Today’s consumers are out right rejecting Styrofoam products and our hotel partners must understand this. Those that continue to use Styrofoam are chasing the customers away.
     
    We had scheduled a half day in Hershey, most rated the Hershey Chocolate World ride as too commercial, they did not feel it added value to the tour. They said they would much rather have had someone demonstrate chocolate making than ride on a kiddy ride. They rated the chocolate tasting experience very high and the Chocolate Trolley Ride very high. The comments were getting rid of the kiddy ride for adults and replace with an actual demonstration would make the experience better. There is a time and place for everything and the Chocolate World Ride is informative but not entertaining. They had a person taking group photos where only 75% of the group was visible. How do they expect to sell a $25 photo package when the person taking pictures does not know how to compose the picture? Our customers   rated the visit to the Hershey School very high and meaningful. The market is evolving and what worked in the past does not necessarily engage our customers today. Hershey spent a great deal of money redoing this ride and it no longer meets the customers’ expectations.  I liked the Chocolate World ride the customers did not.  The customers told us they would have rather skipped the Chocolate World ride and gone to Turkey Hill and create their own ice-cream flavors. This is the whole point, the customers want to participate they do not want to watch.
     
    In the past we visited a working dairy where the bus drove through the barns to learn about the modern dairy industry. The trip was about an hour long and finished with an ice-cream. This time we tried a new venue, boarded a wagon pulled by a tractor that took about an hour and a half. The tour was very informative but was too long. The customers also felt that visiting a farm without tasting product left than feeling they were missing something. This is very important today’s customer’s want to see feel taste and touch. Not tasting dairy products at a dairy farm left the customers feeling the experience was missing something.
     
    We included the movie “Jacob’s Choice”, which everyone rated very high. The group felt that this movie tied everything together and help them understand that the Amish is a culture, not a religion where people choose to accept these practices or not. I stress that we need to tie our packages together with a single theme.
     
    A stop was made at a farmer’s market and customer’s felt they needed a bit more time.  We offered optional Amish Buggy rides while some were shopping at a farmers market. The customers who took the buggy rides all said that having the one on one time with the driver was extremely important. They said absolutely no to buggy rides with 6 -10 people. They considered a buggy with 4 ideal and provided a cultural interaction. They felt that 40 minute rides in small buggy’s should be added to the tour and not an option. The customers are craving cultural interactions on a one on one basis.
     
    The group felt that they needed more time at Kitchen Kettle and most came out with lots of purchases. I heard the comment that they enjoyed sampling before purchasing and this was the reason they bought so much stuff. Group said they needed more time to experience Kitchen Kettle, as a tour director I did not understand the desire for shopping was so high on this type of tour. I understand as an owner that the customers were enjoying an experience as well as shopping.
     
    The group did a 3 hour farm tour with several stops to meet the local business, and interact with the Amish people. They had the opportunity to see miniature horses, a country store, and a general store, where they could talk to the children and ask questions of the adults.  They rated this part of the tour as one of the highlights. They made the comment that going to a general store was a waste of their time and they would have rather spent the time with someone making root beer or sewing quilts. Our customers make it very clear it is not the shopping experience they wanted but the opportunity to interact with locals that is important.  
     
    We had dinner at an Amish Farm and everyone said this was the highlight of the trip and was a wonderful experience being in an Amish home having dinner. They asked that an experience like this be incorporated into more of our tours. I point out the number of times I have used the word experience, the customers do not want to watch or have a passive experience, they want to participate.
     
    We included the Sight and Sound Theater and although the customers enjoyed the show, “Sampson” was not of the same quality as other shows at this theater, the customers commented we were forcing religion on them. The demographics of our customers said they would have enjoyed a different show, without any religious aspect. My customers made it very clear that religion is something that does not belong on tours, unless it is a church group. We have to give our customers what they want and anything with any type of religious overtone will be scrutinized carefully before including in the future.
     
    The customers made a point of telling me that they felt they had eaten very well and what they liked and did not like. When I told my travelers price of one of the famous smorgasbords, they suggested I choose another restaurant. The food was good at this restaurant; the atmosphere was fare the price not good value. For a buffet meal they said Golden Coral was better quality of food at much more reasonable price. The customers understand the difference between quality and value and want both.
     
    The last stop was the QVC studio tour which the customers liked and rated very high.   
     
    The wi-fi on the bus overheated and shutdown because numerous people were trying to watch individual movies. This was a real issue. We will be now equipping all tour directors with broad band routers so we will be in control of this situation. Having w-ifi is a cost but also a necessity for the travelers of today.  Every bus company needs to know the importance of having working Wi-Fi on every coach.    
     
    If we fail to continue to evolve as tour operators we will become extinct. We need to listen to what our customers are telling us. I am sharing this information as the needs of our customers are changing rapidly. Some people are afraid of change, but change takes place whether we want it or not. Those of us in the travel industry can either be a victim of change or an instrument of change. I choose to be the instrument of change. 


  2. Click to read
    Review of  Bright Star and Discover Delaware fam trip

    A big thank you to Tina and the State of Delaware and to my friends on Broadway that allow me to review shows for my groups.


  3. Puffery
    This is a word I coined to describe people who at meetings, conventions, and conferences who have nothing of substance to say, but will always grab an open mike whenever they have an opportunity. This is a deliberate attempt by those that have little to offer and hope they get noticed. It is the same reason a peacock spreads its tail feathers.  I was recently at the International Tour Management Institute Symposium looking for new tour directors, and driver guides for the fall season. I sat in the back of the room listening and watching these peacocks puff themselves up waiting to ask a question that they surely knew the answer to. Once they asked the question they politely waited to be sure they got the last word in. These persons certainly got themselves noticed, but was in a positive way? I looked at these prospective candidates and drew a line through their names as they will never be team players. Don’t get me wrong I love the independent spirits and notice the candidates that ask questions of substance. I make these suggestions to the peacocks engaging in puffery, if you going to pick up a mike make sure you are asking questions or giving answers of substance.    
    I also listened to the replies that the panelist gave, some who were also engaging in the same practice from the other side.  I am not sure how the panelists were chosen, but heard answers that were total rubbish. Once again a situation where people of little substance were puffing themselves up to make others think they had substance or knowledge to share. I took it upon myself to engage some of those that had real questions to try and provide answers. As a result I had a very pleasant two hour conversation one evening with a very bright young lady.  I hope we have the opportunity to work together in the future,  as I like inquiring minds.
     
    Flying the friendly skies

    On my way to California I had no problems with my flights they took off on time landed on time and I brought my own food and a good book and was happy and content. On my return I flew out of Ontario airport and ran into a number of incompetent people who simply did not have the training to do their job. I checked in online and saw that flights going through San Francisco were delayed because of weather. I went to the agent at the counter who told me several times he was by himself and was new.  I asked to use the $75 United same day change fee and try and get on an earlier flight.  He told me he had never heard of the $75 same day change fee, and therefore did not know how to enter it and because he was the only one at the counter did not have time to look it up.  I left the counter called United and had myself on an earlier flight.  I now go the gate and they are boarding a flight to San Francisco. I ask if I can get on this flight and the gate agent tells me no. I ask if there are empty seats and she said there about 15 empty seats.  I explained I might miss my connecting flight because of weather delays if I was not on this flight. She said to me you are on the next flight.  As soon as they close the doors they announce the flight I am supposed to be on is delayed an hour and a half and I am going to miss my connection.  There is now an experienced agent at the gate and I explain the situation and am rebooked flying through Denver. The experienced agent turns to the new agent and asks; why didn’t you put this man on the earlier flight and she shrugs her shoulders and said she did not know that she could. I land in Boston at 11:39 and am forced to overnight or take flightline shuttle back to where my car is parked. I chose to stay overnight and do a hotel inspection of a hotel we are using later in the year.
     
    Taxi Ride
    On Sat morning I ask the hotel to call me a taxi. The cab pulls up two minutes later I get in the cab and the cab driver says something about his cab is broken and another cab will be there in a minute. I get in the second cab to go to South Station to get the bus back to NH. The freaking driver is texting or emailing at every light. I ask to pay by credit card so I have the cab number and the hack number. This clown leaves the meter running to wind up the charges because I am paying by credit card.  I confronted the driver and told him how dangerous texting and driving is and he shrugged his shoulders. I get out of the cab and called the taxi hotline and emailed the general manager of Metro cab. It will be interesting to see if I get a response or if this dangerous behavior is allowed to continue.
  4. ARE WE LISTENING TO WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS ARE TELLING US, WHAT ARE WE WILLING TO PAY FOR SERVICE, ARE WE CONDTIONED TO PURCHASE THINGS THAT WE DON’T WANT BECAUSE WE THINK IT IS A BARGAIN?

    This week a few things happened to me which are very relevant in the tour and travel industry and in business. 

    1.       I made an appointment to get one of the company vehicles serviced at a dealership. I asked what the price would be for the scheduled service and was given a price. I brought the vehicle in for the scheduled service and the person writing up the order gave me a price that was a $100 more than the price I was quoted. I asked why the price was a $100 more than the price quoted and was told the person who quoted me was mistaken. I shared that I gave him the make the model, year, and he pulled up the service history and thought that a $100 increase in the price was not reasonable. I was told you don’t have to leave your vehicle if you don’t want to.  About an hour later I received a phone call telling me that the air filter was dirty and needed to be changed and the air filter was $30 and the labor was $30. I said I could pick up an air filter at any auto parts store for $15 and it is one wing nut that would take me less than 5 mins to unscrew change the filter and put the cover back on. I was told that if I did not use an official part I voided the vehicle warrantee.  I agreed to buy the air filter and change it myself. Next I get a call that tells me the fuel filter had not been changed and needed to be changed.   I asked what the price was and was told $371. I thought this was a bit steep for changing the fuel filter and said I would take care of this myself.  I called one of the local chain garages and they told me the price would be $171, $200 less than the dealership. I received a third call advising that one of the low lamp bulbs needed to be changed. They told me the bulb was $12 but the labor was $30. I said all you had to do was reach inside, unplug the wire loosen the locking ring and change the bulb, I pointed out you did not even need a screwdriver for this. I said I would take care of this myself.  I ended up going to the auto parts store and the bulb I needed cost $4 and the person at the counter offered to change it, if I wanted him to. I thanked him and while he changed the bulb, I changed the air filter. It took less than 10 mins to do both jobs.
     
    My whole point is that I felt the dealership was trying to rip me off. When I made the comments to the service manger that I felt I was getting ripped off, he pointed out to me; that someone has to pay for the coffee and pastry in the waiting lounge, the rides back and forth to my office, the computer work station available for free, the free WiFi etc.  I started asking myself was the dealership right in charging me for the convenience and extra service? Were those services valuable to me? I said to him if someone had said to me something like; included in the price of your service, is a comfortable work space so you don’t have to lose time from work; free coffee and snacks; and if you prefer we will take you home or to your office and pick you up when your car is ready, I would have had no price resistance at all. He said he was going to make this suggestion to all front line personnel. THEY NEED TO TELL CUSTOMERS WHY THE DEALER FEES ARE HIGH.  How many of us are doing the same thing in our business? Are we advising our customers of the services we have included in the price, or are we taking for granted that the customer knows the services we provide as part of the price? After thinking about this I am going to develop a few paragraphs that advise the customer of the services included in doing business with Tye’s Tours.
     
    2.       As many of you know I have been trying to change my eating habits for the last year.  I have not had a Burger at a fast food joint in months.  When I went for my annual physical my doctor told me my weight was down and asked when the last time was I had eaten a burger at a fast food joint.  I said I was not sure but probably around Aug.  He said when you leave here I want you to go to Burger King order two bacon cheese burgers, a small fry, and a small drink and eat that for lunch. Much to my surprise I found this meal disgusting. ( At one time this was a normal lunch) Not only did I feel this food was tasteless, but after eating one of these burgers I felt bloated and did not want the second burger.  I got my doctors point, I had been conditioned to accept this crap was good to eat and had nutritional value.  How many of us are going through life consuming things we really don’t want? Are we ordering two burgers because the fast food companies are telling us that is a bargain if we consume these calories for $4. Are we conditioned to impulsively consume things we know are bad for us? I certainly believe that we should all indulge occasionally, as it makes us feel good. My doctor was right after getting away from the food I had become accustomed to, giving it up was no issue at all. In fact admitting that food from a fast food joint no longer tasted good, was a surprise to me. I am not saying I am giving up on burgers but have become more selective in what I choose to consume. It essence this is an issue of quality over quantity. What is the relevance to my business?  Right now there are many of the cruise lines, resorts, and travel packages offering two for one special at bargain prices. We sell these products because the consumer buy these products.  We are running a promotion where one of the cruise lines is offering a 2 for one 7 day cruise with a balcony cabin for $999, for two. I offered this to one of my bargain hunting customers.   He said to me I have been on that cruise line, the two for one is a great price, but I would rather spend a little more for a better quality cruise experience. How many of us are going through life not able to distinguish between quality, value, and price? How many of us are sacrificing the quality we deserve and buying things because they have the lowest price?
     
    3.       I spent more than an hour on the phone this morning with a customer trying to book a package to Alaska. I was getting frustrated because I was unable to effectively communicate with this customer.  The conversation started out with this lady telling me that “Alaska Gold Rush” and “Alaska Bush People” were her two favorite TV shows and that is why she wanted to go to Alaska. She was asking if she went to Alaska would she be able to meet the Brown Family, see Brown Town and meet any of the people from Gold Rush. I explained that these were TV shows and although the cruise ships dock in Hoonah they would be very lucky to run into the Brown family and “Alaska Gold Rush” was filmed in the Klondike. Although they could get to Dawson and might catch a glimpse of characters from the show, it was not a realistic expectation. The conversation continued with lots of questions about Alaska, such as what is the exchange rate in Alaska? Do they have indoor plumbing? Do the hotels have hot water? What type of adapter do they need to bring? I explained that Alaska was our 49th state, they use US currency, the hotels are similar to the lower 48 and all have indoor plumbing and hot water.  I explained she would need a passport as she was crossing into Canada at the end of the trip. She could not comprehend why she needed a passport if she was flying into Alaska and out of Seattle.  She could not comprehend that because she was leaving the US for two days she needed a passport. She kept bring up that the people from Mexico enter the US and they don’t have passports. I explained as patiently as I could, that anyone who enters the US from a foreign country needs a passport or they are illegal.  After an hour she told me that Alaska might not be the right destination for her. She told me that she had certain expectations of Alaska and that she had told me in the beginning why she wanted to go to Alaska. I was trying to figure out how I could have turned this ladies dreams into reality. Should I have been so practical to tell her expectations were not realistic or should I have sold her what she wanted based on her expectations? Should I have taken the time to actually find out if the customers’ expectations could have been met and what she would be willing to pay for this service?    I will never know, as I became frustrated with the endless stream of questions.  I should have asked the question if I could arrange for you to meet any of the TV characters from the show, would she buy the trip? The results might have been different and I might have made the sale if I had asked the right question.  My point is that I dashed a customer’s expectations and lost a sale because I felt this ladies knowledge of Alaska was not where it should have been. Although I was listening I was not hearing what the customer was saying.  She was telling me her main reason for going to Alaska was to meet the characters from her two favorite TV shows.

    How many of us are listening to our customers, but not hearing what they are telling us?

  5. REFLECTIONS ON 2015 AND PREDICTIONS FOR 2016

    As the year draws to a close it is time for me to reflect back on this year and make my annual predictions for next year.
    First and foremost thank you to all of my friends and customers. I truly enjoyed the time I spent with each and every one of my domestic and international customers as they taught me about their part of the world. Thank you to the many friends that allowed me to take care of their travel arrangements as they traveled the world.  It was a pleasure setting up more honeymoons and destination weddings than ever before.

    2015 was a challenging year as Tye’s Tours experienced growing pains.  It was certainly a challenge to get our products up on Viators and gain the World Wide exposure we needed. This was the first year that our International inbound travelers matched our domestic travelers. The market has shifted and less than 10 % of our customers are now over 70 and less than 20 % of our customers are now over 65. As the market has changed we have had to reinvent our style of vacation package while building a bridge to our traditional customers. We have had to drop those groups that expected taxi service and a pick up for two or three people at no additional charge. We will leave these customers to other companies.  I spent more days on the road traveling than in other year.  In between hotel inspections, trade shows, driving the sprinters, developing new tours and tour directing I was on the road a whopping 141 days this year. Thankfully the office was where my lap top was and where my cell phone rang.

    I have to admit that some of the driver /guides we hired this year were a true disappointment to me and relived them of their positions as quickly as possible.  When some of you advised me that drivers were making stops not on the itinerary, making the days excessively long, I corrected as soon as I found out. Although these guides had the best of intentions and wanted to add uniqueness to their tour, adding an extra hour or hour and a half was simply wrong. The driver /guides that made disparaging remarks about people that joined our tours for a day or two or decided not to go to the restaurants we set up, are  gone,  and will probably never work for another tour company. I offer my sincerest apology to restaurants that reserved tables and drivers decided to go someplace else. We have recruited a great team for 2016 that will wow you with their customer service.  As a company Tye’s Tours is committed to finding the best driver / guides and tour directors we can hire. We have spent a great deal of money on training and recruiting driver/ guides and tour directors for 2016 that have the right stuff. We have found that former fireman, police officers, social workers, and teachers make very good tour directors. They take direction well, have leadership ability and are team players that have great attitudes. As the world changes we want to have a team in place that is comfortable should a crisis ever occur.

    In 2016 the trends and needs of our customers are changing. Our customers are telling us they want as little structure as possible on a tour. They are telling us they want us to get them to a destination tell them what is there, make sure they have discounts on the attractions and let them know when the bus will be back. We have more and more customers telling us they want a hot breakfast and would prefer to be on their own for other meals with suggestions from our guides. They seldom want to be at a table with more than 4 -6. My customers have made it unequivocal they do not want to patronize any hotel or restaurant that still uses foam products.  Our customers are asking for meals in craft breweries   and open menu rather than a restrictive menu.  They are asking for tasting menus rather than traditional menus.  Our overseas customers want outlet shopping and will skip a city tour to have more time for shopping.  Our customers from Italy and France have a different appreciation of Art Museums then most American travelers. They want us to include art galleries in their tours where most American Tourist have to be dragged into any museum.  Our customers are now asking for something else other than the fall tours for New England.  We have put together a Dec tour that features a theme of a New England Christmas which is selling very well.  As the demographics are changing we will be featuring more soft adventure such as indoor sky diving, indoor surfing, and indoor Go Karting.  Our customers are now asking for more tours that include things like ATV adventures. The customers are telling us they want to avoid areas with large crowds and want the security of a small group travel.  As we move into the future the customers are telling us that 50 passengers on a motor coach is to many and would prefer to pay a little more and travel in groups no larger than 30. Europe is a bargain right now because of the strength of the dollar, but customers feel the European continent is unsafe. The demand for tickets for Broadway Shows continues to rise. We are entering 2016 with over 300 requests to see Hamilton on first available date and most accept in will be 2017 before group tickets are available for this show. Many of our tours are selling out early and some tours for next fall and early Dec are completely sold out already.  The whole concept of techno tours is on the rise where the products of the future are in production and the customers get to play with the new toys. Outlet shopping and tax free shopping is a key component for our overseas visitors.  

    The daily rate of Motor coaches continues to rise as the price of diesel falls. The airlines are becoming increasingly difficult to work with and group fares are now often more expensive than instant purchase fares.  The reality is that the average overnight tour in a first class hotel with two meals and sighting is going to average $175 per person per day based on dbl occ and about $225 a day for sprinter travel.
    Some of our customers have been trying to book tours less than a week out and are surprised that there is no availability. We release unsold hotel rooms 30 days out  and do not purchase event tickets until we receive a deposit. Those that wait to the last minute are going to find they are out of luck.

    We are seeing the rise of grandparents raising children and are creating more intergenerational tours where a child will be able to travel free with an adult.

    HAPPY NEW YEARS TO ALL OF MY FRIENDS AROUND THE GLOBE, MAY IT BE THE BEST YEAR EVER!!           
  6. Travel is the perfect Freedom don’t allow the world events to take this from you.
     
    So much has happened since my last blog, that I feel it important to share my thoughts and feelings.
    After the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and in California our customers have become scared of what might happen if they travel domestically or abroad. Travel is the perfect freedom that builds bridges and helps different cultures find commonalities.  If you surrender to fear as to what might happen then the terrorist win.  The world is in a state of turmoil over different belief systems and the refusal to tolerate what someone else chooses to believe.
     
    Recently I had a group that had 15 passengers paid in full for our famous Chocolate, Champagne and Pastry tour to France which we run every spring, cancel. This is one of my favorite tours and everyone always comes back feeling good and satiated.  My group canceled because they felt France no longer is a safe country to visit. I had an employee group cancel a two bus theater trip to NY because the executives felt NY is too much of a target to have so many employees in one place at one time. I had 20 individuals in the last few weeks cancel overseas trips out of fear of another terrorism event. The terrorist win every time any of us succumb to these fears. We have a choice to become isolationists and only travel to safe places or look at reality and realize that the chance of being involved in a terrorist event around the world are about the same as getting struck by lightning or winning a huge jackpot in a lottery.  Once fear starts, it grows even if it is not based on rational thought.  I welcome all of you who are afraid to travel to come to New Hampshire where there is tax free shopping and lots to do in our Mountains Lakes and Cities.  Enjoy an encounter with the wildlife, experience skiing, take a horse drawn sleigh ride, go snowmobiling, ride snowmobiles or ATV’s on mountain trails, experience ice fishing, taste our local products, enjoy our wines. If you want a safe destination come to NH where crime is low, you are safe, and the adventure and scenery is abundant.
     
    Motor coach prices seem to be increasing dramatically in 2016. There is no rhyme or reason for these as the price of fuel is falling and insurance premiums have not gone up much at all. Last year we were paying an average of $950 a day for motor coaches and in 2016 we are paying an average of $1100 a day.  The price of tours will be going up to reflect the price increases of motor coaches. Our popular trips to Foxwood as an example will be going from $35 a day to $42 a day.  In 2015 we were paying an average of $ 1600 for a one day trip to NY in 2016 the same trip is costing $2100. I am trying to advise everyone after the first of the year prices are going up so book early and get protected by the current rates.
     
    Over  this past year as groups have been getting smaller we have been doing more and more trips with Mercedes Sprinters and Ford Trax Vans and smaller motor coaches. If we are traveling by a motor coach with 30 plus passengers the average cost of transportation is $35 per person. If we are traveling with 10 passengers in a Sprinter the average cost is $55 per person. The experience of traveling in a small group for many is much more enjoyable for most of our customers and they are willing to pay for this service.  When we have groups that fall below 10 and we have to take on a Sprinter we cannot operate at the same cost as a motor coach. In 2016 groups that fall below 10 will be given the option to cancel or pay a surcharge.  It is simply not economically feasible for us to pick up these small groups without charging for the additional costs.   
     
    Over the last few weeks I have been traveling to New York quite frequently for Holiday Tours both on Motor coaches and by Sprinter.  You can’t go through an intersection without seeing at least one police officer. Someone has to pay for the police presence and security and the police are doing this by giving tickets to out of state busses for the most bizarre reasons. Everyone knows that traffic in NY can be a nightmare anytime but in Dec around Times Square can be a challenge.  Yesterday I was driving in NY was in the left lane to make a left turn and a truck came across three lanes of traffic and cut me off.  I pulled around the truck and continued to make the left turn when traffic started to move.  I was given a ticket for entering an intersection without sufficient space in the intersection.  It is impossible to drive in Times Square and wait to enter an intersection ubtil there is space, when the traffic starts to move  either a taxi will cut you off, or pedestrians will walk in front of you.  I was stopped a second time and the police officer wanted to make sure everyone was wearing seatbelts.  I was unloading handicapped passengers close to Radio City, it was taking longer than usual as the passengers were handicapped and it took them a bit longer to get out. The policeman starts screaming at me to move as I had been in a five minute loading zone for seven minutes.  I said to the officer can you not see that I am unloading some handicapped travelers that require a bit more time.  He said he didn’t care, move it or get a ticket.  I said officer may I have your badge number and he let me unload my passengers. I pass this on as a warning that the New York Police are going after out of state busses as a way to pay for the additional police presence.
     
    Everyone is bashing Trump because he is saying things that make sense. First of all I am not a Donald Trump supporter; however the majority of all worldwide terrorists are of the Muslim Faith.   I am not afraid of Muslims that believe in peace and tolerance and chose to coexist in harmony with the rest of the world.  As long as they understand that my belief system may be different than what they believe and accept that we can all live in harmony with different beliefs, they are welcome. Those that try to force me into their belief system, need to be exported to the nearest dessert so they can live among the scorpions where they belong.  The problem is not all Muslims, it is the screening process that we have in allowing people of all beliefs to enter this country. The probability is that the next terrorist is going to be someone of the Muslim faith.  Since the probability is higher that the next terrorist is going to be a Muslim, people in this group need additional screening. We do not need to deny access to this country to any group but need to screen for potential threats. If someone has been to an area known for terrorist training they need to bee scrutinized before they get on an airplane, this has nothing to do with religious beliefs but everything to do with common sense.  I hate it when political statements are taken out of context. We need the clowns in DC to change the screening process to make the homeland safe not ban anyone from entering the country. We need to give additional scrutiny to the groups that are most likely to produce terrorist. Listening to the candidates pounce on the Donald rather than try and fix the problem, only grows the support for Mr. Trump.  I have said for years that the solution to violent criminals is to create prison ships out of mothballed aircraft carriers. If the aircraft carriers were good enough for our troops they are good enough for prisoners.  Each prisoner should be provided with fishing gear so they can fish for their food.  If they want to kill each other so be it. We should not be spending millions of dollars on housing violent criminals. If they have to fish to feed themselves and are isolated from the rest of the world than the problems go away. This is where the terrorist in Guantanamo Bay belong not returned to their native lands. I strongly feel that we treat violent prisoners betters than we treat the serviceman who protect our freedom. This has to change. It is time we start treating terrorist like the animals they are.  If they believe in their religion they can pray to any God they choose to rescue them from a Prison ship. I would go so far as to even separate the ships so you have anyone engaging in terrorist activities on one ship combined with anyone who engages in Hate crimes and everyone else on a different ship. The prisoners get one meal a day and access to fishing equipment and are left to rot in the middle of the ocean and fend for themselves.  These violent criminals will be  away from anyone who they might influence. If the ship should sink, do to natural disasters then these animals can go to their maker knowing that their God did not save them and their prayers were unanswered.
     
    Here is a policy change because we have been burnt so many times this past year.  If you want to go for a tour that involves theater tickets, sports tickets or any other form of ticket, pay in advance 60 days out or pay by credit card if you are closer to departure.  The days of believing the check is in the mail are gone.  If we do not receive payment we will not hold or order a ticket for an individual or group.  In 2016 if you are not paid in advance no matter what your reason the bus will not pick up. Absolutely no one has any credit in 2016. Those of you that need to submit purchase orders, need to submit early enough to get payment on time.  Some of you think it is no big deal when you tell me you have 20 people going on a tour and then at the last minute advise you have 12. Tye’s Tours must take a more aggressive position and will be saying no more frequently. Some of you who can’t get payments in on time will be told we can’t afford you as a customer.
     
    Happy Holidays to all no matter what religion you believe in or none at all. May the world celebrate peace and prosperity in 2016 and not be threatened by Terrorist.
     
    Mel Tye

  7. I do my best to try and advise of significant changes in the travel industry that affect my customers and friends.

    1.  As of Jan 01 a NH driver’s license are not valid as an ID on domestic flights. Please don’t expect to show up at the airports and try to board a flight using a NH driver’s license as an id. You already know it will not be accepted.
     
    2.  If you are flying in the euro zone on a domestic flight, if you do not print your boarding pass in advance you will be charged a fee for reprinting boarding passes at the airport. Many US carriers will be adopting similar policies next year. The time it takes airline personal to print boarding passes is a cost that is being passed to you the consumer.  If you don’t  print at home, have your boarding pass on a smart phone, or use a kiosk to print a boarding pass expect to be charged if an airline agent has to spend time printing your boarding pass. I can’t recall the last time I went to an airport without checking in and printing a boarding pass but it seems some of my customers don’t know this is a requirement.
     
    3.  If you are flying most airlines charge for checked baggage. This should be common knowledge but some of you are still asking why I did not tell you there was a baggage charge and often cost more if you do not do it online.
     
    4.  If you are leaving the country on a cruise you need a passport. Recently I had the experience where Florida Residents boarded a cruise ship without a passport and were upset that they could not leave the ship in any of the ports.  Some of the cruise lines will allow you on the ship with a photo id and birth certificate, but that does not mean you can get off in a foreign port. The cruise lines want your money and are happy when you are trapped on a ship.
     
    5.  Air Berlin will be a new low cost carrier coming to the Boston market in May. They will have low cost flights to Europe, Texas and the west coast.
     
    6.  Amtrak is now charging for excess baggage on the trains. One suitcase per person not weighing more than 50 pounds.
     
    7.  Average air fare on Southwest going Boston to Las Vegas is $385 with a stop. Expect to pay about $100 more for nonstop flights Boston to Las Vegas. Hotel rooms in Las Vegas are still inexpensive.
     
    8.  A 55 passenger motor coach in the USA is averaging $1000 a day, a 32 passenger motor coach with a restroom $860, a 13 passenger  vehicle with a driver guide $550 a day.

    9.  The Average cost of a motor coach tour in a first class hotel with breakfast, dinner, and sightseeing in $2016 will be $175 per person based on double occupancy. About a 1/3 more in major cities.
     
    10.   Our customers have made it very clear that hotels that do not offer free wi fi  are not the hotels for them.  If our guests are charged for wi fi there is no chance of future business.
     
    11.   More and more public places will no longer tolerate smokers. If you are going to Butchart Gardens next summer, no smoking in the gardens
     
    12.   After the Paris attacks expect security around the globe to be increased.  If you are going to a sporting event expect what you can bring into the game to change.  If you are going to an event like the Boston Marathon, Macy Thanks giving Parade, or July 4th on the esplanade expect to have to go through security checkpoints.
     
    13.   The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade will be going down 6th Ave this year and there will be security check points to access areas close to the Parade Routes. Please don’t even think of bringing a back pack with you. Bring your chair, a thermos and something to protect you from the wind.
     
    14.   The US Dollar is getting stronger and there are exceptional values in Europe and Canada based on the strength of the dollar.
     
    15.   The cruise ship industry is changing; expect to start seeing more items you have to pay for once you get onboard the ship. The days of everything being included are going away.  If you want to go to Broadway Theater or have fresh squeezed orange juice, expect to pay. Want to go to a wine tasting, expect to pay, want to go to a restaurant with better service and quality of food, expect to pay.  If you want an espresso or a coffee in the afternoon expect to pay.  Not all cruise ships have gone this way yet, but the industry is shifting.
     
    16.   We are seeing the use of Styrofoam going away as more and more cities ban the use of this product. I for one will be glad to see when all Styrofoam is gone.
     
    17.   Hotel soap bars often come with holes in the middle. Get use to it. I don’t know of anyone that ever used up a whole bar of soap  during a hotel stay..
     
    18.   Get use to single serve coffee makers in your hotel room. If you need more coffee just asked for it.  There is no point in grumbling the next morning if you did not call the front desk and ask for more.
     If you prepare your mind and realize that change is inevitable you will have a much more enjoyable time when you travel. What was yesterday is not what is today. If you fail to accept change than you will be miserable and might as well stay home.
  8.  I left my office on Sept 16 and arrived home on Oct 27 at 3 AM after six weeks on the road.

    Over the last six weeks I have been to NY twice, Niagara Falls, Cape Cod, through New England, up to Nova Scotia, PEI, back to New York and on to Washington DC before getting home. Over the last six weeks I got to meet people from all over the world, meet with hotel manages, sales teams, industry colleagues, and discovered some of our strengths and weakness as a tour company.  Thank you to all of you who met with me along the way, and my team of tour directors and driver /  guides that took us through the fall season.

    Here are a few of my observations.
    1. With modern communication I was able to run the company by cell phone and lap top for six weeks. Very few people realized I was not in the office.
     
    2. After six weeks on the road up at 4 AM, doing tours all day answering correspondence in the evening, I am tired.
     
    3. I met with the sales people and hotel managers along my journey when I was away from my passengers for a few moments. I was surprised by how many had read my blog about the outstanding customer service I had received from Earls Restaurant this summer, a Canadian Restaurant Chain. I was equally surprised when I met with general managers who told me how they wished their team could emulate this level of service.  When minor incidents with guests and over charges took place, most gave little if any response.  If you want your teams to excel at customer service it starts at the top.  Your teams can never excel at customer service unless the management excels at customer service.  One particular hotel in Niagara Falls I had met with the GM a year ago and was told of all of the renovations taking place. I needed to make a surprise hotel inspection to see if the promised renovations had taken place. There were only a few rooms, so I booked through a discount booking service. On check in I was told the parking would be validated, on check out I was charged for parking. I was informed that only if I booked direct through the hotel would parking be validated, and if I booked through a discount service I had to pay for parking. Not a big deal but had this GM understood customer service not only would he have validated the parking that would have cost nothing he might have earned my tour business.  I was at this hotel for the purpose of developing future business. The hotel was empty, the parking lot empty, it was post season.  My only thought as I was leaving was this guy is a jerk and no way would I ever return. This is a GM that no one has taught basic hospitality. I booked my 2016 tours with a competing hotel where the GM thanked me for coming by wanted to buy me a beer and settled for a nice cup of coffee over breakfast the next morning.  Not only did the hotel where I booked my tour series buy me breakfast but offered to pick up the tab for the guests with me. A simple gesture of hospitality earned one company my business and the other lost the opportunity to do business.
     
    4. I had the experience of traveling with groups that spoke limited English and did not understand some of our basic customs. Although all of these groups had Interpreters, what I was saying seldom matched the information I was giving.  I might have been talking about something that happened in one period of history and heard words like Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson that had little or nothing to do with anything I was talking about.  I found that although my interpreters told me they were fluent in English I am guessing they understood half of what I was communicating and the rest of the group received 10% of that information. It is very difficult to give a tour without using any idiomatic expressions.  It was an interesting experience with local guides; some just talked and did not care that little, if anything was being understood.  Others talked slowly but gave little information. Very few of my local guides could relate to working through an interpreter or providing relevant information that a foreigner could understand or was interested in.
     
    5. On one afternoon it was cold raining and dark and I skipped a photo stop. The next morning I was told that if I did not make the photo stop, the overseas tour operator could be sued. I drive an hour out of the way to make a five minute photo stop.  Had I known that this stop was so important, I would have stopped the night before in the rain.  On the other hand I was told to skip the Boston City Tour and take the group to the Merrimack Premium outlets for tax free shopping.  This again was a cultural difference where the group leader felt that shopping was far more important than visiting another American city. Shopping is a must for our overseas visitors and even better when it is tax free.  I learned that many of our overseas guests come to the USA for good shopping  is far more important for some cultures than any historical information or attraction.   
     
    6.  It became very tedious when a group was shouting at each other in a foreign language and I had no clue as to what was being said. All I knew was at the end of the day I needed an aspirin. The groups were loud and animated and I assume they were having a good time. They never realized how loud they were.
     
    7. Over the fall season I had groups whose custom it was to belch loudly after a meal. At first I was embarrassed by this cultural difference and realized that all I had to do was seat them away from other guest in restaurants. It had nothing to do with manners but accepting different customs that allowed me to know they were satisfied with the meal. 
     
    8.  Things like explaining the use of washrooms was a cultural challenge. On one tour I would hear stop bus, stop bus. I would pull over and the gentleman would urinate on one side of the bus and the ladies would go a few feet into the woods.  I explained that if they said washroom or toilet, we would stop at a toilet.  I could never communicate that it our culture, urinating in public was not an accepted practice.
     
    9.  On many of our tours our customers order off of the menu. Our Asian friends wanted to share plates and when I allowed them to order on their own they would order food for 100 people.  I found I was ordering food for the whole table and they would share. For small people my guests were always hungry and consumed vast amounts of food several times a day. It was hard to get restaurants to understand that our Asian guests want hot water, not cold water and if ice water was served it was pulled out of the glasses and melted on the plates or tables.  We made a food stop at A & W and I realized I could not explain the menu.  My guests pointed at the pictures and did not know what they had ordered.  I had no idea that chocolate milk was  something that was desired but only if it was at room temperature.
     
    10.  I found it was hard to teach people how to eat with a fork, if they were not accustomed to using a fork.  I learned quickly that two inverted forks made great chopsticks.  I have the same challenge teaching American’s to eat with chopsticks.
     
    11.   As observed people hunching over their food and shoveling the food in. I kept hearing the words of my mother: sit up straight at the table, chew your food, elbows off of the table.  I realized what we must have looked like to our parents while observing others eating.
     
    12.   I always feel the same since of wonderment when I bring our guests to Time Square for the first time in the evening. I hope that I will always feel this excitement with all of our guests.
     
    13.   Many of our guests this fall season had very expensive cameras and getting the photo with traveling companions was very important to them.  On one trip I would guess that each of my passengers took close to 2500 pictures on a 10 day tour. That would be 25,000 images captured from one tour.
     
    14.   It was an interesting observation that many of my guests this fall thought I was the most knowledgeable tour director they had ever had. It did not matter if I was in Boston, New York, Washington, Niagara Falls or PEI. After all these years on the road I have accumulated a wealth of Knowledge which I am able to retain. More importantly I review the area maps and attractions, every day before going on tour. It does not matter how many times I have done the tour I never skip this step.  Even if I had not been to an area for several years I will always appear to my customers that I tour a given area every day. One customer could not believe I did not leave in New York as she thought I knew every building.  In Washington my customers thought I lived in DC. They believed I know every building and every restaurant. What they did not realize was that while they were sightseeing I was goggling the information on the next stop.  We live in an information age and we need to use the technology available to us.
     
    15.   This fall we had customers from all over the world. We had tour directors that were told if  customers from Great Britain did not get their afternoon cocktails they often turn mean. Every tour director that failed to understand this cultural difference were trashed by our guests.  As tourism professionals we all have to understand that our guests from around the world have different customs. As  tourism professionals we are all cultural ambassadors and we have to build bridges among our customers. Just because someone has different customs or beliefs does not make them right or wrong, only different.  We would probably have a lot less strife in the world, if we each took the time to try and understand these cultural differences and build bridges  rather than walls.  
     
    I could write forever about all the things I learned this fall being on the road but who has time to read  all this?

    Mel  Tye
  9. Are You Having A Good Day?
    I have been asked this question every day for the last month at least once.  I am not sure if it because I seem to be grumpier than usual, or if people know I have so little time during the peak season, or if my friends, family, and customers are concerned about my well being.

     I have a good day every day because I choose to have a good day.  I am the only one that can decide if I have a good or a bad day.  At this time of the year I do not allow outside influences to determine how my day will go.  I am grateful that I have 35 tours on the road over the next three weeks, all the operations are done, all the tour guides have packets, the bills are paid, and we are ready for the fall season.

    Yesterday I had my first foliage tour of the season to Squam Lake and the Turkey Train. We saw 12 Loons, and passengers caught the Loons in flight with their cameras. The food and service on the train was as good as it could be.  The group filled up on ice-cream and candy at Kellerhaus, and all went home with a smile. The trees are changing colors, the day was warm and sunny, top that off with a fantastic Luna event.  

    Today I filled the slots on tours that I that needed tour directors or driver / guides. Tomorrow I begin my fall foliage marathon and will be off to New York to pick up a group on the 30th of Sept. and have scheduled myself on back to back tours until the 25 of Oct. where I will return home and sleep for a day or two.  Beginning on the 1st of November I have 112 sales appointments booked over three weeks with people that want to do business with Tye’s Tours.  Then it is Thanksgiving and time to gear up again for all of the holiday tours.  

    I love this business and can't imagine every doing anything different.

    Every day my suppliers are offering me theater tickets, to come and enjoy a resort for a day or two, or try a new restaurant.  It seems that there is no end to the list of people who want me to experience their products. The invitations to exotic places or weekend getaways,  seem to arrive on a daily basis. Unfortunately not enough time to enjoy the perks and still run a business.

    The company is experiencing a phenomenal growth factor this year and the tours are going out full. My online sales are doing fantastic and every morning I wake up to see what was booked overnight. My online sales are like a cash register that never stops ringing.

    I have a great team of tour directors and driver / guides with a support staff of independent contractors that allow me to do so many things and be as creative as I can be.  

    Hard work and sensible eating is allowing the pounds to fall off.  My health is good, my bills are paid, my customers rate us very high for customer service.  The industry seeks my advice on all kinds of matters from technology to business management style.   I feel I have gained the respect of the industr, and my colleagues as well. When I am invited to speak, I am told that my perspective is insightful. When I share my ideas, I often hear why didn’t I think of that? The knowledge I gained from going back to school last fall and learning the stuff I didn’t know, I did not know, put me light years ahead of my competition.  I bitched and moaned about how much work my professors were making me do, and how the expectations were higher than on other students because of my life experience. I am now thankful I had professors that cared enough, and were able to extract my full potential.

    Although I may be tired and Grumpy after working 16 hour days 7 days a week for the last six weeks. I feel full of energy every day, I am happy to get to work, and end every day with a great feeling of accomplishment.

    When I am asked if I am having a good day, I truly am having a good day.  I am not sure if it is my attitude, or that the stars have aligned in my favor. Whatever has happened to give me peace and tranquility, hopefully will continue forever.   It is a joy to find something to laugh about every day which helps the stress disappear. It is fun not to worry about not being politically correct.  It is fun to mock the people wearing items like nose rings. (When I see a person with a nose ring, I assume they want to be lead like animals.) I mean how can anyone respect a person with a nose ring?  I love that I am able to fight for what is right, and find a person to help each and every day.
    I truly believe that the more I am able to help others, the more help I will receive.

    I feel blessed that I can make those around me laugh, and that I have a good sense of humor. I feel honored to be able to help people up, rather than trampling over, as other businesses do.   I feel joy in saying thank you, and being able to ask for help when I need it. I feel pride in what I have been able to accomplish.

    My life is in balance so yes I have a good day every day.
  10. This past week we had a day of remembrance on 911,  the Jewish faith celebrates the New Year, a day of atonement  and a reflection on a period of forgiveness and spiritual revitalization. This past week I saw on facebook and other forms of social media, the promotion of  blowing up mosques, as a solution to the terrorism taking place throughout the world.   This really bothered me as the destruction of any religious institution is never a good thing.  Please don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that organized religion is the cause of many of the world’s problems, but at the same time believe that organized religion provides a framework for societies to exist and provides a perspective on morality separating man from the animal kingdom.
    The problem is not: the mosques, the churches, the temples, or the synagogues. The problem is not: Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, or the teachings of any other religion in the world.  The problem stems from those that teach: if you don’t believe what I believe you are wrong. This is the time when we should be teaching tolerance and that more than one belief system is ok, as long as it does not harm others.    We should be teaching that diversity is ok.  Just because a person has different skin pigmentation, or a different hair color, does not make them better or worse than another person.  Just because a person believes in one religion or no religion they are not a better or a worse person.  It is what is in the mind that determines how a person acts to his fellow man. 
    In my profession, I am fortunate enough to be able to travel the world exploring different cultures and belief systems.  All the good and bad ideas and beliefs do not reside in one, place, religion or culture; they are spread throughout the world.  The good and bad ideas and beliefs are distributed around the world equally. What happens around the world is fear of what is different is being taught, which creates the problems.  I can’t say how many times I have heard children seeing Muslim women wearing head scarves, ask if the women are terrorists.  Where does a child learn to fear someone wearing different attire? Recently in the Toronto airport I heard a child ask his mother when seeing a man wearing a turban, “ is that man a genie? ”  Seldom do I ever hear why is that woman wearing a head scarf?  I often see the orthodox Jews as they travel, looked at and gawked at, because their dress is different than what is considered normal.  Why do the children perceive these people as quaint and a person in a head scarf a terrorist? Why are the children taught to fear one and not the other?  Why are people in Asia taught that those that are non Asian should be feared?

    Rather than promoting destroying or defacing religious institutions, why not take the hate out of all religions. Instead of teaching children to fear what is different; why not the children to question, why someone appears to be different?   

    I am a person that believes that when people from around the world come to this country they keep their own culture, but assimilate into American culture.  I am a believer that outward displays of any religious or cultural items, should not be displayed in public and should be kept private. We should tolerate those whose belief system encourages them not to assimilate.  I say tolerate not necessarily accept.  I do not believe tax payer dollars should be spent on those who chose not to assimilate into American Culture.   Am I bothered by a person wearing a head scarf, displaying a large star, or a cross, of course not.  Do I interact differently with people who have made a conscience decision to let me know that their beliefs may be different then mine? Of course I do, and respect they have chosen to identify themselves as being different.   Do people who identify themselves as being different affect the work place, without a doubt. Is this a good or a bad thing? It really depends on the culture and if it is inclusive than a good thing, but if people fear whatever is different a bad thing.  I believe that we all like to bond with those who are similar to us.  Publicly showing you are different just creates barriers that are not needed.

    For those that think destroying religious or cultural icons will solve anything, you are wrong. It did not work in Europe leading to World War II, it did not work in Cambodia, it did work in Armenia, or with Native American People, or with the Kurds or any other people or place in the world. It is time to stop thinking that the destruction of any culture or religion will ever be a good thing. If we want to change the world than we must  teach that all human life has value and killing or destroying, those with different belief systems will not lead to any type of reward.     
  11. Outstanding Customer Service
     
    Today I had the experience of working with a manager at Earl’s Restaurants in Vancouver BC that really gets customer service. We use Earl’s Restaurants across Canada for many of our tours. We purchase thousands of dollars in gift cards so that our customers can dine at their leisure, not as a group. As we come to the end of our Alaska and Canadian Rockies series I realized I was short one gift card because of a last minute booking. I called Earl’s on Hornsby Street in Vancouver and spoke to a  manager by the name of  M Garcia. Mr. Garcia advised me that he could not take credit cards over the phone but was willing to work with me. I explained I was in NH and there was no way I could come in person.  Mr. Garcia, not only trusted me to send him the money but offered to deliver the card around the corner to my guests. 
     
    Not only is the food at Earls really good, it is obvious that senior management has empowered store managers to make the decisions necessary to provide amazing customer service.  If you are in Banff or Vancouver or any of the many other places where you find Earl’s Restaurants across Canada, stop in for a great meal.  I have found the management in the store on Robson St, on Hornsby St and in Banff to go way beyond what was expected to make our customers happy. Last month I had 53 guests eat at the store on Robson St and all rated the food and service as exceptional.  I have had the same experience when a restaurant we used to use in Banff was overbooked, Earl’s took our customers with no hassle what so ever. The restaurants and management that train their staff so well in customer service need to be recognized. Great food without great service leaves an average feeling. Because of the service M. Garcia provided today we will be using Earl’s for a long time. Senior management should know that because M. Garcia was willing to help me resolve a challenge the chain will gain about $10,000 in additional sales in 2016 from my company.
     
    Please share this story so that those that do the right thing get recognized.
     
  12. There are so many scams going on that I thought I would take the opportunity to a share a few in the hope I can make some of you aware of how people are trying to steal your money and get you involved in money laundering schemes.

    The first step is that small business owners are being contacted asking if they would like to make a little extra money for a couple of hours work.  This is the bait.  The story is something like it is too expensive to process credit cards overseas and they need a US representative to handle the transactions for the US or Canada.  There are multiple approaches the scammers take. One version if you agree to process the transactions is; they will send a contract on the letterhead of some world corporation. They will offer you a percentage of the funds you help collect (usually 7 -10%)  They will then send you to a website of this corporation trying to establish legitimacy.  The corporate web site has no relationship to the scammer other then they might have obtained a piece of letter head.

    Check the email address of the person trying to hook you; it will seldom be a corporate email. Often it will have the name of the corporation in the email but will have a dishnet or gmail ending rather than a corporate email.  The scam; they will have their customers sending you money and requesting you send out small transactions to obscure places by Western Union, Monygram or ask you to make a cash deposit to a bank.  The money that you receive is generally stolen from a brokerage account, a finance company, or medical benefit company etc.  The person sending the money is generally duping someone into believing they are making an investment, or purchasing some type of insurance, or they are a finance company that is financing the purchase of equipment.  Often they will contact tour companies saying they are purchasing trips for incentive travel. They will often claim to be art dealers sending works of art.  Don’t fall for any of this, think it through.  Why are they offering to pay you 7 -10% of the money collected? Any legitimate company can have funds sent by wire or via paypal or a credit card or get an online merchant account.  They can get a US bank account and have funds deposited direct into that account.

    The promises are that you can make an extra $10,000 a month for processing these transactions.
    If you have investment accounts you need to monitor them to make sure someone has not hacked your accounts.  If you are an institution you need to balance the books on a regular basis.  The thief’s are looking for those that are unaware.

    In the last six months we have had four different companies try and scam us. We have had companies that have tried to pay for group tours with stolen money; we have had companies try to pay for incentive travel with stolen money from brokerage accounts they were not authorized to use. We have had customers try and pay for high end vacations with stolen credit cards.  As the travel industry evolves many of us never see or meet our customers.  You have to have security protocols in place so the scammers don’t win.  If someone offers to purchase high end travel on short notice and you don’t know the customer , check the customer out. Be certain you know where the money is coming from. Don’t engage in a business transaction with anyone unless you have a name, address and phone.  If someone is not willing to give you an address walk away, you most likely are being scammed.  If someone starts making purchases that are out of the ordinary validate the checks or the wire transfers. If it is a corporation, look up the address and verify that the person you are dealing with works there, and is authorized to spend the funds.  Don’t use the phone number you are given, as it may be just a boiler room phone bank.  Look up the number and call the business on the phone number listed. Don’t be afraid to call the fraud department at your bank if you are suspicious.  Most of the time, the banks are happy to help you if you suspect fraud.  If you do discover fraud, you might be surprised that it is not easy to get the money back to the rightful owners.   This is a time consuming process if you want to do the right thing. 

  13. Recenly I had the opportunity to return to Seattle and the Canadian Rockies a place someday I hope to retire to.  It was interesting looking at hotels that had changed ownership over the last year and restaurants that had new management or lack of management. When our tour directors do a trip this is the type of information I receive and give.

    My first stop was the Quality Inn in Seattle now owned by the Blackstone group. The guy at the frnt desk must never had seen a tour. He was clueless as what to do with the bags and how they got to the room. I was very surprised that after I told what to do with the luggage he called the sales office and they verified my instructions were correct.  What ever happened to training people to do their job.

    Went to the Crab Pot restaurant for dinner where  buckets of crab, mussels, shrimp, corn, potatoes, sasueage and other shell fish are dumped on the table,  Our customers are given a hammer and go at it. The food was great, the price was right and the perfect way for our customers to start interectaing with each other.  How can you not talk when you are grabing and smashing crab legs. This is a restaurant that truly understands taking care of groups.

    Next we crossed the Cascades and into the quaint town of Levenworth for lunch. This is  another town that gets the tourist industry, with clean washrooms where we load and unload the coaches.  No one wanted to leave the town and thought it would be a fun place to stay. ( We stay in Levenworth on other tours)

    On our way to the Canadian Rockies we stopped at one of my favorite fruit stands. Where the group bought cherries and fresh fruit, Some in my group had never tasted a fresh appricot. The cheries were sweet and delicious and about $2.99 a pound.  It would be nice if  someone taught these people that a little hospitality towards tour directors would increase their business.  My driver had never made this stop and was surprised that they charged him for a cup of coffee and a few pieces of  fruit.  Had they extended a little hospitality  I am sure this stop would be on  many drivers list of stops, not just mine.

    On to the Canadian Border and dinner in Osoyoos. We had dinner at the Cafe del Sol where the food was good but the manager had know clue on how to manage a restaurant or the meaning of the word hospitality.  The manager of this restaurant was an Arogant Prick, that simply did not care that his staff was untrained and refused to help serve the group.  I mean he refused to move the tables six inches so guests chairs were not up aginst each other. As soon as this prick went away I moved the tables and made our customers happy. I can't blame the bad service on the waitstaff, one was there five days, the other two. The restaurant manager  and the senior waitress not only refused to help the new girls but didn't teach the basics like putting salr and pepper on the table or serveing drinks to one table at a time. My only comment is that if you stop in Osoyoos find another restaurant.

    We arrived at the Comfort Inn in Kelowna, where the staff was too lazy to put names on the key packets. It was like a heard of cattle as everyone tried to pick up room keys by looking on a rooming list.  I say this to all of my hotel friends; If your staff is too lazy to put names on group key packets then they don't want group tour business,

    Next day had a picture perfect day as we started out weith a visit to Gray Monk winery. This is one of my favorite wineries for spectacular views of the Lake.  On to Three Valey Gap  where the group liked the option of cafeteria or dinning room.

    Arrived in Banff and on to the Balkin Restaurant for dinner.  I have a lot of history  with this restaurant that goes back to the late 70's.  Yanni is the son of  a former freind that passed away.  The staff of this restaurant truly understand hospitality.  The food is great, the service frtiendly and efficient.

    Arrived at the High Country Inn in Banff to find a clueless twit from Austrailia manning the front desk.  We were delayed waiting for thee train to cross. I could not call the hotel as we did not know how long the train would take (45 mins). She tried to tell me their was no baggage service because we were more then an half hour late for our scheduled arrival time. The baggage was prepaid and it was only call to the manager to get this taken care of.  There was another group staying in the hotel from Germany.  It wasn't long before my customers were telling me that the group from Germany were like pigs at a trough.  Not only were they stuffing as much as they could into their pockets and bags, but would not even pick up their dirty dishes. When groups travel they leave impressions on other tourists.  My group left feeling that everyone who travels from Germany should be just feed at a trough not at a table. The ungly American's give other countries these impressions about  our country.  (Happy to say we chose another hotel for 2016 and will be staying at the Ptarmigan Inn not the High Country Inn) 

    The scenery in Banff is always spectacular. The Gondola rides, the park , the gardens etc.  We had a little rain at the Cave and Basin and in all my trips to the Rockies it was the first time the rangers allowed the bus to come to the upper level to pick up passengers so they did not have to walk in the rain.

    On to Emerald Lake, Takaksaw Falls, Morraine Lake, and Lake Louise. these are some of the most beautiful places on earth.

    Group checked in to the Lake Louise Inn only to find that one of the rooms had nesting animals. They were only Columbia Ground Squirles that scared the bejebers out of my guests.  A quick room change and off to the Mountain House for dinner. Overall the food was good with the exception of disgusting elk burgers that were overcooked, covered in a sweet sauce, with rank blue cheese. They tasted like there was something other than beef, dead on the bun. 

    The manager at Lake Louise Inn another Jerk. Eventhough keys were ready. He  would only give me a few until they were all ready.  The front desk manager may be a good manager but he truly lacks  in hospitality.

    Perhaps in the future when I tell groups that when it comes to dining at the Lake Louise Inn the best system is a dinner voucher and choice of dining establishments. The Lake Louise Inn just does not do group dinners well because of limited space.

    The Icefield Parkway was sperctacular as it always is. Group loved the snow coaches, lunch at the icefields, the scenery and river rafting with Jasper Raft Tours.

    The new Crimson hotel in Jasper is beautiful.  For dinner the group ate at the L & W Restaurant did ad a fantastic job with food and service. My only comment was I talked about how good the Lemon marangue pie was  and there was none left when I was ready for desser,.as my group bought every slice.

    Did the morning tour to Maligne Lake nothing has changed in 30 years and group like this trip and the food at the restaurant.

    No one ever listens, when I tell them the train ride is a long trip from Jasper to Kamloops. Faster and better by bus.

    Stayed for the first time at the Pacific Inn. I loved this prioperty and only wish I was there longer.  The breakfast was way below my expectactions.

    Continued on to the Ashcroft Mannor Teahouse. This is a great stop my guests bought lots of stuff in the gift shop and I think every piece of pie in the shop. This is a great stop that everyone appreciated.

    Did Hells Gate for lunch. This is another atteraction that had been sold. It did not seem right the Debbie and Brian McKinney were not there to greet me,

    On to Vancouver and the Blue Horizon Hotel. I had not stayed in this hotel for several years. The rooms were clean and comfortable with a great location. Had dinner at Earl's the food was great service was better and group was happy.

    The ferry crossing to Victoria was smooth the Butchart Gardens spectacular with color.  Most of the group enjoyed having free time in Victoria.

    The Pacific Buffet on the return ferry was very good and highly reccomended.
     
    The last night dinner we went to a Brazilian Steak House that is called Rios. My best advice is that if you want dried out beef, gristle poor service and no atmosphere go to this restaurant. I had been to this restaurant in the past and the food was good.  In all honesty it is time for this restaurant to close down. The food on the slad bar was not bad, everything else is the restaurant is pure garbage that I don't think a hungry dog would eat.

    I had a great time in the Rockies with a great group of people and caan't wait until I can get back again. Hope all of my friends and customers can join me next year.


  14. The Price of Freedom
     
    As you celebrate the 4th of July,
     
    Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?
     
    Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
     
    What kind of men were they?
    Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated, but they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.
     
    Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.
     
    Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly.  He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding.  His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.
     
    Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and  Middleton.
     
    At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters.  He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.
     
    Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.
     
    John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying.  Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste.  For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. Many of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn't. 
     
    Patriotism is NOT a sin, and you can be a Patriot and still work towards Peace.  As you celebrate this day reflect on what others gave up so you could be free.
     
    Travel is the perfect Freedom that spreads understanding and tolerance through the world.

  15. As a Tour Operator How Do I Choose A New Destination For  A Tour?


    At Tye’s Tours we are constantly adding new tours and developing new tours. Destination Marketing Organizations are constantly trying to encourage tours to their area without marketing their own area. The reality is the budget for developing new tours is limited. If no one has asked for to a tour to this destination, and I have never heard of this destination then the answer is no.

    Here is what I look for in developing new tours.
    The first and most important thing is can I make a buck and what is the competition in selling this destination? If there are numerous tours on the market to this destination there is no point in adding another tour company and further diluting the market.

    On a day trip is it less than 3.5 hours to get to the destination from either the Boston or Manchester area? If it is any further then this distance I am really not interested in developing tours to this destination. Once we get the customer to this destination what is there for the customer to do? If the activity involves watching a demonstration of some sort that destination is eliminated. We are only looking for destinations that involve the customer in the experience. Our customers want to feel it, taste it, see it, smell it.  Am I going to make a country store the theme of a day trip, absolutely no? Am I going to take our customers to a static museum, only by request?

    On overnight tours the first question is the destination known? If a destination is unknown it is a wasted effort on our part to even attempt to market a location that no one knows about. Is there an airport to fly into? Can we reach the destination in under six hours? What is there to do in the area that will be fun and exciting for our customers? Can we develop a theme to the tour? Is there enough to do for our customers to be able to explore on their own? Can we make money selling the tour?

    Here is an example. For the last few years customers have been asking for the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. Do we choose Alaska or Northern Europe to provide this experience? Right now the dollar is strong, the distance to northern Europe and Alaska is the same. The price is about the same and the profit margin about the same. Is there a specific festival the customers might enjoy? How well do I know the destination? Who is my target customer? Is there someone I can create a partnership to enhance the tour? The answers to these questions are important. You can’t turn on the TV without seeing some sort of show on Alaska, to name a few “Alaska Bush People”, “Gold Rush, “Bearing Sea Gold ”, “buying Alaska” etc. The list seems to be endless on TV shows about Alaska. The result is that there is a genuine market for Alaska outside of the summer tourist season. Fairbanks has a winter ice festival with lots of hotels that want winter business. The experience is a hands on experience and a visit to Fairbanks in the winter is considered an adventure by most. We found a professional photographer that has a customer base that wants to go to photograph the northern lights combined with our customers that have asked for a trip to see the northern lights. All of these factors combine for us to spend the money to create our new Alaska Northern Lights Photo Tour.

    Hear is another example: I was looking for a new 3 day Holiday themed tour for Dec. My customers were asking for nostalgia, something that was going to give them the warm fuzzy feeling they remembered from Childhood. I was looking for a location in New England to create the right setting. I heard that the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens was going to be creating a new holiday lighting display with a 100,000 lights. These gave me the idea to build the tour around this theme.  At about the same time a long time industry colleague contacted me letting me know that she had changed jobs and was now representing a property in Camden Maine that had a country inn theme. We got together over lunch and came up with our new “ A traditional old New England Christmas tour” .  This tour came about because I learned about a new attraction, a sales person that understood my needs the desire by our customers for a new holiday tour that was different and the right price point.

    We will be offering a new tour to Miami over New Years because the New England Patriots are playing the Miami Dolphin’s on Jan 03.  We know we have a strong base with Patriot Fans. We know our customers want to get out of the cold in Jan. We know our customers like to celebrate over New Years. The Miami area has two airports with reasonable fares. There is absolutely no reason why this tour would not sell. As soon as the Miami Dolphin’s confirm our seats, this tour will be on the market. The sales rep from the Dolphin’s called me this winter and told me that if I placed a $100 deposit I would be guaranteed seats at the best price for this game when the schedule was announced. This tour came about because my Miami Dolphin sales rep was doing his job.

    On the flip side, sometimes we will spend the money to develop a new tour and no sales will result. We will often go back to our suppliers looking for new ways to rewrap the package. Sometimes they can give us fresh ideas that work, sometimes they have no new ideas and the tour just dies. Sometimes it is the customer perception of the region that causes a tour to fail. For example: The Catskill Region of NY is a great destination with lots to do. Our customers perceive the Catskills as old resorts that are past their prime, with entertainment that is geared for the nearly dead. They see the staff at these resorts as locals that are there only because it is the only place they can get a job. They see the staff in uniforms that are rumpled and wrinkled, giving the impression that the management doesn’t care. It is not that the Catskills region of NY is not a viable destination, it is the perception that our customers have of the Catskills that make it difficult to market. The perception has to change before we can market the region. The same thing is true with a destination such as Branson, Mo. Branson has an airport, has great entertainment, the price is affordable but I could not give away a trip to Branson (I have tried and had no takers). I have tried marketing Branson in a number of different ways, however the perception my customers have is it is a destination for seniors and families and there is no reason for the 45 – 65 year old to go to this destination. My prime market just does not want to go and watch show after show with entertainers that are ready to retire. They don’t believe the advertising that Branson is evolving into a destination that has more to offer then endless shows. As much as I would like to sell Branson and the Catskills the perceived image to our customers, make this a next to impossible sale.  Both destinations have a good product to sell but the consumer message is wrong. Until the consumer perception changes I have to find other destinations that will sell.

    Another example is Portsmouth NH is a great destination but as a tour operator we did a poor job of selling this local destination. My friends at the Chamber of Commerce offered to take my staff on a tour of Portsmouth with a local guide. The results were that we went from having one or two tours in Portsmouth over the year, to having more than 20 this year. It is hard to sell what you don’t know. If the Chamber had not invited us we would not have discovered so many different attractions in Portsmouth.  We didn’t even know what a gem we had in our own backyard.

    A local company asked for my help in marketing their product as a tourist destination. I went to their facility, tasted their product, and did not care for the harshness of the product. Does that mean we can’t develop a tour around the product? The answer is no, it only means that we have to wrap the package so the product is more palatable to the consumer. We have to involve the consumer in how to use the product so it becomes enjoyable to all of the senses. Will I sell tours based on this product that is up to the owner of the business to develop relationships with other merchants so we have something to sell. As a standalone business the answer is no, as the quality of the product would not encourage repeat visitation. If the product is packaged with other local merchants there is a chance we could develop a tour in the future.

    A customer asked if we would develop a tour to Brandford Ontario for an International Festival. I felt this destination was not suitable for a tour because of the distance. I met with the people from Ontario at a Trade Show. I listened and developed a tour concept that would take in Ottawa, Toronto, the Festival, and Niagra Falls. I thought this had the potential of a new tour. I asked the customer who had requested the tour if she could find five other peole interested in this tour.  I posted on Social Media with no comments. She could find no one, so this tour was put on the shelf for another time. 

    This past winter at the American Bus Association I met the ladies from The Beauport  Princes in Gloucester, Ma. I had never heard of the boat, did not have an appointment at the Trade Show, but met by accident at an evening function. We started talking and I realised they had a product that was quite marketable.   Bridget, was very good at her job and before I realised it I had a two new tour on the market. I can't stress how important the trade show functions are for establishing relationships. They are not about hanging out with friends but having the opportunities to engage and find new customers and suppliers. This one chance meeting was the most productive time and appointment I had at the ABA marketplace. The ladies from the Beauport Princess did not do a hard sell, they engaged me in conversation about their product and how we both could make money. If they had not engaged me in conversation then they would not have 10 trips over the summer /fall season. The new tours bloomed out of a genuine desire for friendship combined with business. We all choose to do business with peole we like.  I contrast this approach to a vendor who had an appointment with me at the same trade show, who became overly aggressive because I told him we did not have a market for his product. Instead of trying to solve the problem, he chose to attack me. Not only did I ask this person to end our appointment, but he left me with the impression of no, nay, never would I ever want to do business with him. 

    Every tour operator has the same goods to sell but each wraps the package a little different. The tour operator with the best packaging wins the custome
    r. We are open to new ideas and encourage the submission of new ideas. When I meet people at Trade shows or receive calls in the office that ask me if I go to East Podunk, the answer is always I no. Give me a reason to visit your destination. 
  16. Time for tour guide licensing in New Orleans to go
    Independent Guides can’t contract with individual tour companies as the list of licensed guides is kept secret.

    Protectionist Laws are keeping good people who have passed the test for a guide license from working.  New Orleans either has to make the information public so tour operators can comply with the law, or do away with the law.   I have taken it upon myself to obtain pages from the New Orleans Guide Association membership book and am publishing the list ofsome of the licensed guides found on these pages.   

    Recently I had the experience of trying to hire a guide to do a walking tour of the French Quarter in New Orleans and guides for our motor coach tours that visit New Orleans. For those of you who are unaware New Orleans’s has protectionist laws that take away our right to Free Speech.  The law requires you to hire a licensed guide to tour New Orleans on foot or by vehicle.   This should not be a problem however if you call the licensing bureau they will tell you the list of licensed guides is not available to the general public, it is protected information. Ok so you would think that the Convention and Visitors Bureau would have a link to a list of licensed guides.  No such link exists. Next guess is that you call or email the New Orleans Guide Association; they have no link or list their members.   If you call or leave a message to the guide Association, no one responds by voice or email.  If you try and post a job on their website , you have not been able to post gigs in months.  If you Google New Orleans guide the first name that comes up is a company I would be afraid to do business with.  This company is run by a person that is pretty clueless about business. She does not record or write down the quotes she gives, checks the internet for pricing. and does not honor the quotes she makes. 

    It is very frustrating to try and comply with a law where the information to comply is kept as a secret.  Is this system designed so that only if you know the right people can a guide get work?  Does a guide have to pay a bribe to get listed on the official list? This system sure looks like cronyism to me.  After going in circles I finally got the Convention and Visitors Bureau to send me a partial list of guides.  The list of guides they sent, tells which languages these guides speak.  Not one on this list says English.  As I started trying to contact guides on this list, I found about a third had wrong emails, had retired, or were no longer serving as guides. Shows how often this list is used.      I once again emailed the CVB and was told that all the guides on the first list  speak English and the languages listed were other languages the guide spoke. Why not from the beginning tell me the guides on the list  they sent, spoke English?  The interesting thing is that when I posted on linkedin I was looking for a guide in New Orleans I had about 20 unlicensed guides contact me.   I tried another approach and finally received pages from the New Orleans Guide Associations member’s book listing guides.  At the end of this blog I will publish this list and provide anyone that needs licensed guide contact information.   I am appalled that it is so difficult to comply with a protectionist law. To all of those that are trying to get the tour guide license law repealed in New Orleans I will be happy to testify on your behalf. If the information to comply with the law is a big secret what is the purpose of the law other than to make money and keep work for those who want to be independent and provide service to the traveling public.

    I was able to hire a licensed guide at a fair price, seconds after obtaining this list.  Let’s put those who want to work to work.  As an industry lets end protectionist laws that keep those who want to work from working. 
     
    Abbreviations Tours:
    CT - City Tour
    FQW - French Quarter Walking Tour GDW - Garden District Walking Tour CE - Cemetery Tour
    HH - Haunted History Tour PL - Plantation Tour.
    SB - Swamp & Bayou Tour
    SC - Specialty/Custom - This guide has a tour that is not considered a standard tour and or can develop a tour designed for a special group or topic. Example: Churches & Shrines, Women, Creole, etc.
     
    Services:
    DG - Driver Guide
    HTD - Hospitality/Tour Desk TD -Tour Director/Escort
    TS -Transportation Supervisor AMG - Airport Meet & Greet
    DA - Dine Arounds
     
    * denotes member has liability insurance
     
     
    The Tour Guides of Greater New Orleans, Inc. (TGAGNOI) publishes this directory solely for the use of its members and sponsors. TGAGNOI assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions. Errors or omissions will be corrected in a subsequent issue, if reported by letter to
    Anderson•, Sid
    New Orleans, LA 70122-4341
    sidpanderson@cox.net
    Phone: (504) 283-4674
    Cell: (504) 908-1728
    Fax: (504) 283-4674
    Availability:  Day/Night
    Tours & Services: CT, PT, FQW, SB, GOW, AMG, DG, HTD
    Member since 3/1/1997

    Applebaum, Dr. Robert L.
    New Orleans, LA 70124
    noapple@earthlink.net
    Cell: (204) 376-9144
    Tours & Services:. FQW Availability: Day/Night
    The Story of Judah Touro Lecture Member since 1/1/2013
     
    Audibert, Stephanie
    Slidell, LA 70458
    ms.audibert@gmail.com
    Phone: (504) 552-5747
    Cell: (504) 655-2153
     
    Augustine, Denise
    New Orleans, LA 70117
    creolemuse@yahoo.com
    Cell: (504) 452-9237
    Availability:  Day/ Night
    Tours and Services: FQW, HH, AMG, HTD, DA
     
    Aveline*, Muriel
    Metairie, LA 70001
    ma2012france@yahoo.com
    Phone: (504) 218-8261
    Cell: (504) 473-4810
    Availability:  Day/Night
    Tours & Services:  CT, FQW, SB, PT, GDW, KT, HTD, AMG, TS, DA, DG
    Member since 4/1/1999

    Bale*, Harry
    New Orleans, LA 70116-1905
    donharry@cox.net
    Cell: (504) 427-4091
    Fax: (504) 944-8996
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: All Tours &
    Services
    Member since 10/1/2001
     
    Barbara*, Danielle
    New Orleans, LA 70124
    Phone: (504) 288-8279
    Cell: (504) 874-0732
    Availability: Day
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE, GDW, HTD, AMG, TS, DA
    Member since 8/8/2011
     
    Barbara, John S.
    New Orleans, LA 70124
    Fisi83@yahoo.com
    Phone: (504) 288-8279
    Availability:  Day
    Tours & Services:  CT, FQW Member since 8/8/2011
     
    Barker*, Jamie   ·
    New Orleans, LA  70122
    jdvneworleans@yahoo.com
    Phone:  (504) 252-9968
    Cell: (985) 237-3373
    Availability:  Day
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE, GDW
     
    Batterman*, Michael
    New Orleans, LA 70115
    mbatterman@wanadoo.fr
    Phone: (504) 896-9072
    Cell: (504) 256-9540
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE, GDW, AMG, HTD, TS, DA
    Member since 1/1/12
     
    Benge, Dorothy L
    New Orleans, LA 70130-1016
    dotbenge@aol.com
    Phone:  (504) 267-0472
    Cell: (504) 554-8412
    Fax: (504) 523-2254
    Availability: DayNolunteer Only Tours & Services:  FQW Member since 12/1/01
     
    Bernstein, Benay
    New Orleans, LA  70130
    benayb@gmail.com
    Phone: (504) 833-1492
    Cell: (504) 427-4249
    Fax: (504) 525-8527
    Availability: Volunteer Only Tours & Services: FQW, GDW Member since 6/1/09
     
    Bibb, Randy
    New Orleans, LA 7011.5
    randyneworleans@hotmail.com
    Cell: (504) 914-7014
    Availability: Day
    Tours and Services: All Tours, DA, DG van only
    Member since 3/24/2011

    Bolotte, Wade J.
    Covington, LA 70433
    wbolotte@gmail.com
     Phone: (985) 276-0700
    Cell: (985) 867-8264
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: FQW, AMG, DA, HTD, TS
    New Member 2013
     
    Breeden, Margaret W. 
    mimi.breeden@yahoo.com
    Phone: (504) 621-4160
    Cell: (504) 621-4160
    Availability: Days
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, GD, HTD, TS
    New Member 2014
     
    Budenski, Dale 
    Metairie, LA 70002
    k5nq@vahoo.com
    Phone: (504) 455-3051
    Cell: (504-250-0230
    Availability: Volunteer only, Day Tours & Services: FQW, GDW, AMG
     
    Buisson, Beverly 
    Metairie, LA 70001
    tigers.4444@yahoo.com
    Cell: (214) 926-3389
    Availability: Night/Weekends
    Tours & Services: SB, HTD, AMG, DA
    Member since 8/1/1992

    Calabrese*, Judy 
    Destrehan, .LA. 70047-3122
    cala55@bellsouth.net
    Phone:  (985) 764-3605
    Cell: (504) 559-8717
    Availability: Day
    Tours & Services: CE, FQW, GOW,
    HTD, AMG
    Member since 211/2010
     
    Carll, Angela  M.
    New Orleans, LA 70016-1927
    angcarll@gmail.com
    Phone: (504) 947-6575
    Cell: (504) 258-1647
    Availability: Day
    Tours & Services: CT, PL, CE, TS, TDS
    Member Since 211/2010
     
    Carr, Jr.•, Milton J. 
    New Orleans, LA 70117
    boobooufcw@hotmail.com
    Phone: (504) 309-8404
    Cell: (504) 259-3045
    Fax: (504) 309-8404
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, PT, CE, Treme,
    Free People of Color Member Since 4/16/2011
     
    Chauvan, Elmore A. .
    Metairie, La 70005
    eac4910@cox.net
    Phone: (504) 849-0929
    Cell:(504) 460-2835
    Availability: Day/Night Tours & Services: PL Member since 4/1/2003

    Chetta•, Maria Kay
    Metairie, LA 70001-6300
    mkchetta@nola.gov
    Phone: (504) 219-3260
    Cell: (504) 450-1015
    Fax: (504) 658-4066
    Availability:Day (weekend)/Night Tours & Services: CT, FQW, SB, CE,
    Catholic Church Shrines Tours All Services
    Member Since 10/1/1989
     
    Childress•, Charles F.,Jr.
    Metairie, LA 70001
    cfcjr@att.net
    Phone: (504) 281-4263
    Cell: (504) 975-9378
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, PL, CE, GOW, SB, HH, HTD, AMG, DA
     
    Childress, Marijane
    Metairie, LA 70001
    cfcjr@att.net
    Phone: (504) 281-4263
    Cell: (504) 975-9378
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: HDT, AMG New Member 2014
     
    Clark, Valerie A.
    Slidell, LA 70458
    valndon@bellsouth.net
    Phone: (985) 645-9089
    Cell: (985) 640-3709
    Availability: Day/Night Tours & Services: HTD New Member 2014
     
    Cossart, Isabelle
    New Orleans, LA 70174
    info@toursbyisabelle.com
    Phone: (504) 398-0365
    Cell: (504) 912-2093
    Availability: Day
    Tours & Services: CT, SB, PT, AMG, DG
    Member Since 11/1/1994
     
    Crespo•, Diane  D.
    Covington, LA 70433-8699
    dianecrespos@bellsouth.net
    Phone: (985) 246-6994
    Cell: (504) 453-9316
    Fax: (985) 246-6994
    Availability: Day
    Tours & Services: CT, SB, PL, CE No Services, DG
    Member since 9/2/1996

    Criswell*, Dana
    dmariecriswell@gmail.com
    Cell: (504) 250-6028
    Availability: Day
    Tours & Services: FQW, CE, AMG New Member 2013
     
    Curole*, Marcia
    Metairie, LA 70002
    mrcurole@yahoo.com
    Phone: (504) 834-2709
    Cell: (504) 301-5691
    Availability: Day/ Night
    Tours & Services: CT, Cocktail, HTD, AMG, DA
    New Member 2013
     
    Daley, Carole C.
    Destrehan, La 70047-2536
    Phone: (985) 764-9641
    Availability: Day/ Night
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, PL Member Since 9/1/1985
     
    Davis*, Dorette
    Gretna, LA 70056-4526
    dorettedavis@hotmail.com
    Phone: (504) 393-8325
    Cell: (504) 261-9095
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: All Tours & Services;
    Site Inspections, Fam Trips, Over the Road
    Member since 3/1/1995
    DeJean,Jr.•,Joseph E.
    New Orleans, LA 70118
    jdejean@cox.net
    Cell: (504) 666-1988
    Availability: Day
    Tours & Services: FQW Member Since 2/22/2012
     
    Detraz, Berry "Geanie"
    Metairie, LA 70003-2131
    chagee@aol.com
    Phone: (504) 887-4832
    Cell: (504) 451-8296
    Availability: Day
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, SB, PL, CE, GOW
    Sire Inspections, HTD, TS, AMG Member Since 7/1/1988
     
    DeVerges*, Estelle
    New Orleans, La 70115-4312
    pdevera@bellsouth.net
    Phone: (504)(891-7498
    Cell: (504) 554-9840 (secondary)
    Fax: (504) 891-7498
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: All Tours & Services
    Member Since 10/1/ 2001
     
    Downs*, Don A.
    New Orleans, LA 70116-1905
    donadowns@hotmail.com
    Cell: (504) 430-3267
    Fax: (504) 944-8966
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: All Tours & Services
    Member Since 2/1/1997

    Dubaz*, George
    New Orleans, LA 70116
    nolatourguide@me.com
    Cell: (228) 324-8225
    Availability:  Day/Night
    Tours & Services: FQW, CE, HH, AMG, HTD, TS, TD, DA
    HH & All Services Member Since 3/1/2009
     
    Duplantier, Guy Louis 
    Metairie, LA 70003
    gduplanti1@aol.com
    Phone: (504) 888-9535
    Cell: (504) 858-0722
    Availability: Night
    Tours & Sewices: HOT, AMG, DG New Member 2014
     
    Dupuy, Patricia
    Metairie, La 70006-4010
    adupuy1@cox.net
    Phone: (504) 454-2851
    Cell: (504) 214-5809
    Availability: Day
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE, GDW
    Member Since 4/1/1994
     
    Durio, Leslie C.
    Covington, LA 70435-8807
    mike-les@att.net
    Phone: (985) 893-2528
    Cell: (504) 606-9500
    Fax: (985) 893-2528
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: All Tours, HTD, AMG, TD, DA
    Member Since 7/1/1999

    Eshenour*, Mary
    Metairie, LA 70001
    meshenour@cox.net
    Phone: (504) 837-2640
    Cell: (504) 250-2640
    Availability:  Day/ Night
    Tours & Services: CT, PT, CE, GDW, HTD, AMG
    New Member 2013
     
    Esteves, Jr., Bertin B.
    New Orleans, LA 70130-1016
    Cell: (504) 439-1828
    Availability: Day -Volunteer Only Tours & Services: FQW, CE, GDW,
    St. Bernard Parish Member since 5/1/2001
     
    Faber*, Edgar A.
    Metairie, LA 70006
    edfab12@hotmail.com
    Cell: (504) 388-0914
    Availability: Volunteer, Day/Night Tours & Services: CT, FQW
    New Member 2014
     
    Fandrich*, Ina
    New Orleans, La 70119
    inafandrich@amail.com
    Cell: (504) 669-6040
    Availability:   Day/Night
    Your & Services: CT, FQW, SB, . PT, CE, GDW, HH,
    Treme, Canadian Heritage, AMG, HTO, TD
    Member Since 4/16/2011

    Forrette*, Terry L.
    Mandeville, La 70421
    forrette@yahoo.com
    Cell: (504) 722-3739
    Availability: Day/ Night
    Tours & Services: FQW, CE, FQ Tasting Tours
    Member since 5/19/2011
     
    Fortier, Byron 
    New Orleans, LA 70117
    spain913@gmail.com
    Phone: (504) 218-4545
    Cell: (504) 722-1105
    Availability: Day
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, SB, CE, GDW, HTD. AMG
    New Member 2014
     
    Frank*, Lynn
    New Orleans, LA 70118
    lynn-frank@att.net
    Phone: (504)866-7251
    Cell: (504) 201-9438
    Availability:  Day
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, GDW, PT, Treme
    Member since 2/17/2011
     
    Freeland*, Robert Gray
    New Orleans, LA 70125
    robertfreelandor@aol.com
    Phone: (504) 861-7876
    Cell: (504) 858-7117
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, PL, CE, AMG, TD
    Member since 1/1/2009

    Funck*, Dottie
    New Orleans, LA 70122
    dottietours@aol.com
    Phone: (504) 301-9966
    Cell: (504) 905-4081
    Fax: (504) 301-9966
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: All Tours & Services
    Member Since 3/1/1986
     
    Gendusa*, Joseph A.
    Metairie, LA 7002-6297
    jagcollege@cox.net
    Phone: (504)-832-4946
    Cell: (504) 905-3231
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: All Tours, SC, Cocktail AMG, DA
    Member Since  10/1/2001
     
    Gniady, Carol
    New Orleans, LA 70117
    carolgniady@hotmail.com
    Cell: (504) 948-1859
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE, GOW, AMG, TS, DA
    SC: Music and Art New Member 2014
     
    Goetz, Rosemarie K.
    Kenner, LA 70065-3144
    rmaets@yahoo.com
    Phone: (504) 443-6408
    Cell: (504) 606-1180
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: All Tours, HTD, AMG
    Member Since 3/1/1998

    Green, Saundra Lear
    New Orleans, LA 70115-1539
    leargreen@hotmail.com
    Phone: (504) 304-1591
    Cell: (504) 952-1102
    Availability: Day/ Night
    Tours & Services: All Tours, HTD, TS, AMG, DA
    Member Since 1211/2001
     
    Guerra*, Anna M.
    New Orleans, LA 70131
    annamguerra@gmail.com
    Cell: (504) 813-5717
    Availability: Day/Night, Weekends Preferred
    All  Tours & HTD, AMG, DA
     
    Gussoni,Charles  A.
    Kenner, LA 70062
    cgussoni@cox.net
    Phone: (504) 466-4552
    Cell: (504) 421-4578
    Availability: Day, Volunteer Only Tours & Services: FQW,  AMG, Member since 211/2009
     
    Harrell, Katherine
    New Orleans, LA 70117
    kathypharrell@gmail.com
    Cell: (504) 235-5389
    Availability:  Day
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE New Member 2014

    Harris, Allen
    New Orleans, LA 70016
    alharrisofno@yahoo.com
    Phone: (504) 522-3745
    Cell:(504) 669-8037
    Fax: (504) 522-3745
    Availability: Volunteer Only, Day Tours & Sevices: CT, FQW, PT, SB, CE, GDW, Treme, HTS, AMG, TDS, DA, TS
    Member since 1/1/2013
     
    Hester, Sandy M.
    New Orleans, LA 70116
    faolnua@gmail.com
    Cell: (504) 231-9616
    Availability:
    Tours & Sevices: FQW, CE, Treme
    New Member 2013
     
    Huff*, Brian
    New Orleans, LA 70117
    bf_huff@yahoo.com

    lennusa, John A.
    Madisonville,  LA 70447-3708
    iennuj@charter.net
    Phone: (985) 845-3382
    Cell: (504) 432-5726
    Fax: (985) 845-3383
    Availability:  Day/Night
    Tours & Sevices: CT, FQW, SB, PT, GDW, HTD, TS, AMG, TD, DA, DG
    Member since 6/1/1997
     
    Indest*, Michael Stanley
    New Orleans, LA 70115
    grandtoursneworleans.com
    grandtoursneworleans@gmail.com
    Cell:(504) 784-8739
    Availability: Day
    Tours & SeNices: FQW, CE, GDW
     
    Jacobs, Nancy
    jnancy8310@aol.com
    Phone: (504) 488-6197
    Cell: (504) 884-1677 (call 1st)
    Phone: (504) 335-2988
    Cell: (504) 616-0630
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Sevices: FQW, Cocktail, HH, HTD, AMG, DA
    Member Since: 2/2/2010
     
    Hurtado, Angel R.
    New Orleans, LA  70130
    bestofno@bellsouth.net
    Phone: (504) 392-4855
    Business: (504) 561- 9050
    Fax: (504) 561-9060
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Sevices: All tours, AMG, DA, DG
    Member  Since 1/1/2007
    Availability:  Day/ Night (occasionally)
    Tours & SeNices: FQW, CT, GT Member Since 1/20/2011
     
    Junius*, Heidi
    New Orleans, LA 70124
    heidijuniustours@gmail.com
    Phone:(504)282-3298
    Cell: (504) 908-3298
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Sevices: CT, FQW, CE, GDW, HOT, AMG, TS, TD, DA
    New Member 2014

    Kagan, Candance
    New Orleans, LA 70114
    c.kogan@cox.net
    Phone: (504) 367-0636
    Cell: (504) 296-2513
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE, AMG
     
    Kaplan, Jill J.
    New Orleans, LA 70115-6564
    tourjill@cox.net
    Phone: (504) 891-7201
    Cell: (504) 491-0382
    Fax: (504) 891-5222
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, SB, PL, CE, GDW,
    HTD, AMG, TDS, DA, SC: Jewish
    tours
    Member Since 7/1/1987
     
    King, Matthew
    New Orleans, LA 70119
    whaleheadking@gmail.com
    Phone: (504) 301-1424
    Cell: (504) 388-5788
    New Member 2014
     
    LaCoste, Mary
    New Orleans, LA 70112-3406
    edprofno@aol.com ·
    Phone: (504) 552-4300
    Cell: (504) 259-8097
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, SB, CE, PL, HH
    SC: Voodoo, Stain Glass, Black History, Food
    Member Since /1/2000

    Landry, Darleen
    Harahan, LA 70123-4917
    dllandry@bellsouth.net
    Phone: (504) 737-0848
    Cell: (504) 583-5641
    Fax: (504) 737-5588
    Availability: Day
    Tours & Services: All Tours, All Services
    Member Since 2/1/2004
     
    Laporte, "OZ" Oswald
    Metairie, LA 70005-1235
    toursbyoz@aol.com
    Office: (504) 587-7115
    Cell: (504) 430-3982
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: All Tours, DG Member Since 9/1/1992
     
    Laylle, Maria
    Arabi, LA 70032
    friends1955@yahoo.com
    Phone: (504) 909-1954
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: DG, AMG, DA, HDT, TS
    New Member 2014
     
    Lefevre, Virginia (Ginger)
    Jefferson, LA 70121
    gingerlefevre@yahoo.com
    Phone: (504) 733-7649
    Cell: (504) 451-3899
    Availability: Day/Night, Volunteer Only
    Tours & Services: FQW, CE, HTD, AMG,
    Member Since 7/23/2001

    Looney, Marty
    Marrero, LA 70072-4916
    toursbymarty@cox.net
    Phone: (504) 348-3660
    Cell: (504) 495-1307
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: All Tours & Services
    Member  Since 3/1/1987
     
    Lowe*, Zina M.
    New Orleans, LA  70124-1754
    zinalowe@yahoo.com
    Phone: (504) 488-6087
    Cell: (504) 439-2470
    Availability: Day
    Tours & Services: All Tours, SC: Women of New Orleans
    Member Since 3/1/1986
     
    Loyd, Bea
    New Orleans, LA 70175
    bea@miyprivamail.com
    Phone: (212) 660-0150
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE, GDW,
    Anne Rice tour, St. Charles Avenue tour
    New Member 2013
     
    Marino, Jr., Michael
    Metairie, LA  70005-1304
    marinoJR@bellsouth.net
    Phone: (504) 834-6508
    Cell: (504) 442-9490
    Availability: Day
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, PL, CE, DG
    Member Since 6/1/2002

    Martin*, Philip E. 
    Metairie, LA 70002
    papalpro@aol.com
    Phone: (504) 834-4802
    Cell: (504) 235-1029
    Availability: Days
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE New Member 2013
     
    McCelland, Charlotte
    Carriere MS 39426-7804
    tbmacm10@yahoo.com
    Phone: (601) 749-7919
    Cell: (504) 214-0408
    Fax: (601) 798-7943
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: All Tours & Services, SC: Voodoo, Cruise Ships,
    Over the Road
    Member Since 4/1/1985
     
    McElwain, Mahlon "Mick"
    New Orleans, LA 70016-1603
    m.mcilwain@cox.net
    Phone: (504) 940-0313
    Cell: (504) 723-0965
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: All Tours & Services
    Member Since 11/1212006
     
    Mendez•,Servando
    Metairie, LA 70003-2139
    servandomendez@bellsouth.net
    Phone: (504) 888-4657
    Cell: (504) 481-8778
    Fax: (504):
    Availability: Day - a.m. only Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE Member Since 4/1/1985

    Meriwether, Denise
    Metairie, LA 70001-3314
    Phone: (504) 454-3412
    Availability: Day
    Tours & Services: Volunteer Only Member Since 4/1/2002

    Midkiff", Donald Keith
    Metairie, LA 70006-2220
    dkmidkiff@gmail.com
    Phone: (504) 887-5074
    Cell: (504) 784-5323
    Fax: (504) 887-5074
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: FQW, CE, SC: Battle of New Orleans Back Story Tour
    New Member 2013

    Miller, Barbara
     Slidell, LA 70458
    bkjm3@yahoo.com
    Cell: (269) 267-8469
    Availability: Volunteer Only Tours & Services: FQW

    Moak*, Kath!een
    New Orleans, LA 70119-2906
    kmoak1@cox.net
    Phone: (855) 968-8687
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: CT, FQW, PL, AMG, DG
    Member since 1/1/2009

    Monroe*, Marie
    New Orleans, LA 70118
    furnituregal1@yahoo.com
    Cell: (504) 606-8906
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: All Tours &
    Services, DG
    Member  Since  4/1/2011

    Moore, Sabine 0.
    New Orleans, LA 70131-8616
    mooretours@gmail.com
    Phone: (504) 392-2626
    Cell: (504) 812-3740
    Fax: (504) 392-2626
    Availability: Day/Night
    Tours & Services: All Tours, HTD, AMG, 
  17. Are we aware of our own prejudices? First impressions are important.
    I like to think of myself as a fairly enlighten person and try to be aware of prejudices that reside in my subconscious. Recently I arrived at a hotel in Savannah and heard the noise of little children playing. My first thought was this hotel was invested with rug rats and I would get no sleep. Next thought was that the group was mentally challenged people, which would not be so bad as those folks are usually in bed at reasonable hours and overall well behaved when traveling. As I listened, it turned out that there was a troop of girl scouts from North Carolina. Why did I think that the sound of little children playing were rug rats? Why was brain telling me that the sound of children playing was a specific culture? What caused this thought hidden in my brain to surface? As I listened I heard the children were from North Carolina with their Girl Scout leaders who had a southern accent. I thought these children were mentally challenged because when they spoke they sounded like they had a mouth full of marshmallows. What caused this thought to surface? Why did the sound of a southern accent make my brain think mentally challenged? The children were well behaved and supervised and I had no reason to believe they were anything but children. In the back of all of our brains there are prejudices that are learned responses to sights, sounds, and smells. If we are not aware of our own prejudices, then our decisions might be influenced by irrational thoughts. As I started writing this blog I started to make myself aware of all the subtle signals and triggers my brain was sending and it was very startling: I saw a person of color with wide flaring nostrils at the airport and I started thinking “Planet of the Apes.”  My next thought was the rescued chimps, I saw on my last trip to Africa.  These chimps were incredibly intelligent, the person I was speaking with could not focus on the task at hand for more then a few seconds. Why was my brain sending me these thoughts? As my attention was drawn to some of the beautiful people in Savannah my brain was sending different thoughts. When I saw blond fit women, why was my brain sending the signal, desirable? Why was my brain evaluating these people by surface appearance? When I noticed a woman with flowing red hair my brain was sending the signal, fun to be with. When I noticed a woman with straight black hair why was I getting the signal, in control? Why was my brain sending signals that were so irrational? Why was my brain telling me that women with curly blond hair were high maintenance and woman with short brown hair were not decision makers. What was influencing these thoughts? Were these thought patterns some how influencing my life?  Why did I associate a person with a red and white checked headwear as a Palestinian terrorist? Why when I see a person wearing a headscarf does my brain send the signal extreme caution Muslim Terrorist? Why does my brain send the signal when I see a police officer of fear and avoid any conversation? When we were kids weren’t we taught that the police were the good guys and there to protect us? I tried to figure out when my brain started to think that the police were to be avoided, and could not come up with a rational thought. Why is it that when I hear a voice from India does my brain say dishonest person or when I hear a voice from Pakistan my brain says the con is coming? Why is it that when I see Nigeria my brain says watch for the scam or when I see a person in uniform protector of my freedom?
     
    The more I thought about this, the more I realized that we all have thousands of irrational triggers hiding in our brains. As we travel through life we experienced something that planted these negative and positive seeds in our minds. Only when we struggle to evolve can we bring these thoughts to the forefront of our brains. We can choose to allow these irrational thoughts to influence our decisions or make a rational decision and force our brains to acquire more information on which to base our decisions. Only when we all make a conscience decision to be aware of our own prejudices can we make decisions based on rational thought. Are you willing to delve into your own psyche to discover what prejudices are hiding in your subconscious?  Are you willing to admit to your own prejudice based on irrational thoughts, or are you going to allow your judgment to be clouded by not admitting you have these prejudices? We all have prejudices if we are aware of them we can factor them into our decision making process and allow  ratioal thought to dominate. 
  18. Recently I contacted a company in New Orleans called Tour New Orleans. I spoke to whom I believed to be the owner a Jocelyn Cole. She advised me that she was driving and would get back to me shortly. This is a good thing as I get very concerned with anyone driving and talking on a phone. We spoke later in the afternoon; I told her I was looking for a step on guide to do a walking tour of the French Quarter and Ms. Cole advised me she could provide this service. I shared with her that we usually pay guides by the hour in New Orleans and the rest of the world, when she told me she had to check with guides to get a rate. It is always a concern when the owner of any business does not know the cost of what should be considered a core product.

    Ms. Cole, called me back and offered me a per person price. I questioned this price because I have never paid a guide in New Orleans a per person fee in the last 20 years for a walking tour. She confirmed this was the price; I quoted this price to my customer and was paid according to this quote. This week when I called to confirm the services the price was now doubled the original price. She informed me via email that she did not write anything down and that the new price was her price. She claimed this was the going rate, further confirming she does not know the price of her core products, or what step on guide service costs. You can just imagine what my response was to this nonsense. As everyone knows I have a zero tolerance for this type of unethical behavior and do what I can to expose these business practices. I truly feel sorry for any business that can’t remember the prices they quote and don’t record the quotes they offer on jobs. I think it is even worse that a business would attempt this behavior and not expect to get called out.

    I assumed that because this woman did not know the price of a walking tour of the French Quarter or the going rates for step on guide service, she was a new company, yet her web site says she has been in business since 2001. Who is she trying to fool? Perhaps the company has been around and she just acquired it? My real concern is: Does Ms. Cole just have bad business practices, not writing down the information or quotes she offers, or is she engaging in unethical bait and switch tactics? I asked this lady if she wanted to correct her quote and honor the original quote given. She told me no.

    It doesn’t matter if Tour New Orleans and Ms. Cole are bad business people with bad business practices, or if she believes doubling the price of one of her quotes is ethical behavior. I should not have to instruct any business, in the basic business practices of recording quotes, nor should it become my problem if a business person can’t recall the quotes offered.

    I found another step on guide with one phone call, who agreed that guides get paid by the hour.

    As an industry should we support companies with bad business practices who can’t recall their quotes, or don’t record their quotes? Should we support companies when they make an error and don’t make things right? How do we determine if the behavior is intentional an unethical or if we are dealing with someone who does not understand basic business practices?

    This type of small business plague the travel industry. Want to be Entrepreneurs go into business for themselves not understanding the fundamentals of business. They are in business on a wing and a prayer and eventually will fail, most often burning the consumer. I have made my decision and hope that others will help protect the consumer and let the travel industry know about these companies that think it is ok to engage in this type of behavior. On my part I am committed to making information public when I run across these companies. There are far too many good and hard working people in the travel industry, trying to make a living, for any of us to have to put up with bad business people. If I was an independent guide for this company would I ever see a pay check, or would I be negotiating on every job, because the owner could not recall what she agreed to pay? We all make errors in business, what is important, is how we fix our errors when we make them. A company like Tour New Orleans will put itself out of business in a short period of time, either because of bad business practices or unethical behavior. We all have the choice of who we choose to do business with and most of us choose to do business with people we like. In Ms. Cole’s response below to me she somehow thinks this had something to do finding a lower price, or that I did not give her the opportunity to correct her pricing. She fails to acknowledge that her business practices are the root of her problems and thinks I am the bad guy for calling her out on what I consider unethical behavior. In our original call I told her what we were paying for guide service and told her I had someone already willing to take the job. She seems to believe that I assumed the worst of her and her company or would publish something that was untrue. When I gave Ms Cole the opportunity to fix her error and she refused, after doubling the price, that is when I began to think badly of her, not before.

    Ms. Cole, requested that I publish her unedited response out of fairness. In her response she only restates what I have stated that she does not know her costs, has no written records of her quotes, is researching on line to obtain her core pricing, for quotes. In other words she has bad business practices, which is the premise of this blog. I will never know if this was an intentional attempt at bait and switch, or if I was dealing with a person whose business practices are so ba,d that they will be out of business before the service could be performed.

    There never was an intent on my part to be unethical and anyone who knows me knows that. I understand that you DON'T know that. Why assume the worst? Were I dealing with YOU I would have assumed that you simply made a mistake. I had no written record of a price quote to you. I based this price on what I saw on a per person basis after I researched prices last night. You found a lower price? Say that instead of transferring your erroneous opinions onto me.

    It's fortunate that you are not interested in doing business with me because I assure you I would never do business with you. Understand this. You have seriously misjudged me. Whatever you write in your blog is your business, but in this case in will not be true.
    Joycelyn Cole
  19. Striving for Mediocrity
     
    Yesterday I made the error of playing a movie on a bus that made my customers angry.  I was doing a day trip, stopped at the local Red Box machine and was looking fore a PG movie to play on the way back.  The first PG movie that popped up was Atlas Shrugged a book that was written in the 1950’s. I remembered how much I had enjoyed this book when I was in college, I remembered the roll of Dagny Taggert who was a strong female character, I remembered the character of John Galt and how that character influenced my belief system.  I thought this would be a great uplifting movie for those that had lost money gambling.
     
    I was driving the sprinter and thought everyone was enjoying the movie. As I was listening I kept thinking this is what is taking place in America today.  This is what Common core is all about; this is what President Obama is doing to this country. At the end of the movie I had a passenger who was sitting in a seat unable to watch the movie that became angry with me for showing this movie. She accused me of holding the bus hostage to an anti government political movie. How dare I play such a movie on the bus? Why didn’t I play something like a Bill Murray Movie?  It was never my intention to offend anyone but only to play the movie version of a classic book that I though might be uplifting, never did I dream that this movie would evoke such visceral emotions.
     
    I started to think and ask myself what in this movie was so upsetting to this traveler, could it be that the movie was to close to reality? Was it a wake up call that those of us who strive for excellence and work hard, have had enough of the government wanting to bring us to the average and mediocrity rather then to encourage individuals to excel (common core)?  Was it the reality of what Obama Care is doing to the heath system of this country? (I was forced to change health plans at the end of last year and had to go 60 days with out coverage because of government bureaucracy and a 60-day waiting period.) Was it that there was a strong female character that was independent, made things work and got paid what she was worth? Could it be the movie made us think about the times we live in? In a society where you do not have innovators and people striving to be better then everyone else, society crumbles and falls. Socialism has failed in most societies where it has been tried.  My reality is that there are many ordinary freedom-loving citizens in this great land, that because of strong work ethic and open minds have become extraordinary.   Why should we support those thinking there is a free lunch in my pocket? I am not opposed to giving someone a helping hand; I am opposed to giving some one a hand out at my expense.
     
    In the end I came to the conclusion that there was more then one person upset with me for playing this movie, a (whopping $10 tip from 12 guests). I apologize to all I offended, as my intention was to play an uplifting movie, not make a social comment. 
  20. Last week I was in Houma, LA trying to help get a new company off of the ground.  The new company is calleed A Cajun Expereience and will be run by Barbra Cenec who also owns 12 oaks plantation Bed and Breakdast in Houma.

    Before traveling to Houma I looked up on the internet what the major attractions were. I had been to Houma several times when my friend Sandra Peligrin was alive. Some of you might recall Sandra as the former owner of Cajun Tours.  The internet listed three main attractions: a swamp tour, a visit to an Aligatoer Farm and the Pedestrian Bridge. Yes Trip Advisor rates the Pedestriam Bridge as an attraction.  I sat down with the new tem and started doing some creative writing to help them develop new product. At the end of my short stay A Cajun Experience had 10 new core products that were created. These products included a cultural tour, a tasting tour, an aligator farm and swamp boat tour and so many others.  I felt like I was in a fruit orchard with all of these plums to pick. Being a tour operator and finding virgin territory where the area is rich in products that no one is promoting is always a thrilling experience.  I just wonder what the folks at the tourist office are doing to promote the area if a pedestrian bridge is listed as the number three attraction.

    Houma service as a supply point for the oil industry, the Mandelay Bay Wildlife area is there, rich cajun history, swamp boat tours, aligators, great seafood. There are orange groves and sugar cain plantations and great opportunityies for agri tourism.  There is the opportunity to have dinner in a plantation house and a great location for Mardigras parades and to see how floats are put together.

    The more I taught my students, the more I realised how much information was stored in my head. I realized that the tour and travel industry needs a mentoring program for those new start up businesses trying to get going. I have decided to offer a consulting service for those that want my expertise. I am also looking at how I can get this information down on paper. Teaching new students about business plans, marketing plans, tour pricing, how to source product, and creative writing helped me codify my thought process.

    72 hours after ariving the first sale was made and additional sales were made over a short time period. Additional sales were made and they now have product that can be sold for an individual to a full motor coach.

    I look forward to watching A Cajun Experience flourish.  If anyone is looking for new product in South Louisiana give them a call.  They have the desire to provide your customers with outstanding customer service.
  21. Last week I was departing for Winter Carnival in Quebec. Some of you might remember that it was a cold snowy morning. We were scheduled to depart at 6:30, we were missing two passenges and at 7:00 I decided to depart. There was no answer to this couples phone no message left in the office. At 7:15 they called the office asking where the bus was and they were not happy they missed the bus. I told them we waited a half hour and there no message as to where they were or they were trying to make the bus. Of course the next question was would they get a refund. Once again they were not happy when I said no.  In the winter time none of us know what is going to happen and that is why travel insurance is so impoertant. Had they taken the travel protection and missed the bus because of weather they would have received a full refund. This morning  I have been trying to help customers trying to get out of Logan for School Vacation Week and have been trying to book flights for them for tomorrow. Had these customers taken travel insurance they would have been compensated for the missed days of  their vactions.  I am flying to a meeting on March 1 and would not consider booking a ticket with out travel protection for myself. On our winter trips we have added snow protection insurance for $5 a day, which is a deal.  To all of my customers that leave in New England it is winter, it snows and if the roads are open the trips depart. If you don't make the trip and you don't have insurance there is no refund. It is prety straight foreward.  
  22. I am in the final week of the class I have been taken and have learned 54 new concepts over the semester and have to find the time to implement what I learned into the business.
     
    One of the things I realized as I was going through my class is that I was not asking you my readers for referrals. If any of you know people who like to travel as an individual or group would you ask them to sign up for our  newsletter at www.Tyestours.com. This is my best way of getting the word out when there are sales and deals.
     
    The first week of January I was in St Lewis at a convention.  I had not been to St Lewis in about 10 years and there were many changes. On my last trip to St. Louis, in order to gamble you had to be on a River Boat and now there was a beautiful Casino close to the downtown area.  There was a  ball park in the downtown area that was not there on my last visit.  I also got to see the Fox Theater and this is truly one of the most opulent theaters I have ever seen. It is hard to believe that this theater was almost torn down.  If you ever get to St. Louis and have a chance to see this theater take ie it. As I saw the Gateway Arch  I remembered back to my early days as a tour director  and some of the crazy stories the conspiracy theorist proposed. At one time some of the nut cases believed that the real purpose of the arch was a secret device to control weather.  I took my mandatory ride to the top in the egg shaped capsule  and remember thinking that it reminded me the old sit com of Mork and Mindy.   I did not get to see a lot of the city as most of the time was spent in the Convention Center learning about new products to make our tours better, as well as meeting with some of the vendors for our tried and true tours.  I walked through a few of the hotels in the convention center area and kept thinking that these buildings must have been built around the Civil War. The good news is the downtown area was undergoing a lot of construction and redevelopment. At the Convention Center my first comment is they need to hire a real chef. as the food was just awful. The only time I can remember food at a Convention that was this bad, was the one and only time I was in Cleveland.  I can only remember that in Cleveland nothing at the convention center worked and at every meal we were served some form of a sausage.  I digress, I was expecting maybe to find some good barbecue ribs or something traditional of St Lewis. When going to conventions now I will pack MRE’s (meals ready to eat) so I am sure that  I am not consuming more salt then I would eat in a year.  I kept asking myself if anyone in St Lewis has taste buds because the food was so bad. Until St Lewis, I believed that with my travels that my stomach could tolerate anything. One morning for breakfast we were served this baked egg dish with ground up pepperoni and one day for lunch we were served what looked like cat food and grass on an oil slick. Many of us spent a good deal of time in the restrooms that day.  The convention center in St Lewis is huge and just to get to my booth at the show was a ¼ mile walk. Over the 4 days I was in St Lewis I never walked less then three miles in a day.  After four days of walking, more salt and sugar then I would normally consume in a year, my feet hurt and I was ready to come home.  The good part of a convention is always catching up with industry friends if only for a brief moment. Usally when I leave a convention I am pumped up and ready to go to work, my only feeling leaving St Lewis was I was exhausted.
     
    While at the convention I took a seminar on the proper way of using a networking event to my advantage. How many of you when you go to a networking event remember to ask for referrals of people who can use your services? To be honest I realized I was doing the blah, blah, blah, engaging people in conversation, but seldom asking for business and referrals.  I now make it a point to end my conversations at networking events asking if anyone knows of groups that like to travel or if they have friends that need a good travel agent.  To my readers I ask the same questions please send me your referrals. Since I once again started asking for the referrals, the number of referrals I get in a week has doubled and the people subscribing to the newsletter is also growing.  If you don’t ask for the business you probaly won’t get it.
     
     
     

  23. This week while working on a custom Honeymoon package, I discovered a great new idea for city  tours. The idea is to do tours on golg carts with private guides and using headphones for commentary. Just think a golf cart can go where buses and cars often can't go. Golf Carts are the perfect soloution for those that can't or won't walk. Think about how much fun your customers will have if they don't have to look out a bus window. Think of the customer that is dead tired and would take a cab rather then walk. Think about being in Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco or any other city and being able to go where only pedestrians can go.  There is a company in Rome already doing eco friendly tours using golf carts. It is time for this idea to come to America. 
  24. This morning I was on the radio on the Girard At Large Radio Show, you can hear the interview here.
    https://soundcloud.com/girardatlarge/12-26-2014-hour-2b

    talking about how I got into the Travel Business  and what makes Tye’s Tours Different.  When we listen to ourselves we realize that we sound different then we think we sound. One of the things I encourage our tour directors to do is to record their narration of every tour. The days of winging a tour are long gone.  I don’t mean that any narration should be canned but should be fresh and the content fun.  Every year I make it a point to ride our own tours, with various tour directors, often when I sit in the back of the bus I cringe with the delivery I hear. We had one tour director that had been getting great reports from other companies, dynamic personality and someone that is fun to be with. When I listened to the commentary it turned out that every time she opened her mouth it came out as disjointed information in a whine. When I suggested she needed to record herself so she would hear what she sounded like she choose to work for another company.  A good tour director has to be a storyteller first with commentary using engaging facts. Few People want to listen to a lecture while on tour, they do however want to know about the area they are going through.  When teaching our tour director classes, we make sure our tour directors understand that if they are talking for more then five minutes at a time no one is listening.  No one cares how much a tour director knows if they are not having fun.  We have all been on the tours where the tour directors go on and on about nothing. At Tye’s Tours before hiring any tour directors we require them to submit an audio tape giving a narration on anything. If they can’t do this to get the job then they will never do it before going on the road.    I feel I have eliminated the tour directors that were not engaging.  I have got rid of the whiners, and the tour directors that were trying to wing tours. In 2015 at Tye’s Tours we are striving to find the tour directors that will be engaging and fun.  You will see a change in faces next year as we strive to find the tour directors that will deliver the commentary you will want to listen to. If I am willing to go on the Radio and do live commentary and publish these interviews, then those that work with us must also provide enjoyable commentary.
     
    Tye’s Tours is constantly evolving a and sometimes we have to go back to the basics in order to become better.
      
     I wish all of you a Happy and Prosperous New Year. 

  25. TODAY I WAS REGOGNISED FOR SOME OF THE THINGS I DO IN THE COMMUNITY, TO MAKE MY LOCALITY A BETTER PLACE FOR EVERYONE TO LIVE. IT SURE FEELS GOOD TO KNOW THAT THE COMMUNITY I LIVE IN, NOTICES THE THINGS I DO. I AM  NOT LOOKING FOR CREDIT BUT ONLY TO ENCOURAGE OUR BUSINESS LEADERS TO BE RESPONCIBLE CITIZENS IN THE COMMUNITY WE SHARE. TREAT YOUR CUSTOMERS AS YOU WANT TO BE TREATED BY YOUR CUSTOMERS.

    BEST OF MERRIMACK AWARD
    Tye's Top Tour & Travel Receives 2014 Best of Merrimack Award

    Merrimack Award Program Honors the Achievement

    MERRIMACK December 2, 2014 -- Tye's Top Tour & Travel has been selected for the 2014 Best of Merrimack Award in the Tour Operators category by the Merrimack Award Program.

    Each year, the Merrimack Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Merrimack area a great place to live, work and play.

    Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2014 Merrimack Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Merrimack Award Program and data provided by third parties.

    About Merrimack Award Program

    The Merrimack Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Merrimack area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

    The Merrimack Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community's contributions to the U.S. economy.

    SOURCE: Merrimack Award Program

    CONTACT:
    Merrimack Award Program
    Email: PublicRelations@awardservice.org
    URL: http://www.awardservice.org/

  26. How do we know, what we don’t know, we don’t know?
     
    First I have to say thank you to my friends who are helping me get work done and get my school work done. I could never run a business and go to school with out help from my friends.  I also have to say thank you to my TA, my professor, and my fellow class mates who are pushing to get the greatest value from the money invested in school. I keep bitching and moaning about how hard running a business is and going to school at the same time. Four weeks into my course and my website is looking really cool and I know about 1000% more then I did  a few weeks ago.  Sadly I did not know that I did not know so much little stuff that is so important.
     
    Here are just a few things I did not know.
    • Over the last 15 years I had purchased many domain names I actually ow 15 different domain’s with key search phases. What I deid not know was that half of them did not point to anything. Nobody until recently said make sure to check your domains and make sure they all point to your website.
    • I owned a domain that was misspelled. How foolish do you think I felt doing that I had owned this domain for five years and did not know there was a spelling error.
    • I never used common sense to realize that it was much easier for search engines to find us if we translated our pages into different languages. Last week I landed a $150,000 account, from an Italian tour operator, who found me by searching for me in Italian on Goggle. I wish someone would have made this suggestion years ago. I also had my pages translated into Chinese and have had multiple inquiries from Chinese tour Operator’s. It does make a big difference if you want to play in a global market place for search engines to be able to find you. Even adding a Goggle translator widget is important  once potential customers get to the landing page.
    • I never realized that my website was hard to read because of the different fonts I used.  Now my customers are telling me how much more they like my website. Never would have guessed in a million years how important it is to have one consistent font. 
    • Never knew how to get lead generating services working for me, four weeks ago I did not even know what an e-commerce lead generating service was. If you are not familiar with these services they send me qualified group and individual leads based on a profile I set up. It was like adding extra staff with no cost or overhead.
    • Four weeks ago I did not have a clue as how adds track you. Now that I understand how this technology works I am asking why I did not use it.
    • Before starting the class I am in I used linkedin as a sophisticated Rolodex. I did not understand how to use this tool for generating revenue.
    • Have had lots of classes in Social Media but did not understand how it was used for generating income. Now part of my day is dedicated to using Social media. If you don’t understand using Social media for profit you need to take a class.
    • I never realized that having multi colored navigation bars was confusing for some users.
    • I never thought that adding a reserve now button would increase my conversion factor. I thought my web site was intuitive. Over the last few years may 10 people told me it was hard to book on my web site. Over the last week at least 20 customers have told me how ease my web site is to use.  I didn’t change anything just added a button.
    • I thought it was obvious that a click hear to pay an invoice or purchase a gift certificate was something everyone understood.  I put this same information on a button and my customers are buying gift certificates now.  I had one customer tell me today he did not know we sold gift certificates.
    • Had another customer tell me they found the recipe button on my web site. It has been there for at least five years but was lost in the clutter.
     
    I could go on and on about all the little things I did not know, I did not know. Then there are the big things like understanding the analytical tools associated with my e-commerce marketing. I am not a numbers person so did not pay much attention to the analytical stuff, was I ever surprised to find out what I was neglecting.
     
    Those of us who relied on the customers coming to us for our knowledge have to do a reality check. The consumer is changing and those of us not smart enough to understand e-commerce need to hire people who do.  Those of us who own businesses that fail to evolve will become extinct. I will be the first to admit I thought I was pretty tech savvy and was leaps and bounds above my competition on technical stuff. When I realized the necessity of going back to school, I began to discover I did not understand how to use the tools available to us, or even what the tools were. For those that have not discovered it yet the next generation is more tech savvy then we will ever be. They have grown up computers, shop and buy using computers and are great at ferreting out their own information. Our jobs as travel professionals is not so much about our knowledge, but about helping our customers organize their plans, and turn their dreams into reality at the most affordable price.  Once the Packaged Travel Industry understands and define our new rolls the industry will evolve.  
  27. Exceptional customer service
    Do we see it? Do we recognize it? Do we appreciate it?
     
    Over the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to witness some incredible customer service , some people who thought they were giving good service and weren’t, and people that blew with a poor attitude.
     
    Here are some examples of great customer service and people I want to do business with.

    Jennifer from NineCats Design has put together my newsletter and helped my website evolve. We met at a Merrimack Chamber of Commerce meeting and just seemed to click.  Over the last few years Jennifer has given me exceptional customer service, well beyond anything I expected.  She is not afraid to tell me when I am wrong, as well as right, and is always encouraging me. When I started going to Grad School and did not understand some of the e -Commerce technical stuff I have to learn, she is always there willing to help me understand and explain a concept.  When my newsletter needs spicing up she finds the graphics that make it pop. Jennifer, is becoming a friend, someone I can turn to for advice, someone I can trust. Will I send her business at every opportunity, with out doubt.  Her prices are reasonable her service is exceptional. This is a person that has earned my business and my friendship. If you need help with your social media, webpage or building a new web page or newsletters contact her. NineCats design
     
    I had the experience today of calling Google Customer support trying to figure out how to apply a coupon code and begin to use Google Adwords.  I explained that I was a student and had as one of my assignments to develop pay per click advertising using only the coupons I had on Google, Bing, Yelp, and Facebook.  Much to my astonishment I was connected to Dyshown, a charming women that spoke exceptional understandable English.   Her first words were could I spare a half hour so she could get me up and running the right way.  I was calling for service and she was asking me if I could spare the time so she could teach me. I don’t recall ever, when I have made a request for assistance with any company, someone requesting my time to make sure I received the service I needed.  Not only did this woman show me what I needed, she made suggestions, so that my add might work better.  When I told her that my assignment was to spend a maximum of $25 out of pocket she showed me were I could get additional Google Adwords coupons and raise my budget.  How cool was that that someone went out of their way to help me.  I only wish that I could teach my own staff about customer service like this.
     
    Here is another story with a slightly different outcome.  I had been a customer of a local phone store for several years. This store has always given me exceptional service. A few weeks ago my phone charger was stolen, I was going to a business meeting in the restaurant next door and needed to charge my phone.  I asked the manager if he had an extra cord lying around, as I know that every phone store has extra cords. There was no issue and he graciously gave me the cord.  He had created an obligation on my part to give him my business.  My contract was up on my phone and I went back last night to give this store my business.  I stated I wanted to use the coupon for the free phone Verizon had sent me.  The next words I hear is: we charge you $50 and you can send in to get a rebate Visa Card, making it free.  I said I was not interested in any rebate cards. The next thing is I am reminded of the free cord I was given a few weeks ago.  The manager who had my business, made me feel cheap and that I had taken advantage of him asking for help when I was in need.  I got in my car, went to Best Buy got a better phone, for a dollar and was told how I could lower my monthly charge.  The guy at Best Buy made me feel good, he wanted my business and he took care of me. My local phone store had my business and blew it.  I will make it a point to return the phone cord I was given. The customer service had been exemplary, I believed that a fellow merchant was helping me out when I had a problem, not that a $2 cord was creating an obligation. It is in my DNA to help others when I can and would never through my help back in someone’s face.   When someone excels at customer service, I always wonder why someone would make a bone headed move like this. Why chase the customers away when you have built a relationship?
     
    One of things that I stress to my tour directors is that as a tour director there are a few basics items that our customers expect and with out these basics, there is no customer service.  You can be the nicest guy and smartest guy in the world but with out the basics there is nothing to build on. What are the essentials in the tour industry for a tour director?  There has to be water on the bus, no bus should ever leave unless there is a way for the customer to take a pill if needed. The restroom has to be clean with paper and hand sanitiser. There has to be a trash bag to collect rubbish. As I say these are as basic as it gets.  The tour director has to be well prepared and be in sync with the driver. When you get to a destination you have to walk the guests to the entrance. If you skip any of the basics there is no foundation to build customer service.  This past week I had to encourage a tour director who was becoming a friend, and one of the smartest and loyalist people I know, to seek a new career. After two seasons this friend just did not get why the customers were trashing him.  When I asked if there was water on the bus, the answer was no. When I asked what was done for five hours on the coach with no mike, a reply of nothing. When I asked if he had printed maps, another no.  When I had asked if he had gone over the routing with the driver and both were clear, another no.  We can only teach the basics of customer service and if anyone does not grasp that you need a foundation to build on to become extraordinary then it is time to move on. Our customer expectations and demand for service is high, if we fail to meet our customer neeeds with extraorniary service then we have no business.
     
    As we approach the holiday season I have made it a goal to recognize as many friends, family, employers, colleagues and people I encounter when they are providing good customer service. We all need to hold up these people who are making the world a better and kinder place. We need to recognize those who are treating us as we want to be treated. We need to recognize those that are not making excuses and getting things done. These people are the heart and sole of every business and often go unnoticed.  Please join me and give a shout out every time you see good customer service. Lets all recognize and encourage this positive behavior and speak out against destructive behavior.  Those employees who have bad attitudes or just want to get by need to be reminded that there are other places to do business. We all need to remind or colleagues we are in business because of the customer not in spite of the customer.

    Best wishes to all for a Happy Holiday Season.  Take a moment to recognise  those that understand the words customer service
     
    Mel Tye CTP/ CTIS
    Tye's Tours
    9 Riverside Dr
    Merrimack, NH 03054
    Email: info@tyestours.com
    WWW.tyestours.com
    603 424 4043/ 800 374 6819
  28. CHANGE IS IN THE AIR
     
    Some of you want to engage in discussion of the comments I have posted on my Blog.  Just like the seasons, change in the travel industry is inevitable. As the next generation becomes our mainstream customers will limited service hotels have to evolve?  I have no crystal ball but the feedback from my customers is yes.  The days when the majority of our travelers were seniors and today’s younger travelers have very different needs. Our senior travelers traveled for companionship and the security of a group. Our market now consists of less then 13 % of travelers over 65, which means that if our tours do not evolve, and our hotel choices don’t evolve then we will become extinct. The same is true with all segments of the industry hotels, restaurants, museums and attractions.  
     
    When our guests leave home after a frantic workweek they want to stay in places that are more comfortable and have better experiences then staying at home. They want a bed that is as good as the bed they have at home if not better. They want to watch TV on a bigger and better flat screen TV’s then they have at home.  They have become accustomed to quality coffee with verity found in K cups.  When they go to attractions they want to be part of the action they are no longer happy just watching from the sidelines. If they go to a racetrack, they want to ride the pace car and will pay to do so. They want us to try and get the bus on the track and do a lap. If they go to a museum they expect it to be interactive, few want to just go and read about stuff, If they go to a historic site or a mansion they want audio wands so they can explore at their own pace and in depth. If they go to an aquarium they want to interact with the trainers or feed the fish.
     
    Will their be a need for limited service hotels of course their will be, there will always be families with children and travelers on a tight budget. Will the tour coaches be staying in these properties probably not? Will there be luxury brands of hotels, of course there will b but will the motor coaches be staying there probably not? My research says that although price is important, quality is a much more important factor with our guests. Our guests are willing to stay a little further out to have a quality experience at an affordable price.  In one of the comments the analogy was that if you want a Ferrari then you have to pay for a Ferrari.  The reality is that our customers are not buying Ferrari’s, however the market is growing for hybrids.  The same is true in the travel industry; there will always bea demand for the luxury product and the budget property. The market for the Hybrid is what is growing. This is the hotel that has a comfortable bed, a coffee maker, a coffee mug, and a big flat screen TV in the room. The customers want a restaurant that if not attached to the hotel is only a few steps away.  They want to be able to buy wine by the glass and get a full glass of quality wine not a half full glass of a cheap house brand.  The customers are not cheap, and are starting to understand that price, quality and value are relational.  Will the customer pay a little more to have a coffee cup in the room verses paper or foam, yes. Will the customer pay a little more to eat off a plate, yes.  If the customer is paying for Internet will he feel he is getting ripped off with out a question. Our customers who do stay in hotels that charge for Internet now use smart phones, tablets and other devices to connect to the Internet.  Most have mobile hotspots to connect their devices. In today’s market we have to ask the question is charging for Internet service a profit center or creating ill will among our customers?
     
    Our customers are also fact checking the information, we provide.  Recently one of our customers sent us information concerning stories told by local National Park Rangers on how some of the places in New England got their names and some of the historical stories being told.  I have been telling these same stories for as long as I have been in the business.   The local historical societies refute these stories and claim the stories the rangers are telling are not accurate. They claim the meanings of the native words are more fiction then fact. What a surprise to me when I started fact checking some of the information we have been sharing as tour directors and finding out that only 60% was accurate.  Over the winter months I am encouraging our tour directors to take a hard look at the information they are sharing and change the stories we have been telling. If we don’t change our customers will know and will damage our credibility as tour operators.
     
    As I have said many times we can all be an instrument of change, or a victim of change but change is inevitable.  Being a victim of anything is never pleasant. It is always better to be proactive as our market changes then try to catch up later by being reactive.
     
    Thanks to all of you who have made posts on line, or sent me private email.  As we all share information the evolution of the travel industry will take place.  In response to the question of would I ever consider running budget tours to use the facilities currently available? The answer is no we all have to know our market and our customer and we are not the budget tour operator. We will seek ways to cut costs and provide our customers the best value but we will not sacrifice quality for price. We will continue to customize tours based on the requests of our customers and will customize any tour for any group/
     
    Mel Tye
    Tye’s Tours
    800 374 6819
    Email: tyestours@comcast.net
     
       
  29. I have been in DC for the last few days trying to discover trends, things we need to change, inspecting hotels and visiting new attractions. I have a few guests with me representing different markets. The first morning in DC I had a business breakfast set up and the owner of the hotel was an hour late. Do you think this created a favorable impression when I had to rearrange my schedule?   He had bragged that his restaurant produced the best breakfast in Virginia. Need I say the food was average and unremarkable? Hold this thought for a moment. The next day we ate in the hotel and had the included breakfast. First comments from my guests were paper cups for coffee; pastry was stale; and no fruit. This morning my guests said lets go out for breakfast where we can get fresh fruit, get coffee in a china cup, and they use real plates. I gave them a choice of where we went on the first morning or to an Ihop. They chose the first place where we stuck in a corner and the waitress seemed to ignore us. I walked up to the register by the door to pay the check. I must have unknowingly put on my invisible suit as three people came to the register and ignored me, even though I said I had been trying to pay the check for 15 mins. Only when I said if no one wants to take my money, I will leave did someone take my credit card. The restaurant was not busy so I can’t understand what the issue was.  Went back to the hotel restaurant just to do a spot check, still no fruit, no coffee mugs, warm juice.  To my industry friends if you don’t think our guests are noticing these things you are crazy. You are sending the business to your competition. Those of you who have failed to grasp that the customers are no longer asking but demanding fresh fruit at breakfast and real coffee cups, need to wake up. 
     
    At ABA when many of us meet I will be asking if your included breakfast includes real coffee cups, and if you are using paper or Styrofoam. If you are using Styrofoam and your competition is not, my business is going to the other guys. If you use paper and someone else is using real plates and silverware we will be migrating to the competition. Until I heard this same comment on so many of our tours and so frequently, I did not grasp that this was a real concern of our customers.
     
    Here is a brief run down of my experience in Washington
    1. Went to Wounded Warrior Monument, this monument is very moving and will now be included in all tours.
    2. Had lunch at Union Market Place, this was another new venue and would recommend for groups
    3. Sailed on Potomac Boat Monument Cruise. This is a definite no for our tours. The narration was canned, boring, repetitive and could hardly be heard. This is a pleasant boat ride on the Potomac nothing more.
    4. Went to the new White House Visitors center and found the movie moving with comments from Suan ford and the Johnson girls.  This is a good alternative for those that can’t get into the White House
    5. Went to the George Washington Gristmill and Distillery. There was no Wow factor and I would use this attraction for Middle school children.
    6. Went to Ft Hunt Park foliage was magnificent
    7. Went to Arlington National Cemetery watched a wreath laying ceremony, this is always moving.
    8. Went to the Newseum, this was my third time and still found in boring. I fell a sleep in the 4D movie for third time. One of my guests said the best thing about the museum was the Wolfgang Puck Restaurant. A second was fascinated and told me that two hours was not nearly enough time.  The Newseum will be an option but will not be included on tour.
    9. My guests truly enjoyed the national zoo. I am trying to figure out how to include the zoo in most Tours.
    10. My guests truly enjoyed seeing Washington at night.
    11. I have been relearning the city as so much as changed from when I was coming on a regular basis as a tour director.
    12. Visited 14 hotels and have made some choices for next year and for the inauguration in 2016. It does not matter who wins the election we will be here foe the inauguration. If you want to witness the change of power now is the time to start planning, especially if  you want to bring a group to the Inauguration.
    13.  Ate at Bucca de Bepo and the food was Yummy. Ate at Red Hot and Blue and food was Excellent
    14. There is never enough time at the Smithsonian.
    15. I will save hotel inspections for another blog.
  30. Tales from the Road and what our customers told us they want on our tours.
     
    This fall I took the roll of tour director on many of our fall trips trying to determine the needs of our customers to and to redesign our tours to better meet customer expectations.
     

    1. My first observation is the customers just don’t want to be with 50 passengers on a motor coach. Most of our customers told us they think that 25 to 30 is the ideal number. Those that were 70 and older told us that if the price went down they did not care how many people were on the coach.  Overall the customers told us they found the Sprinter tours more comfortable then most motorcoaches because they had more leg room.
    2. Our customers made it clear they did not enjoy the customers who talked non stop. We had on several occasions customers go to the rear of the coach to get away from the non-stop chatter. We had customers ask for earplugs and headphones for those that did not bring their own. I don’t know of a nice way to tell passengers to give their tongues a rest. other then making them aware by posting on my blog.
    1. Our customers were very annoyed by fellow travelers who were constantly taking pictures and posting pictures on the Internet that included other travelers. We will make it a point to make sure all travelers are advised that they must ask permission before posting photos of their traveling companions on the Internet. We will ask all tour directors to make this request of all passengers.
    2. Our customers told us they wanted downtime and alone time. This was the first time I can recall where customers told tour directors they did not want to take included tours and wanted to do their own things. We had customers on Nantucket that just wanted to shop not tour, customers who told us they were not interested in whale watching, customers that wanted to be dropped in Plymouth for a couple of hours to do their own thing or a trail  head in the White Mountains The trend for the future will be more to get our customers to a destination and give them time to do what they want. The trend seems to be that our customers want less inclusive tours.  Although our tour directors are trained to assist our customers in everyway possible, our guests advised our tour directors to leave them alone for a couple of hours.  We had several comments about tour directors adding extra stops and making the day too long. Although each of our tour directors want to make their tours unique we have to be mindful of time the extra stop takes. 
    1. Our customers told us that 8:30 to 5:30 was to long of a day and we need to shorten the days of the tours. It will be a challenge to shorten the days but will find  away to meet this challenge. 
    1. Our customers told us that when choosing hotels they wanted friendly staff at the front desk and want to be close to supermarkets and nearby restaurants. They preferred to have coffee available in the lobby, and would make it the room if they had to. Overall the consensus was that any hotel that does not have coffee and tea available on demand should not be used on a tour. They told us they found it very annoying when front desk staff did not answer the phone.  Our guests told us they found hotels that did not make key packets with individual guest names on the packet inefficient. 
    1. Our customers made it very clear that any hotel that does not offer free WiFi does not belong on a tour. If the service is slow or it takes a long time to connect go someplace else. The hotels that force guests to stand while using the Internet overall are considered inhospitable. Our guests have indicated they would choose a hotel of lower quality rather then pay for Internet or have slow Internet. They consider any hotel that has front desk staff that does not speak understandable English unacceptable. 
    1. Hotels that put guests on second floor rooms and did not have elevator access are no longer acceptable. Our guest made it very clear that it does not matter the price or quality of the hotel, if no elevator they are not interested in climbing stairs. Our group leaders have advised us that if they are in a hotel with out an elevator unless they are guaranteed 100% of rooms are on the first floor to find another hotel.  We had a hotel in Boothbay with an elevator that decided to close early and move a group to another property with no elevator. Even though the second hotel promised first floor rooms the group leader cancelled the tour with 30 paid passengers. 
    1. Our customers advised that when dining out they would prefer to have a credit for a set amount and they pay the difference or have a prepaid debit card for meals. Limited choice menus are not acceptable on tours any more. We had restaurants where customers were willing to spend over a $100 a person for dinner and they refused to allow our customers to order off the menu even when the entree orders would be called in 48 hours in advance. I question the owner of any business that would turn away a $4000- $5000 dinner check. 
    1. Our customers told us they did not want meals in fancy restaurants they wanted good reasonably priced food in local restaurants, with food typical of the area. 
    1. Our customers made it very clear that any restaurant that uses paper plates or Styrofoam containers or plastic silverware is not acceptable. They would rather pay a little more and eat off of real plates with real silverware. We had customers that went out for breakfast on their own rather then eat an included breakfast off of a paper plate. As we move forward  in booking hotels and restaurants we will stipulate that paper and Styrofoam products are no longer acceptable. 
    1. A very important point that was made was that visitors from foreign lands are not interested in American History. Visiting places such as Concord and Lexington, or Plimouth Plantation or historic attractions in Boston are not of interest to our foreign visitors. Comment cards from our overseas visitors often read too much history, too much nature, not enough free time. In 2015 we will strive to find a better balance on our tours. I am not sure when people come to New England during fall foliage time what they are looking for besides seeing the spectacular fall colors, whale watching and history of the region. I am wide open for suggestions and feed back. Our customers told us rather then hearing about the history of Boston they would prefer to feel the Vibe of the city. 
    1. While on Cape Cod our customers requested a stop for wine tasting. When we stopped at a winery at the end of Cape Cod and our guests found the winery was charging $10 for a tasting. They told me to get them out of there as fast as I could. Our customers felt they were being ripped off. When they asked to purchase just a single taste to find out if they liked the wine they were told it was $10 a glass.  I agree with my customers and will never stop at an attraction that is not proud enough of their product to allow a customer to sample before purchasing. The vendors trying to squeeze every dime out of the consumer deserve to go out of business. 
    1. Our customers have told us they are not interested in traveling any distance on a coach with out WiFi. If a coach does not have WiFi they expect tour directors to create a Mobil Hot Spot. WiFi on motor coaches is now a cost of doing business. 
    1. Our customers let it be known that the reasons they travel is to laugh, to learn and to experience another culture. They want to see how products are made, taste what the local people eat, and make new friends. They are looking for safety, security, and companionship. They only want a small amount of history and only in the broadest of terms. The only museums and attractions of interest are interactive. They prefer living history with costumed interpreters or computer activities where the guest can interface.  Anything that is a stagnant exhibit has no interest. Anything that requires a walk longer then 10 minutes or listed as a designated hike is too far. The majority of our customers ( other then the seniors) have asked that we get rid of the entertainment part of the tour. They  have told us that playing games like bingo on a bus is boring. They have requested an occasional video and soft music for relaxing. Our overseas customers commented that American Tour Directors talk too fast and too long. We will definitely overcome this challenge this winter season. 
    1. Our customers told us that they want the personal choice similar to the style  cruise lines have introduced to be the model for the tours. They have asked we design our future product so they have choice on daily activities and not to bundle an inclusive package. 
    1. I was very surprised that our customers told us that not allowing our tour directors to have a social drink with customers makes them appear aloof. The feeling was that as long as a tour director was not driving, our customers believe the relationship between tour director and passenger would be improved if a social drink  with dinner or after dinner were allowed.  Our customers believe that when a tour director is at a winery or brewery they should be allowed to sample with guests.  We will certainly discus this point and try to formulate policy based on customer suggestions. My personal belief is that alcohol and drugs never belong in the work place but am not opposed to making our customers feel more comfortable with our staff.
      
    As I attend travel industry conferences over the next few months I will discus with my colleagues how we can provide our customers the products they are looking for based on comments from customers this fall.
  31. This past week I was in one of my favorite locations Quebec City. For those don’t know Quebec is the only walled city in North America and it is as close to having a European experience with out leaving North America.
     
    One of my passengers told me that they walked out of stores because the clerks did not speak English. Would a foreigner coming to Boston or New York expect to be greeted in their native tongue?  It would be nice but most likely would not happen. Part of the travel experience is learning about new languages, experience and culture.
     
    I was asked to try the Best Western Plus for a hotel. I was told the hotel was a four star hotel in the Central Quebec. The photos on the Website make the hotel appear that it is in Old town, it is not.  I have stayed at the Royal William and knew the neighborhood.  In the US if you stay at a Best Western Plus you know breakfast is included in the rate. This is not true on Best Westerns in Canada. The Breakfast at the hotel was $14.95 ++  for a very mediocre breakfast at best.  They also charge $29 per night for parking.  I asked the Bellman why I could not park at the meters which are free from 8 – 9 at night. The Bellman told me I would never find parking on the street. Fro three nights I parked on the Street with no problem.
     
    I had been told about Buffet of the World last year at ABA and was surprised at how good the food was overall and how reasonable the price was. They were carving, steamship round of beef, Montreal smoked beef, and Turkey. The buffet had Salmon, mussels, peel and eat shrimp, fresh salads, Greek, Italian, Chinese, Sushi and lots of other choices. This restaurant will now be on our tours.  I also went to a restaurant in the old city and had a  yummy salmon pie which I have now posted on my recipe page.
     
    Because of the small group we were able to visit a few extra attractions on the Isle d’orleans.  I had always thought black currents were like raisins. They look like raisins but tasted more like a cross between an apple and a grape.  The group enjoyed tasting the products and the fortified wines. Next it was on to a cidery where not only did they have hard cider but a whole variety of jams, jellies and relishes. I think I will add this stop to our Quebec tours next year. We also stopped at a cheese stop.  I thought this was a rip off as they charge a buck to get a small piece of cheese.  I didn’t like the cheese and thought the stop had little value for a sightseeing stop. It was nice having time to drive the Island as the scenery was spectacular. On the Ille d’ Orleans the woman at the cheese shop claimed that the cheese they produce was the first cheese produced in North America. I don’t know if it was true but it was a good story.
     
    The group enjoyed the artesian shops along the Beaupre Coast. We stopped to see Copper jewelry being made, at the wood carvers shop, the bread ovens and the honey tasting.  The group was impressed by the beauty of St Ann de Beaupre and Montmorency Falls.
     
    The group loved being able to wander through the farmers market  and taste the fres produce.
    Group also did not know that the battle on the Plains of Abraham determined that Canada would belong to the British Commonwealth and this was the end of New France.  Yes at one time there was a New England and a New France.  If you join us on one of our tours to Quebec you will discover the unique history of our Neighbors to the north.

    We go to Quebec every winter for winter Carnival, every fall  and on other dates by request.
     
     

  32. Listening to you our customers

    As we start to prepare for 2015 and put product on the market. I have been meeting with many of our group leaders and  talking to our customers.
     
    Here is what I have been hearing and want your comments.
     

    1. When it comes to limited choice menus they have to go.  You have advised us that there is no place for a limited choice menu on a tour.  This presents us with two options: 1. When you choose to dine as a group we will provide you with a meal credit allowing everyone to eat as a group but order what they want, if you go over the credit you pay the difference. 2. The second option is to use debit cards loaded for a specific amount per meal. 
          
          Why the two options,  on long days it is important to get you to a restaurant have a nice meal and then check into the hotels.

     
             I feel that experiencing new food and taste is part of the travel experience.  The comment made to me is that we are taking many of you to far out of your comfort zone. We will no longer take you to eclectic restaurants but will take you to neighborhoods where restaurants with different types of food can be found and allow you to make your own choices.  Sometimes on a busy Sat night this will  not be possible.

        2.   You have requested that we shorten the time on the coaches. We will do this by getting to a destination and using   local or alternative transportation.

        3.  You have told us that you feel like a prisoner on a bus when a tour director keeps you on the bus for three hours or longer with out a break.  I agree with you on this point and have adopted the  policy where tour directors who do not plan rest stops every 2.5 hours will be terminated.

       4.  It has been brought to our attention then several of our tour directors have been  changing the itineraries based on  a few vocal people on a tour.  Sometimes it is necessary to change an itinerary because a company goes out of   business or an attraction, restaurant or hotel no longer meets our standards. We will make certain that tour directors are not eliminating stops because a few vocal people want more shopping time or they want more time at a specific stop.  We have also been advised that some of our tour directors have been adding stops to enhance the tour making the days to long. We will strive to curb this practice but want to give tour directors the opportunity to be creative and make the tours as good as they can be.

       5. Y
    ou have asked for more short trips to new destinations because ou are tired of doing the same trips over and over.        Tye’s Tours is committed to adding at  least 10 new tours a year.  We will focus on adding more festival tours and destinations you have not been to.  The reality is that there are only so many destinations you can go to on a  motor coach  when we want to keep the trips  under five days.  You have told me that many of your groups no longer wish to travel with 50 as they once did.  The industry as a whole is addressing this  issue and more and more  motor coach companies are buying smaller coaches with more leg room and Wify available.  We have tried to addressed this issue and have  purchased our own Mercedes Sprinter  to handle these groups.  I am hoping the motor coach companies will retrofit some of their fleets to give the customers more leg room as we seldom need 55 passenger coaches anymore.
     
     
    Tales from the road.
     
    Over the Labor Day weekend I had the pleasure of taking a small family from the Midwest on a tour of New England. The family dynamics of a family wanting to spend time with an aging parent and at the same time realizing that spending extended time can be tedious.  It was interesting listening to snippets of conversation as the children tried to learn about the family history, that they may not have known about or forgotten.  It was a tour where my narration was not as important as their personal conversations and time together.  Once getting out of Boston we headed up the coast to Maine where we spent the night at the Colony Hotel one of the historic hotels of America. After checking in it was out for a lobster dinner and teaching my guests how to eat a lobster.  Most of our travelers from outside of New England think that it is the tale and the claws and that is all of the meat and never really get into the meat found in the body and legs.   The restaurant was running a special one lobster for $14 and each additional lobster $10. Yes lobster is inexpensive in New England and can often be found for as low as $3.99 a pound.  For those of us who live in New England, lobster is not a big deal but a treat for our guests who do not have abundant fresh seafood available.  Did you know that it takes a lobster seven years to grow to be 1 ¼ pounds the legal size to be a keeper.  As we drove the coast my customers were surprised at the signs for lobster and lobster rolls with inexpensive pricing.  We continued up the coast to Boothbay with a stop in Wiscasset for lobster rolls by the bridge.  Arrived at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and expected my customers to spend a couple of hours enjoying the gardens and flowers, 45 mins. later they were out and ready to check into the hotel. This was certainly one of my shortest visits to the garden but it was enough for these customers. On most tours an hour and a half to two hours is just enough time.  The advantage of small group travel is that you decide what is right for you.  The next day I did a morning drive around Boothbay before my guests departed for their harbor cruise and trip to Cabbage Island another picture perfect day with another lobster meal.  The next day we drove across to the White Mountains with a stop in North Conway for lunch and a few covered bridge stops.  I discovered as I listened to my customers conversation that the mother had worked for Omni hotels and found it was a real highlight to stop for a visit to the Mount Washington Hotel.   With small group travel we can adjust the itinerary to meet the needs and desires of the group as we travel.  We arrived at Cannon Mountain when I learned one of my guests had a fear of heights and there was no way she would ride the aerial tram.  Part of the group took the Tram to the top for a spectacular view while I remained at the base with my one traveler.  One of the comments I heard throughout my trip was how clean our parks and highways are compared to other parts of our country.  Yes in New England we take pride in keeping our roads litter free and our parks clean. To bad we have a federal government that feels it is ok to shut the government down every so often and allow the trash to build up. Today is primary day and my vote goes against anyone in office that allowed the government to shut down last year.  It was a pleasure staying in the mountains getting a good night sleep with the crisp mountain air before returning my guests to Boston for return flight home.  I was surprised at how eager my customers were to put mom on the plane before heading out for a nice seafood lunch.         
  33. YOU ASKED THAT I USE MY BLOG TO PROVIDE MORE THEN MY THOUGHTS.
     
    Bugaboo creek restaurant evaluation.
     
    Today I was invited by Jon and Steve the managers of the Nashua Bugaboo Creek Restaurant to see if their restaurant would work for our tours. The good and the bad.  The hostess was very friendly and I was impressed that the staff was cleaning all the booths and dusting, in the off peak hours. The restaurant and restroom was very clean, the atmosphere casual and laid back.
     
    I tried several different dishes to get an idea of the food quantity and quality, as I had never eaten at a Bugaboo Creek Restaurant.
     
    Hot rye bread was served first it was good and hot and very satisfying. A plus for the bread.
     
    Next I tried a Caesar’s Salad. The lettuce was crisp the dressing flavorful and well seasoned and tasty. The balance of cheese and croutons were perfect. A plus for the salad.
     
    Next I tried one of the house specialties, barbecue chicken nachos. My comment on this dish was just plain awful. Whoever thought up the dish need to have their taste buds checked.  The dish consisted of flavorless corn chips with chicken and a sweet barbecue sauce, flavorless jalapenos, tasteless cheese and a dab of sour cream.  The sauce was so sweet it had to be 50% sugar, a dentist dream and a diabetic’s nightmare.  This certainly was not my favorite dish and something I would discourage my customers from ordering.
     
    Next came steak tips. These were very tasty, seasoned properly and marinated well.  However they would have been so much better if thrown on the grill for a few minutes to caramelize the outside of the meat. They looked like they came from a bag and heated in a microwave. As I said they were tasty, just not appealing to the eye. For steak tips they were average and not something I would rush to order again.
     
    Next I tried the baby back ribs. The ribs were very tender and fall off of the bone.  However they were covered in that awful sweet sauce.  I am a person that loves ribs and for me to take a couple of bites and leave them, you know my thought on them. They needed seasoning, and some heat and 90% less sugar. I honestly felt if I ate more of that sweet sauce I would be sick. Ribs might have been good if I could taste anything other then sugar. If this chain thinks that their barbecue sauce is good they need to do a taste test. In my opinion the sweet sauce is a complete failure and only a child in love with candy would appreciate this sauce. 
     
    Next I tried the mash potatoes, which were very rich with cream but lacking in salt and pepper. Once I added some seasoning to the potatoes they were good. They were made from red bliss potatoes cream and butter.  Someone should taste the food before it leaves the kitchen and they would know the potatoes needed seasoning or perhaps the cook forgot the seasoning all together..
     
    Next I tried the sweet potatoes fries. These were not bad in taste, but I like my fries crispy not soggy.  There was nothing at all crisp with these fries.
     
    Next I tried something called snowbird chicken tenders.  My opinion of these batter drenched flavorless chicken tenders was not good.  The better was so dense that it made the chicken tenders soggy. The chicken when you scraped off the batter was moist and tasted like the chicken had been soaked in a brine to give it flavor. It was the batter that was wrong, and needs to be cooked at a higher temperature, so it cooked all the way through. The batter also needs to be seasoned.
     
    Last I tried the chocolate cheesecake, which looked very appealing.  A couple of bites of this and knew it was enough. This dessert was just far too rich and sweet for my taste.  Someone who really likes sweet deserts would enjoy this cake. The eye appeal on this dish was the best of the dishes  that I saw.
     
    Truly enjoyed the coffee and had a second cup.
     
    Overall I would order the Salad, the bread and the coffee again.  I was not impressed with the quality of the dishes I tasted.   I stress that the managers choose the food I tasted so that it would be representative of what my customers might order.
     
    As a tour operator it is so important that we inspect as many hotels and restaurants that we use on our tours before taking our customers to these establishments. Per our customer requests I will publish at least one restaurant review every couple of weeks.
     
    Mel Tye
     

  34. As the year goes on we read our customers comments. You our customers let us know what you like and you don't like. As a tour operator we are also constantly trying to upgrade the quality of the tours with out increasing prices. This happen's as we build relationships, and the chance meeting of sales directors at industry events.   Myself and my staff are always trying to create a situation where everyone wins. This year for example we moved some of our tours to different properties because the rates went up so much last year.  The sales director missed our business and we are back at the Alex Johnson in Rapid City in 2015, and we were able to upgrade from the Quality Ito the Snow King in Jackson Hole. There was nothing wrong with the properties we were using and I will remain friends with the sales directors, however we weree able to increase the quality of the accomodations we use.  In the Canadian Rockies we will be chaning almost all of the hotels on the tour. In Banff the customer comment cards told us that you our customers wanted to be closer to the center of town. You told us that you did not want to take a shuttle and the property we had been using was just too far of a walk. We changed to the High Country Inn. The accomodations are similar at the High Country Inn but the terms are much better which helps us control price increases. In Jasper we will be moving to the new Crimson Hotel. This hotel is in the center of town and will be compleated this fall. This will be the newest hotel in Jasper. The comment cards also indicated you wanted more time in Jasper. The late July trip to the Canadien  Rockies will have an extra day in Jasper because you our customers asked for it. I am torn as the comment cards tell us you don't like the neighborhood around Grandville St.  The city has made great strides in trying to change this neighborhood.  Yes many years ago this part of the city was filled with prostitutes, but no more. This area does have a hip youg vibe with many new restaurants and the hotels all have been remodeled..  We will try staying in other parts of the city to see if you prefer a differnt neighborhood.  Vancouver has a high homeless population  because of the benefits available and climate. We are listening to you our customers and making the changes you request.  Our tours will continue to evolve as we read your comment cards. Tye's Tours is small enough to make changes  and large enough to compete with the big guys. We have the ability to react after we read our tour director reports and your comment cards and emails.
  35. Last week I got to visit one of my favorite destinations the Canadian Rockies as a tour director. What a surprise when I got the lowest tip in my life, in more then 75 trips to the Rockies. The tip averaged $1.75 per person per day and three customers stiffed me completely. This was a real shocker to me as everyone was laughing and seemed to be having a good time.  I know I am one of the best Rockies guide there is but I may have misread my customers. This group seemed to be well traveled and the group leader seemed to know that tipping of driver and guides were customary.   For three days after the trip, I beat myself up trying to figure out what I did wrong and what the guests were unhappy about. After all if I am teaching the classes to our tour directors on being a great tour director, there is no excuse for not acing every tour.  I asked the tour operator, we had arranged the tour for feedback and if he had heard any negative comments. Was I ever surprised when he told me the days were too long. I can’t do much about road construction or accommodating a group leader that wanted to make a stop that added an hour and a half to the day. I  agree when you add an extra three hours to any tour day it is too long, is that the fault of the tour director?  Another surprise was that they were unhappy that I made disparaging remarks about Asians when they cut us off while we were standing in line and were late returning to the snow coach.  I have nothing against the people from Japan who are used to being stuffed into trains during rush hour.  They have to be aggressive to survive, same as in most big cities around the world. I do have a problem with the influx of travelers we are seeing from China that have no manners and are the rudest people in the world as travelers.  You would think that after thousands of years Chinese Civilization and culture would teach the basics of civility.  They push and shove everyone out of the way and eat like pigs at a trough, shoveling in food as fast as they can. Perhaps no one has told them no one is going to take the food away. When I was in China on every trip, I ran into people who were polite and ate like civilized people.  Why are the Chinese travelers so rude and have no regard for anyone but themselves? Are there two sets of behavior for the Chinese Travelers one for at home and one for when traveling? Tye’s Tours was approved as a Chinese inbound tour operator, but I said no, because I do not have the patience nor will I subject my staff to this rude behavior or to watching pigs feeding  at a trough while we are trying to enjoy a meal. When the Chinese traveler becomes civilized I will be more then happy to serve their needs. The third thing that I was told was wrong with the tour was there was to much ethnic food. Vancouver is an international multi cultural city. One night we had Middle Eastern food that was very good.  There were a few that would not even try the food because it was different. They complained the food was too ethnic but refused to even taste it. The reality was that 95% of the travelers said they thought the food was really good. Those that were willing to try something different enjoyed the food. The service was good and the atmosphere was fun. The second night in Vancouver, we had dinner at the Rio Brazilian Steak House, where they serve the meats on swords at the table. They also have a cooked to order pasta bar and dishes like shrimp, salmon, mussels, and assortment of vegetables and salads. They carve both beef and pork ribs at the table and they have a show with the dancing girls to go with the meal. One customer told me that she did not like this type of food and would have preferred steak and potatoes. If she had only asked they would have given this customer all the top sirloin she could eat. I am not sure how one meal out of 8 can be considered too ethnic. Perhaps if I had given our customers Italian food that would have been more acceptable, then heaven forbid trying something knew.  I thought the purpose of travel was to expand ones mind and palette? I think the majority of our customers want something different then what they have at home, am I wrong? Do we have to go back to the boring meat chicken fish meals?

    The customers kept telling me I was the most knowledgeable tour director they had ever had, they told me they liked my sense of humor and how much they were enjoying the time in the Rockies and how fantastic some of the extra stops I added in were. The relity however they were unwilling topay for this knowledge in the form of a tip.
     
    The group leader told me she looked forward to working with me in the future so I was clueless as to why the tips were so low. I can never figure out why anyone who can afford a trip to the Canadian Rockies, have a great time and  are too cheap to take care of the tour director. How do we communicate to our customers that tour directors are dependendent on tips for 50% of their wages?
     
    It turns out that the group was instructed that a tip of $20 a person or $30 a couple was adequate. However even with this low amount most chose to tip in Canadian Dollars. On all of our tours our guides would expect a tip of $3 per person per day if they did an average job $4 per person per day for a good tour and $5 per person per day for an excellent tour.  I wonder how many of our customers could live on $1.75 per person per day tip? The real question is who needs the reality check, my customers or me?
     
    Myself and my staff will continue to strive for excellence and only hope that our customers appreciate what we do for them as tour directors. I am sure that that the low tip was a fluke not a trend. The reality is that if the tips start to trend to be this low we will have to raise prices so our staff can make a livable wage.

    We all need to give ourselves a reality check on a regular basis. I know I did a great job on my last tour. I apologise to any who were offended by my comments about rude travelers. Yes I will continue to try to expand our customers mind and palatte.  To the customers who think tour director's don't know who tip and who do not time for your own reality check.  I only hope that the travelers who did not tip needed the money to but food for them selves rather then compensating me for services rendered. After beating myself up for three days I am certain my reality is not fantacy.
  36. CHICAGO
    This week I am in Chicago always a fun city to visit. I am at a family wedding and have had the opportunity to tour and swap stories with cousins and relatives. My first cousin and myself are the only two in the family that seem to really have the travel bug. We both recalled how when we were little kids we sat at my grandfather’s foot and he would tell us these wonderful stories about where he had been and what he had seen. My siblings and other cousins never seemed to have an interest in these stories. We both agreed at the same time that these were some of our fondest childhood memories and why we both love to travel.

    I rented a minivan to try and make travel easier for some of my relatives GOING FROM VENU TO VENU I was shuttling my relatives back to the hotel after a Fri night rehearsal dinner and was on my third or fourth trip when I saw part of the wedding party trying to hail a cab. I offered them a ride because that is what I would hope someone would do for me if I were in that situation. They thought it was a big deal that we had just met and I was offering this courtesy. I have told my staff time and time again, help everyone you can whenever you can, because these little gestures will some day come back to you. These new friends have shared that I helped them and have already sent other relatives to me looking for travel advice.

    Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a few relatives on a 2.5 hour tour of Chicago and everyone wanted to know how I knew the city so well and had recall of much of the history. Yet they wanted to feed me the factoids they had gained from local guides. They wanted to know I how I knew where the shops that they wanted to go to and the restaurants that they wanted to eat at were located. My only answer was that it is my job as a tour director to know these things. It doesn’t matter if it Boston, New York, Chicago or Charleston or any other city that I have been too I absorb the history and culture of a region. After I have done a tour once or twice I will know that area forever. I watch the PBS channels when travel shows are on, the Food

    network and read about the places I might visit. Hate to say it my mind is like a sponge and can recall this travel trivia. My relatives made a good point an out of town guide will seldom know as much as a local step on guide. When I asked if they were willing to pay for a step on guide the answer was that is why they were doing tours with local guides. I ask the same question to our inbound tour tours and make the same comment to our tour directors. All of our tour directors have to be very knowledgeable of the area they travel to.

    Our staff

    Over the last month I have been riding the coaches with some of our second season guides as I do every year. You have no idea how hard it is for me to sit in the back of the bus and listen to my staff do a tour. My expectations are that every tour director should be as good if not better then me and I forget that I have 30 years of experience. My staff seldom meets my expectations, but you our customers like the personality of our tour directors, which is most important. I assure you I will continue to train the tour directors so they get better and better. One of my tour directors last week pointed out that when they work for other companies they get excellent ratings. The difference is that at Tye’s Tours the bar is much higher, what is excellent to one company is mediocre by my standards. Our tour directors are good and getting better but my expectation is that they will be the best in the industry. By most other company standards they are excellent tour directors, by my standards they are good tour directors. My goal is to provide every customer with the best possible travel experience they can have. Our tour directors constantly get requests and they work for other companies when I don't have work for them to gain experience. You our customers tell us how nice and caring they are and how much fun they are to be with. I want to build on that experience and not only have warm caring tour directors but the most knowledgeable tour directors in the industry.

    Spirit of Boston

    I had the pleasure of going out on the Spirit of Boston on June 30. To my surprise Entertainment cruises classed up the ship. In the past their was loud music where it was impossible to talk, the crew tried to sing and dance and were generally pretty bad although they thought they were entertaining. The food was always cold and mediocre at best in the past. The new menu was not only hot and tasty but had a good variety. The young lady doing the narration was ok and with practice could become good. This didn’t mater as I was by my customers tables and was doing a running commentary for my customers.

  37. Tye’s Tours  People to People program to Kenya
     
    5 years ago when Tye’s Tours first started bringing our customers to Kenya, we found some of the native village people living in filth and squalor.
    The children were naked and living surrounded by animal and human dung, flies carrying disease were everywhere as was broken glass and plastic
    wrappers. The village elders did not understand that the kids were dying because of the unsanitary conditions they were living in.
     
    Tye’s Tours took on the task of trying to help support a few villages and help raise the standard of living.  5 years later the kids are going to school,
    the filth has been cleaned up, the mortality rate is down, the village now has a well and the village is using outhouses. The village we have been
    helping, now has a one-room schoolhouse and the children are excited to be in school.  The village now has an educated teacher and the leaders of the
    village can all read and write. This is a direct result of responsible tourism.  We are making a difference and changing the world one tour at a time.
     
    This is what our customers are saying
    When Mel told us we were going to be visiting with some of the peoples in the Masai villages, I was excited to be sharing and learning from them.
    Since I belong to the missions committee in our church and we share a partnership with a church in Zimbabwe, I thought I had some idea as to how these people lived.

    I was not, however, prepared for the genuinely warm welcome we received as these wonderful people sang and danced for us and welcomed us into their homes.
    They were proud of their one-room huts with walls comprised of elephant dung, grass and water and elephant grass roofs, which the woman built.


    Their furniture consisted of two beds, one on either side of he room, made of sticks covered with cowhides. The women had a sense of humor, the men are tall and the doors
    to the huts are about 4' tall so the men have to bow down to the women to enter the huts.

    We were privileged to visit the children in school. This wooden one room school had been built by donations from tourist and a couple of dozen children were in class.
    We were greeted by songs of Jesus loves you and then they sang the alphabet song and shouted out parts of the body as a young teacher pointed them out. These beautiful
    smiling faces were so eager to please and so happy to see us. We shared with them some school supplies we had brought and eager hands reached out. The kids were so pleased
    to have their own pencil. We donated money for school uniforms as no child may attend school without one, which the chief accepted gratefully. It takes only $30 for a child to have
    a chance at an education. For many earning $30 can take up to a year, and some can never raise this money. The main source of income is selling trinkets to the few tourists
    that visit. The children all learn English and most are Christians. Once they are 10 years old, they walk approx 5 miles each way to a community school.

    These wonderful people were so very happy with so very little. It made me feel so blessed and so sad that I hadn't done more to help these people. I remember 1 teenager
    telling me that when he went away to a boarding high school, he was told to bring his mattress and so he brought his cow hide, the other children laughed at him, the teachers
    bought him a mattress.

    This was truly one of the highlights of the trip.

    We stopped at a picnic area. We had been given generous box lunches. There were some stray cats around and I gave some chicken skin from my cold chicken leg to the cat.
    Then I looked behind one of the picnic huts and saw a young teen. I gave him some fruit from my box, which he gratefully took. Then I collected all the unopened food from the others
    and brought it to the boy and he shared it with 2 others.

    The next time we had a picnic lunch, we all only took what we really needed to eat and then boxed up the rest, which the guide gave to some children along the way.

    That was another “feel good” moment.

    The safaris and the beautiful animals were exciting but I’ll most remember the people.

    Geri
     
    In 2013 as a graduation present from high school my Aunt took me on a safari to Kenya with Tye’s Tours. I left feeling lucky as I had overcome a number of hardships in my life.
    Seeing the wild life up close was amazing but sharing time in some of the villages changed my life.  I never thought that I would be 10 feet from a lion in the wild, seeing a rare
    snow leopard, lion cubs, or elephants a few days old. I realized how blessed and fortunate I was compared to the people we met who were happy with so little. I never could have
    imagined dancing with the native people would give me so much joy or giving a kid a pen would make me feel so good. If you ever have the opportunity to travel
    with Mel Tye to Africa it is worth every penny and the difficulty of getting there. 

    CA

     

    Please help us change the world one tour, at a time and experience the joy of interacting with these wonderful people.  In the USA we take for granted
    many of the blessings we have: water when you turn on the tap, food in supermarkets, pencils and paper. The food we through away every week would
    feed a village for a month. 

     
    Tye’s Tours will be returning to Kenya each and every May and we will be taking small groups with no more then 24 people at a time. We do this so we may interact with the people
    of the villages with out changing their culture. The gifts of school supplies and school uniforms are giving children a chance for an education they would not have with out our help.
    The dollars you spend are building schools, digging wells, getting doctors to the people and creating sanitary conditions for the villages. There is so much work to be done with very
    limited resources. There are no administrative and every dollar you spend as a tourist goes direct to those that can benefit the most. These people are very proud
    of their way of life and traditions. They are not looking or wanting charity but choose to improve their lives by sharing their culture and crafts with the
    tourists willing to visit. 
     
    You can’t imagine the joy a child has when he is able to draw in color with a marker or a box of crayons for the first time, or the pride a small child has of owning his own pen and pad
    of paper. The joy a mother has in sharing her humble home with strangers from a far away land.  Listening to teenage boys telling stories of how they were punished
    and forced to go to school because they fell asleep while tending the family herd resulting in a cow being killed by a wild animal is heartwarming. 
     
    My goal is to eventually to be able to send containers of school supplies rather then suitcases and give as many kids as I can at a chance for education.
     
    A trip to Kenya with Tye’s Tour is a life changing experience.   
  38. Last night I received a call from a customer and a friend who was going to Hawaii to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary.  I was told that her husband was going into the hospital for emergency bypass surgery. Other family members werer flying to Hawaii as a sureprise. Out of 40 travelrs only 6 had purchased insurance. They don't believe the airlines will only give them a credit for future travel and not a refund. the hotel is charging a penalty because the rooms were canceled less then 30 days out. I have spent the day trying to negotiate deals on the part of my customers. They are asking me why I did not insist on them buying insurance or build it into the package.   I explained that the cost of insurance was 7% of the package and the principal decided that he would roll the dice and use the money for insurance on something else. the dice came up snake eyes.  I can't stress enough how important it is to have travel insurance. There is that old line:  When you need insurance you say thank god I have it and when you don't need it you say why did I buy it.

    On a second note many of you have been asking me about the paranormal investigations we have been running. In Jan. when I was first approched  about running these tours I was very sceptical. I would be the first to admit I did not believe in ghosts or the spirit world. My personal belief was when you are dead you are dead. It is a finality. Over the last six months as I have done more and more of these investigations my mind is changing. I still think that some of the images my guests claim they are seeing are due to vivid imaginations. On the otherhand I have listened to some of the conversations and have seen first hand interactions with the Spirit World and have started to believe. If you are interested in learning more about paranormal investigations and I will put you in touch with the four groups we are working with.  I started as a nonbeliever with an open mind and now I am a skeptical believer.

    My next blog will be from Kenya

  39. What a week 
    This week has been an interesting week. First of all I have engaged in a battle with 
    Princess Cruise who refuse to pay commissions owed. Princess claim that because many 
    of our customers originate from overseas they are not our customers. Tye's Tours spends 
    a great deal of time, money, and energy developing an international customer base. 
    Princess instead will send US jobs overseas so that they can charge overseas customers 
    an inflated rate. I urge all readers to boycott Princess Cruises and to send letters to 
    Princess customer relations stating that you feel travel agents should be paid for the work 
    they do. It is wrong that Princess will not allow US travel agents to compete in the Global 
    Marketplace but allows overseas travel agents to take our customers. We no longer will 
    sell any Pricess Cruise or tour and am encouraging an industry wide boycott until 
    Princess changes this policy. Tye's Tours will only sell Carnival Corp products by request 
    and will no longer sell or allow agents or affilates to sell Princess Cruises or products. 
    Carnival owns, Princess, Holland Ameriica, Cunard, Grayline of Alaska, and Princess 
    Tours. Hopefully the industry will take a stand aginst the Carnival Corp. 
    What a week
  40. Amee Farms 
    This past week I had the opportunity to visit Amee Farms in Pittsfield, Vermont. This 
    place is truly unique if you are looking for a quiet getaway and want to experience Rural 
    Vermont. The Wifi access was good, no cell phones ringing one TV in the lobby and I 
    don't recall seeing a phone in the rooms. I don't know how Perfect Vermont found me and 
    perhaps read some of my travel blogs. On arrival I met some of the other visitors who all 
    seemed to have some connection to either being bloggers or endurance athletes. I was 
    sort of the old buck and was twice the age of anyone I met. The other guests reminded me 
    of the people I knew in the outing club at U Mass. The guests reminded me of the 
    conversations and experiences I had when I was in my 20's and thought I was imortal. 
    Tom and Erlin were the hosts and were very gracious. I started to think I was in the 
    wrong place when the conversations were about death races and Spartan races and i was 
    looking for commonality. I was the only person invited that was in the travel industry. I 
    arrived at the farm at about 3:30 and was looking for a cold beer after driving three hours. 
    I found a jug of cold water with lemon and a tray of veggies and dip. I got it I was in a 
    place for people with a healthy life style. I am glad I stopped for a couple of slices of 
    Pizza on the drive up. My room had a queen bed and was very comfortable but I did not 
    get the decor of old beat up shutters on the wall. As I strolled through the inn I realized 
    that distressed doors and recycled barns was the decor of the place. At 4:30 we loaded up 
    in cars and drove to some of the other buildings. The first building was an old horse barn 
    where the upstairs had been converted into 8 rooms with bunk beds and two bathrooms. 
    A great place if you had a large family or had guests wanting Spartan accommodations. 
    We slogged through the slush and visited other spaces used for functions. Probably a nice 
    spot if you wanted an event in a barn. In the summer I was told the meadow is full of 
    wild flowers and there are miles of trails for guests to go mountain biking and snow 
    mobiling. I myself was looking for things like a pool, a bar, a hot tub. 
    That evening we were served a vegetarian meal that was very tasty and I was grateful 
    there was beer and wine flowing. An hour after eating I was starving and felt gas 
    building up in my system. Stayed up listening to stories of other guests until about 10:30. 
    The other guests all seemed to have great stories to tell of their adventures. I went 
    upstairs to answer emails and to use the bathroom in my room. As I passed though the 
    breakfast area I stumbled across some burnt chocolate chip cookies and stale muffins and 
    some fruit and scoffed them down. 
  41. The last few weeks have been very busy. I was in New Orleans for Mardigras and this 
    was my first trip to New Orleans at Mardigras. It was a trip-watching adults grovel for 
    beads. This was followed up with Red Sox Spring training. Next years trip is already 
    posted. We will also be adding a Ft Myers Beach escape. I truly enjoyed Ft Myers and it 
    is a great location for a short winter getaway. This trip is also posted. Then it was a 
    chocolate and pastry tour in n Paris. This tour was a great deal of fun and lots of laughs. 
    Next year I added an extra day so that we have time to drink champagne. If you are a 
    foodie this trip is amazing. It was very educational learning about good chocolate and 
    how our favorite chocolate treats are made. i think I ate more chocolate this past weekend 
    than I have in a year. Did I mention we also went to these amazing bakeries and 
    discovered that I would be twice my size if I did this tour very often? some of my guests 
    had no self control and ate more chocolate and pastry then they should have and 
    wondered why they got sick. 
    WHERE HAS MEL BEEN
  42. Next week I will be heading off to the ABA marketplace where I will be meeting with buyers and sellers of travel products. This morning I received an email and a call asking me to share advice on how to make the most of convention time.

    Here are my tips

    1. In 30 seconds or less you have to be able to tell whats knew
    2. Do twice as much listening as talking. When you are talking no one is buying. Shut up, listen and ask questions to determin needs.
    3. In less then a minute you have to be able to tell customers why they need you.
        How are you going to save them time, money, service the account and increase the bottom line.?
    4. No one cares how much you know, you can always share your knowledge at a later time.
    5. Be ready to do business
    6. Only promise what you can deliver
    7. Don't be late for appointments
    8. In 10 seconds be able to find out if the person you are talking to is a potential customer.
  43. Happy New Year !!!
    It is hard to believe that it is 2014. Where has the time gone? When I was younger I was told that time seems to speed up as you get older, I never believed this, but now seem to find this true. There never seems to be time to do all that needs to be done. Like everyone else my intentions are to get more things done in a year
    then actually get done.  I like you try to set priorities, and look at the folder of things that did not get done grow. None of us know what is coming tomorrow, so take the time from your busy day to be a friend. Find the time to help some one, share your knowledge, and the life lessons we learn. 

    This past New Year's Eve I went out with friends I had not seen in awhile. We were reminiscing about trips we
    had shared over the last few years and soon realized that the last few years spanned 20 years and the memories that seemed like they were last years, took place many years ago.  I realized that my reference point for my whole life was travel related; the places I had been, the adventures I shared, the memories created. Some how we got on the subject of my earliest travel memories. When I was kid our whole family piled into the family car and drove to North Carolina to visit my grand parents and relatives on mothers side. We never realized my parents did not have much money, until much later in life. As kids it was an adventure, where my mom packed food because they could not afford restaurants. We ate fried chicken, fought with my siblings and arrived the next day. What I remembered was the excitement of seeing my cousins, going to the beach, and trying strange foods.  I remember things like visiting my great grandmother in a nursing home and stopping to get crabs on the way home. I remember my grandmother scraping out the filling of the crab shells reheating it, placing it back in the shells and being served deviled crab for the first time. That taste always stayed with me and I have searched for those flavors when ever I travel south.  I remember my grandfather telling me tales of his last cruise or his last trip to exotic places with Uncle Harry and dreamed about visiting these places myself. When I think back to these times I was only five or six and caught the travel bug at an early age.  When we were at the beach my southern cousins joined us for a week or two and we soon learned that if we wanted money for candy or ice cream we had to earn it.  My older brother and myself walked up and down the beach and the fish pier in Morehead City collecting soda bottles and were paid 2 cents a bottle we collected. When our wagon got full with bottles we would cash them in. At that time 24 bottles bought us each a candy bar, 48 bottles was two ice cream cones. This was my first lesson in conservation and was appalled when people would through empty bottles into the ocean instead of giving them to me to recycle.  Knowing how hard we had to work to get a candy bar gave me the work ethic that served me later in life. I remember at 16 that my parents allowed me to travel to Niagara Falls with friends from high school. This was my first road trip with friends, no adults, and we camped out along the way. Thinking back I recall how much fun we had singing overlooking Niagara Falls and people putting coins in our hats. I recall being amzed by the falls and visiting the Matts brewry in NY 
     
    When I was in college I was constantly traveling with the Outing Club and when I could save up enough money
    I would have an adventure. My junior year my advisor told me I had too many credits and suggested I go overseas or I would graduate in January of my senior year. What started off as a junior year abroad program ended up as my senior year.  I spent six months in England and when I submitted my grades I was sent a letter telling me that I had completed all requirements for my BS. There was no space in my department and if I wished to return to the University for my senior year I would have to change majors. While in England I
    learned to fly gliders and learned about navigation for my pilot’s license. Rather then returning home I applied for a job on an expedition and ended up traveling from Morocco to Capetown overland for the next 8 months. This was my real education where I learned what I had been taught in books was not entirely true in the real world. When I returned to the US all I wanted to do was save up enough money to go someplace else. I was visiting the places my grandfather told me about as a kid, and having similar adventures myself. It was not long before I was enrolled in travel school and have been sharing my adventures now for 30 plus years.
     
    As we begin the new year by reminiscing about time gone by, my adventures, the friends I have made, and the friends I have lost I can’t wait to share my next adventure with those that will join me.   May you all have a healthy prosperous year and join me on one of my adventures. We can never laugh enough, or share experiences unless we step out of our comfort zones.
     
    I will do my best to  share my adventures with you this year through my blog.


    Mel 
  44.  So many questions about the Patriots Dolphin weekend Dec 14 -16
    I thought I would put all the answers in one place. Last year we had some challenges and I have taken steps to fix all issues. I have changed hotels as the Beach Plaza Hotel management was deceptive with half truths.They never told me that the suites promised were not accessible by elevator. I think everyone will find the South Seas Hotel Comfortable.   We had a xhallenge with airlines changing schedules. The Non stop flights from Manchester to Ft Lauderdale on southwest are gone. I have 40 seats reserved with a connection through Tampa. You can also buy your own ticket so the constant changing of flights no longer exiss.
    1.We will be flying out of Manchester on Dec 14 at 7:15 AM on Southwest with a change of planes in Tampa. there are no nonstop flights scheduled on southwest at this time. The return flight will depart at 4:10 PM and arrive in Manchester at 8:25 PM with a change of planes in Tampa. We want to avoid changing planes in Baltimore because of possible winter storms.
    2. Can we get our own air tickets? Yes, if you use the instant purchase fares on Southwest the tickets are $283, the group fare is $400. I encourage everyone to buy the seats while they are available and deduct the $400 off of the package. Group fares can name change instant purchase fares can not.
    3. Last year we had a challenge when South west changed us to Air Tran. If Southwest should change you to an Airtran Flight their will be no baggage charge and policies are now consistent. Southwest will only change you to an Airtran flight if they cancel one of their own flights.
    4. We will be staying at the South Seas Hotel on Collins Ave.  
    http://www.southseashotel.com/default-en.html
    the rooms are small at this hotel but they have a great location with direct access to the beach from the back of the hotel.
    5. Can you just get tickets to the game. Yes Game only tickets will be $100 and you will be welcome at the tail gate party if you want to join other New England fans.
    6. If you want to do optional sightseeing it must be prebooked before we depart. The culinary tours sell out fast and we want to be sure we have  enough passengers to run a bus to the air boat rides.
    7. If you have other questions please email or call me.
  45. So many of you have asked for a tour to see the july 4th Nathan's Hot Dog eating contest, and the Macy's 4th of July fireworks that we have added this new tour. if you tell us what you want we will create product o meet your needs.
  46. As most of you know this week there were two major things that happened in the tour industry. The disaster on the Carnival Triumph is going to drive the price of cruises down. Watch for cruise sales in the next couple of weeks. The long anticipated merger of  American and USair is going to drive the prices up.

    In the las t couple of years we have had United and Continental merge, Delta and Northwest, American and Usair, Southwest and Airtran. The reality is that the otherairlines will have to align themselves in order to compete. I wonder  how long the other major players will remain independent. I am guessing that we will probably see Alaska and Hawaiian airlines coming togetheror Alaska,  Hawaiian and Jet Blue coming together. If you go all the way back to when the airlines were first deregulated the prediction was that the free market in the US could support five airlines. We are at that stage where in the next few years we will find the US market will have five airlines and little competition. 
  47. I have been working all weekend adding new tours to the web site and correcting errors you our customers told me about after receiving our last news letter. I do appreciate everyones feedback. Please let us know what you want for tours so we can add the right products for you.

    I have changed the Ogunquit overnight, have some of the theater tours up, I have added theBoston  Tea Party Ships, I have added the new trip to the Beronx Zoo, and a host of other new tours.

    I am alos working on giving the website a fresh look, everything takes time and I am responding to suggestions as quick as I can.

    For those that sent me emails that I have not been responsive as normal. The comments are fare. I came down with the flu and spent several days in bed. I just have not been able to work my normal 14 hour day. I am feeling much better and my response time should improve. 

    To all of our customers please be aware that many of the airlines are increasing charges for baggage. As of Feb 15 No more free bags to Mexico or the Carib. If you fly expect to pay a baggage fee. 

    As the airlines merge their is no consistency in policy. If you fly on Southwest you get bags free but if you fly on Airtran you pay for bags. The airlines are merging but they are still two airlines.

    Yes the cruiselines are discounting again and yes great deals can be found on cruises.

    Please ask your friends to sign up for our newsletters.

    Mel
  48. I have just returned from the ABA marketplace in Charlotte. I have been adding new tours as fast as I can type them. We have added Jersey Boys  Feb 23 and Wicked Sept 7, both in Boston. We will be doing Segway safaris at Clark's Trading Post this summer. We will be creating new tours to the NY Botanical Gardens which we have not done in years.  Ogunquit Playhouse has their show schedule out and I will be posting the summer theater trips in the next couple of days. I ask that if you have suggestions for 2013 let me know as I honestly don't know what you the consumer wants any more.  

    The good news is that prices appear to be stable thrrough 2013 with very small increases. The airlines are going crazy the service keeps getting worse and the prices keep going up. If you plan to fly buy your tickets early or you will pay through the nose. The airlines are not discounting for group seats and are charging more then for instant purchase seats.

    What seems to be hot is Europe because of the strength of the dollar. Culinary tours are becoming more and more popular as we become more aware that processed food is not good for us. Wine tasting tours are still popular as are the National Parks.

    I can't wait to get back to Africa in May, and hope that many of you will join me for this amazing experience.

    Mel 
  49. I was just in the Mushroom capital of Pensylvania tweaking our new Mushroom farm tour. Please look at the new iteneraries on line. I thank all of our partners in the Brandywine Valley who helped us develop this new tour.

    I did not knowe the mushroom had so many uses including medical uses until I visited the Mushroom Cap store. A big thank you to Cathy and her staff for sharing their knowlege with our guests.

    Until I did this tour I was unaware of how fast mushrooms grow and how many pounds are harvesated in a day by hand.

    For our shoppers PA has great outlet stores and our holiday shopping tour will be a big hit.

    For our gardeners coming the flower show with the mushroom tour is going to be a big hit in 2013.

    The food at the Brandywine Prime restaurant gets cudos. Michael and the staff did an outstanding job.

    We found out that at the present time, trying to be in as tudio audience as part of a group at QVC is not realistic.

    As a male I am always surprised by the purchases our customers make in outlet stores. We will meet this demand and develop better outlet shopping tours.  If you are from outside of New  Hampshire the Merrimack Premium outlets are open and we have great shopping packages for groups in tax free NH. We have negotiated rates at area hotels so you do nto have tto.

    Mel
  50. OVER THE LAST WEEK WE HAVE HAD MANY REQUESTS FOR JERSEY BOYS IN BOSTON. I ADDED FEB 23 AS A 2:00PM PERFORMANCE. WE ONLY HAVE A LIMITED NUMBER OF TICKETS. THIS WILL MAKE A GREAT CHRISTMAS PRESENT.
  51. I WANT TO WISH ALL OF MY FRIENDS FAMILY AND CUSTOMERS JOYOUS WISHES FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON. WE ALL HAVE TO BE THANKFULL FOR THE THINGS WE HAVE AND LET THE THINGS WE DON'T HAVE GO.

    To all of you who keep telling me the check is in the mail. 
    I now have more then 30 hotels that have told me the check is in the mail. We don't expect you to work with out getting paid so why do you expect us to work with out getting paid? So many of you keep telling me that it is no big deal but when you have 30 hotels owing between $200 and $500 it adds up quickly. In 2013 I think I am going to start posting my dead beat hotel list.

    To our customers that expect me to buy air tickets and theater tickets with out getting paid the answer is no.

    This Dec has been a very interesting Dec. we started out the month to Miami to watch the Patriots play the Dolphins. The Patriot's won but played poorly. It was nice to have a time in the sun to enjoy South Beach. Working with the airlines is becoming more and more challenging as the airlines merge and consolodate. Non stop flights keep going away and come back a week later at a higher fare. When we book a group and then move the group when airlines cancel a flight, and then the airlines won't give us the original seats back it becomes a nightmare. Southwest which used to be an easy airline to work with has become very difficult to work with. The want to get away fares are lower then the group fares and we have to book these fares first and put the remaineder on group fares. This means multiple records and problems when the airlines change schedules. I long for the good old days.

    I am not sure what is going on with our customers as this is the first year in 20 years where most of the holiday tours have canceled. We did not run one, one day shopping tour to NY this Dec. and have had very few customers on the overnight tours. I sure hope that when the government figures out what they are going to to do about taxes, social security, medacare, and medicaide that our customers start spending money again. 

    Several New England Tour Companies are closing their doors or have closed their doors this year. I appreciate all referals especaily group referals sent my way.

    I was at the Vienna Boys Choir in Springfield last week. Everyone seemed to enjoy the show.  The music was soothing even If we could not understand the words.

    Mel

  52. I hope everyone had a great Holiday. The Wed. before the Holiday I was advised that two more New England companies were no longer going to be operating tours  leaving another whole in the market. We will do our best to try and fill these holes and hope you will send referals our way. 

    It is getting harder and harder to fill the motorcoaches as the senior population ages and expeses don't keep up with income. At one time the cost of a touer was based on 40 passengers as that was the average load factor on a motor coach. We are now basing the price of a tour so that it can operate with 25 paying passengers. Yes this means the price of the tours will be more expensive but the alternative is to cancel the tours.  A bus now costs close to a $1000 a day. That means transportation costs based on 25 paying passengers is now $40 a day. The average lunch is now running $20 per person with tax and tip. By the time we add in either an attraction, an event or a theater ticket day trips are going to average a $100 a day and overnight trips are going to average $175 a day. The reality is that because day trips are costing a $100 a day their are fewer seniors that can afford to travel like they used to.   

    Every tour company in the country is looking to develop new markets to bridge the gap and replace the traditional senior travelers. This means you the consumer are going to find fewer and fewer traditional tours where everyone does the same thing.  You are going to see more and more specialty tours or more and more Hop on Hop off passes for sightseeing. We all have to evolve or go out of business.

    Tipping once again is becoming an issue where our tour directors are working harder and harder  and the individual and the groups are neglecting to tip. Tour directors are dependent on their tips to make up 50% of their income. When someone fails to reward a tour director for the services they offer they are forced to seek other employment. The most common line we now here from group leaders to tour directors is we will take care of the tip and will send the office a check when we get home. Of course the checks seldom if ever come. Several of the motor coach companies are now adding a madatory 15% drivers service charge to the bills, driving the costs up further.  

    As a tour company when one of our vendors screw up the customers hold us responcible. If the vendors are unwilling to offer us a refund we end up with the choice of not using the vendor again and most often refunding part of the trip costs direct to the consumer. We will always do what is right for our customers as it is far easier to keep a customer then constantly be looking for new customers.

    We wish everyone a jouous holiday season
  53. I just returned from a week in Las Vegas and thought I would share this information. The Duce ( that runs on the strip) has now gone  up to $8 for a 24 hour pass $6 for a two hor pass. The monorail is now $5 per ride. I had the opportunity to visit the new visitors center at Hoover Dam and to see the new bridge. I highly recommend this stop it is worth the $35 it costs to see the site. 

    For years we have promoted the free trips to Laughlin. The trips are no longer free and cost about $10 and only go on Mon. Wed. and Fri. This is a 10 hour day to ride to another gaming town. We are going to drop this feature in 2013.

    I had the opportunity to stay at a couple of different Vegas Hotels. I like the Trop it is bright and light but the crowds just were not there. The food at the Beach Cafe and the upscale restaurants was good and many in my group ate many meals at the Beach Cage. The other restaurants were expensive and not very good. I don't like Starbucks which is the coffee shop.

    I stayed at Hooters a couple of nights as I had never been to a Hooters Hotel. If you are looking for $25 rooms off the strip but close to the MGM and the Trop. this place is ok if you like dark and dingy. I did not find the property clean inside or out. The information given by the girls at the front desk was unreliable at best. I would never reccomend this hotel.

    I was pleasently surprised by the Flamingo. The hotel was busy and the renovations are almost complete. I would not hesitate in putting people in this hotel. I myself like the quiet of the Trop. but others who want to be surrounded by peole and noise liked the Flamingo.

    I was impressed with the decore at the Winn and the Bellagio. This was my first visit to either hotel.

    One night I ate at the Heart Attack Grill the food and drinks were pretty good, the idea of putting on a hospital gown a bit hokey.

    One night I ate at the Fremont Casino Buffet. I was surprised by the quality and the low price. I also ate at the Flamingo buffet one day and have to say that I thought the quality at the Freemont Casino was better.

    Made the stop at Ethel M Chocolates. Everything in this store is overpriced but I do enjoy the cactus garden.

    Happy Thanksgiving 
  54. It is Feb 09 and I can't belive that spring is only a month away. Many of you have cabin fever and looking to get away. There is still plenty of space on the March 21 Florida Escape. People are traveling again and many of the tours are selling out. Those of you who are still waiting for the last minute to book your escapes may find that their is no space when you get around to booking. I urge you not to wait to the last minute as you have done in past years. 30 days out we are releasing space to the hotels which means the space is not available anymore for the last minute booking. We will however always try to accomodate you but we have to charge for the cost of contacting all of the vendors to find space for you.

    Mel

  55. This weeks blog deals with a question I was asked earlier this week and that is: “how do I see the industry changing and how we are adapting to this change.”

    The most noticeable change is our customers are getting younger and younger every year if not in age then in spirit.  I have met many people who are old at 70 and many people who are young at 80. A person’s physical age is not really relevant, but the mental age curiosity, and physical ability is most important. Our vacation packages are designed for the free spirit and the concept that the motor coach is used for transportation not for exploring a destination.  Our customers are telling us that anything longer then 2.5 hours on a coach is too long and five hours is the absolute limit for a days travel.  I had the unpleasant experience of being shifted from Amtrak to Grayhound last month because of New England flooding. We ended up going to DC by bus one way and returning by train the other way. All I can say about riding all day on a Grayhound bus was it got me where I wanted to go, but was uncomfortable and I was stiff. My backside was sore and I was miserable cramped with no leg room. This made me evaluate the coaches we are using and I can assure you I am looking for coaches that have less seats and more legroom. We will never go more then 2.5 hours with out a stretch stop, rest stop, and food stop and will not spend more then five hours riding on a coach if we can avoid it.  We are committed to using only hotels that offer free Wi- Fi as our customers don’t have to be connected but desire to be connected. If a hotel is not offering Free Wi-Fi  we are dropping these hotels like a hot potato. We will not subject our customers to the hotel that think they are offering the customer a service at $9.95 a day for Internet connectivity. In 2010 I have pulled series contracts from 23 hotels that refused to offer our guests free Internet access. This is a non-negotiable point on all future contracts. If a hotel does not offer free Internet Access then our guests will be staying in other hotels. The herding of our guests to group dinners is a thing of the past along with the three choice menus. On the majority of our overnight tours our guests will receive prepaid credit cards where they can choose how they spend the money for a meal. They may choose to eat Gourmet one night and a burger the next. Our tour director will always have suggested restaurants and will always invite those that would like the social aspects of a group meal to dine together. We have also taken out much of the structure of a tour so our guests can explore the places that interest them at there own pace. This means in most cities we will have hop on hop off passes included. This last week I was asked why we are using so few step on guides and the answer is our customers don’t want to ride on a bus for three hours and listen to blah blah blah. They would rather use the coach to get to an area and then explore. Boring museums are gone, inter active, and living history museums are in. Our customers from overseas now want wine included in meals and coffee tea and water are no longer acceptable. We are finding that many of our customers prefer small tours and will spend the money to have their own driver guide. The most important change is our customers understand the difference between value and price. They will spend a little more to have greater value. The industry evolves every year and we are changing to meet the needs of our customers.

    Mel Tye

  56. Many of you have asked that I update you on whats going on with my attempts to get the Chinese tourist to the USA.

    As of today our first group of travelers from China will be arriving on April 7 and will be doing a 10 day Boston, New York and Washington Trip. If you read my newsletter ( CLICK ON THE NEWSLETER TAB   on the website.) you will see that this has been a long process and has taken more then a year to get the travelers here. The issue has been one of getting Visas. This has been a learning process for Tye's Top Tour & Travel as this is a new area for us.

    For the last year I have been very involved in the China inbound program and have been trying to help travel agents and my fellow tour operators capture part of this growing market. You will find that if you get involved in this market there are a few things you have to be aware of.  Once you understand the requirements and procedures then you might be successful in bringing inbound travel from China to the USA.

    I have told many of my colleagues I would leave sign posts and share my experience as I went along.

    1. Ask for Visa numbers. The Chinese Travelers will send passport numbers and then discover they cannot get Visas, resulting in wasted effort on everyone’s part.

    1. When the Chinese Travelers apply for Visa the US Consular officers will ask for a number of items. If they can’t produce any of these items the Visasare being denied with out explanation.
      1. They have to prove they are traveling with one of the 172 approved tour operators for inbound travel from China.

      1. The traveler must prove they will return to China or the visa is treated as an immigrant Visa. In order to prove the visitor does not intend to immigrate to the USA once hear, they must establish the following criteria.

    a. They have close relatives in China the y will be returning to

    b. They own property

    c. They have a bank account with substantial amount

    Become familiar with the information on this page.

      http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/niv_info.htmlhelp your customers with this application form https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/  almost 25% of our  Chinese customers are unable to fill out the Visa form with out assistance. This page will answer many of your questions about visas. http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/niv_faq.html

           

      1. The Chinese often require all group contracts to be signed in person in China. If you are doing a group contract, every contract has to be notarized and you have to pay a notary fee equal to .3% of the value of the contract. I urge you to make sure that you do not have to send someone to China to sign a contract and have a clear understanding of who is paying for the notary fees. I was very surprised when I was told the notary fee had to be paid in cash; as the Chinese government does not accept checks and credit cards for these fees.

      1. Please review the requirements for offering travel to the USA for Chinese citizens.

      Leisure travel from China is heavily regulated. China has signed bilateral agreements with more than 90 countries in order to facilitate the ability of leisure travel groups to travel outside of the country. Travelers may only use travel agents approved to conduct outbound travel.Likewise, a Chinese travel agent may only use a tour operator that is on an approved list to arrange leisure travel for Chinese groups.

      Tour operators in the receiving country must have policies and procedures in place to ensure that Chinese groups would have the best possible travel experience and have access to Chinese-speaking guides, materials, etc. In countries with which China has outbound travel agreements, the receiving country's government is tasked with regulating its tour operators to ensure compliance with these policies and procedures.

      In the United States, the government will not fulfill that role. The government has looked to the private sector to self-regulate tour operators engaged in Chinese inbound travel to the United States. NTA is uniquely positioned and was the obvious choice to take a leadership role in facilitating the inbound tourism.

      With its long history of tour operator education and industry self-regulation through membership requirements, NTA is the most qualified U.S. organization to fulfill this role.

      The NTA China Inbound Program

      On February 20,2009 NTA became the only U.S. trade association to have a program for tour operator regulation accepted by the Chinese National Tourism Administration.

      1. The Tour Operator shall commit to be directly, legally and economically responsible to each tour participant for each component/element/aspect of the group tourist travel occurring in the US.
      1. The Tour Operator shall commit that group tourist travel in the US shall be in strict accord with itinerary   and that any changes to the itinerary must be approved by the group tourists and/or their travel agent.

      1. The Tour Operator shall commit that group tourist travel itineraries and pricing information shall be in  Mandarin Chinese and in English.
      2. The Tour Operator shall commit that group tourist travel shall have a guide or accompanier fluent in  Mandarin Chinese.
      3. The Tour Operator also must attest that no aspect of the itinerary will be misrepresented and that the  location and quality of lodging must be accurately portrayed in tour advertising and confirmations.

      1. The Tour Operator shall commit to utilizing suppliers and contractors that are sufficiently licensed,  maintain up-to-date registration and insurance and are in compliance with applicable laws, rules and  regulations relevant to their tour function.

      1. The Tour Operator shall commit to reviewing crash data, safety ratings and safety records of motorcoach subcontractors utilized for China Inbound Group Travel. The Tour Operator shall also commit to  utilizing motorcoach subcontractors properly licensed in the state(s) of operation for China Inbound  Group Tour Travel and which are in compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulations.

      1. The Tour Operator shall commit that shopping opportunities for China Inbound Tour Groups shall be  conducted without coercion at reputable shopping facilities, with quality products, with the greatest care  f or visitor safety and well-being.

      1. The Tour Operator shall commit to participation in educational programming in order to keep abreast of  current issues and trends in the Chinese Inbound U.S. market.
      2. Lastly, beware of the request for special gifts. On my last trip to China I was told that a contract could not be signed until I produced a special gift for the managers I was working with. I was further told that the gifts I had brought were too insignificant for the business we were doing and only gold or gemstones were acceptable. I was taken shopping so that I could produce an appropriate gift. I felt I was being told that if I did not pay this  bribe the contract was dead. This does not happen in all of China but in specific areas. My advisor told me what was expected was a minimum gift value at $400 - $500 for every million dollars in business.

    1. I have been traveling over the last few weeks. My last big trip was to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Hard to believe but this was my first time experiencing Mardi Gras in New Orleans. First of all the Myth that girls show their breasts to get beads never happened. I was told that this used to take place on Bourbon Street along time ago when pigs were on the balconies. Since they no longer allow the parades on Bourbon St this behavior is not as common and is discouraged. When I saw adults groveling in the gutter for plastic beads I began asking the question of where the custom of throwing beads come from. I asked many people including in Mardi Gras store and in the Museums and did not get an answer. No one seemed to know why but only it was a tradition, that people throw thousands of dollars of beads and creates mounds of trash. Since no one was able to tell me including local tour guides I did some research. Lots of different stories but this makes the most sense. he story traces back to when Alex Romanoff from Russia, visited New Orleans. He was given their strings of crystal beads one purple, one, gold, and one green. The gold represented wealth, the purple power and the green justice. When Romanoff cast of these beads it was symbolic that while in New Orleans he was casting off 
      responsibility and was allowed to party with the people of New Orleans. The tossing of beads became symbolic of casting away responsibility for the evening and showering parade glowers with the promise from the King of the parade with the blessings of wealth, power, and justice. This is also why every Mardi Gras Krew stops and is toasted by dignitaries and a symbolic exchange of beads take place. The next time some one asks why they throw beads at Mardi Gras now you know. 
      If you have never experienced Mardi Gras I encourage you to let yourself go and engage in the fun of catching beads and letting the inner child out. Mardi Gras
      comes early next year and we will be departing on Feb 10. 
         

    Blog

    1. I SPENT FOUR DAYS WITH CUSTOMERS ON AN AMISH COUNTRY TOUR TRYING TO DISCOVER THE NEEDS OF OUR CUSTOMERS.
       
      This past week I took a group to the Amish Country trying to discover what our customers wanted and how to change this tour, to make the tour relevant to today’s market. I tried new things based on what my friend Lois S of Groups Galore suggested, and what customers had been saying on other tours. This is valuable information that needs to be shared.  
       
      We stayed at the Comfort Inn which was clean comfortable and in a good location for what we were doing on the tour.  The customer comments were that they would CHOOSE another because of the Styrofoam plates and Styrofoam and Styrofoam coffee cups. The hotels that don’t get that today’s customers will go someplace else, rather than use Styrofoam, needs a wakeup call. One customer comment even suggested that we provide our own disposable so that they don’t have to use foam. Several of our customers bought their own mugs rather than use Styrofoam cups the hotel provided.  I went so far as to buy a sleeve of disposable paper cups at the dollar store to meet our customer needs. Today’s consumers are out right rejecting Styrofoam products and our hotel partners must understand this. Those that continue to use Styrofoam are chasing the customers away.
       
      We had scheduled a half day in Hershey, most rated the Hershey Chocolate World ride as too commercial, they did not feel it added value to the tour. They said they would much rather have had someone demonstrate chocolate making than ride on a kiddy ride. They rated the chocolate tasting experience very high and the Chocolate Trolley Ride very high. The comments were getting rid of the kiddy ride for adults and replace with an actual demonstration would make the experience better. There is a time and place for everything and the Chocolate World Ride is informative but not entertaining. They had a person taking group photos where only 75% of the group was visible. How do they expect to sell a $25 photo package when the person taking pictures does not know how to compose the picture? Our customers   rated the visit to the Hershey School very high and meaningful. The market is evolving and what worked in the past does not necessarily engage our customers today. Hershey spent a great deal of money redoing this ride and it no longer meets the customers’ expectations.  I liked the Chocolate World ride the customers did not.  The customers told us they would have rather skipped the Chocolate World ride and gone to Turkey Hill and create their own ice-cream flavors. This is the whole point, the customers want to participate they do not want to watch.
       
      In the past we visited a working dairy where the bus drove through the barns to learn about the modern dairy industry. The trip was about an hour long and finished with an ice-cream. This time we tried a new venue, boarded a wagon pulled by a tractor that took about an hour and a half. The tour was very informative but was too long. The customers also felt that visiting a farm without tasting product left than feeling they were missing something. This is very important today’s customer’s want to see feel taste and touch. Not tasting dairy products at a dairy farm left the customers feeling the experience was missing something.
       
      We included the movie “Jacob’s Choice”, which everyone rated very high. The group felt that this movie tied everything together and help them understand that the Amish is a culture, not a religion where people choose to accept these practices or not. I stress that we need to tie our packages together with a single theme.
       
      A stop was made at a farmer’s market and customer’s felt they needed a bit more time.  We offered optional Amish Buggy rides while some were shopping at a farmers market. The customers who took the buggy rides all said that having the one on one time with the driver was extremely important. They said absolutely no to buggy rides with 6 -10 people. They considered a buggy with 4 ideal and provided a cultural interaction. They felt that 40 minute rides in small buggy’s should be added to the tour and not an option. The customers are craving cultural interactions on a one on one basis.
       
      The group felt that they needed more time at Kitchen Kettle and most came out with lots of purchases. I heard the comment that they enjoyed sampling before purchasing and this was the reason they bought so much stuff. Group said they needed more time to experience Kitchen Kettle, as a tour director I did not understand the desire for shopping was so high on this type of tour. I understand as an owner that the customers were enjoying an experience as well as shopping.
       
      The group did a 3 hour farm tour with several stops to meet the local business, and interact with the Amish people. They had the opportunity to see miniature horses, a country store, and a general store, where they could talk to the children and ask questions of the adults.  They rated this part of the tour as one of the highlights. They made the comment that going to a general store was a waste of their time and they would have rather spent the time with someone making root beer or sewing quilts. Our customers make it very clear it is not the shopping experience they wanted but the opportunity to interact with locals that is important.  
       
      We had dinner at an Amish Farm and everyone said this was the highlight of the trip and was a wonderful experience being in an Amish home having dinner. They asked that an experience like this be incorporated into more of our tours. I point out the number of times I have used the word experience, the customers do not want to watch or have a passive experience, they want to participate.
       
      We included the Sight and Sound Theater and although the customers enjoyed the show, “Sampson” was not of the same quality as other shows at this theater, the customers commented we were forcing religion on them. The demographics of our customers said they would have enjoyed a different show, without any religious aspect. My customers made it very clear that religion is something that does not belong on tours, unless it is a church group. We have to give our customers what they want and anything with any type of religious overtone will be scrutinized carefully before including in the future.
       
      The customers made a point of telling me that they felt they had eaten very well and what they liked and did not like. When I told my travelers price of one of the famous smorgasbords, they suggested I choose another restaurant. The food was good at this restaurant; the atmosphere was fare the price not good value. For a buffet meal they said Golden Coral was better quality of food at much more reasonable price. The customers understand the difference between quality and value and want both.
       
      The last stop was the QVC studio tour which the customers liked and rated very high.   
       
      The wi-fi on the bus overheated and shutdown because numerous people were trying to watch individual movies. This was a real issue. We will be now equipping all tour directors with broad band routers so we will be in control of this situation. Having w-ifi is a cost but also a necessity for the travelers of today.  Every bus company needs to know the importance of having working Wi-Fi on every coach.    
       
      If we fail to continue to evolve as tour operators we will become extinct. We need to listen to what our customers are telling us. I am sharing this information as the needs of our customers are changing rapidly. Some people are afraid of change, but change takes place whether we want it or not. Those of us in the travel industry can either be a victim of change or an instrument of change. I choose to be the instrument of change. 


    2. Click to read
      Review of  Bright Star and Discover Delaware fam trip

      A big thank you to Tina and the State of Delaware and to my friends on Broadway that allow me to review shows for my groups.


    3. Puffery
      This is a word I coined to describe people who at meetings, conventions, and conferences who have nothing of substance to say, but will always grab an open mike whenever they have an opportunity. This is a deliberate attempt by those that have little to offer and hope they get noticed. It is the same reason a peacock spreads its tail feathers.  I was recently at the International Tour Management Institute Symposium looking for new tour directors, and driver guides for the fall season. I sat in the back of the room listening and watching these peacocks puff themselves up waiting to ask a question that they surely knew the answer to. Once they asked the question they politely waited to be sure they got the last word in. These persons certainly got themselves noticed, but was in a positive way? I looked at these prospective candidates and drew a line through their names as they will never be team players. Don’t get me wrong I love the independent spirits and notice the candidates that ask questions of substance. I make these suggestions to the peacocks engaging in puffery, if you going to pick up a mike make sure you are asking questions or giving answers of substance.    
      I also listened to the replies that the panelist gave, some who were also engaging in the same practice from the other side.  I am not sure how the panelists were chosen, but heard answers that were total rubbish. Once again a situation where people of little substance were puffing themselves up to make others think they had substance or knowledge to share. I took it upon myself to engage some of those that had real questions to try and provide answers. As a result I had a very pleasant two hour conversation one evening with a very bright young lady.  I hope we have the opportunity to work together in the future,  as I like inquiring minds.
       
      Flying the friendly skies

      On my way to California I had no problems with my flights they took off on time landed on time and I brought my own food and a good book and was happy and content. On my return I flew out of Ontario airport and ran into a number of incompetent people who simply did not have the training to do their job. I checked in online and saw that flights going through San Francisco were delayed because of weather. I went to the agent at the counter who told me several times he was by himself and was new.  I asked to use the $75 United same day change fee and try and get on an earlier flight.  He told me he had never heard of the $75 same day change fee, and therefore did not know how to enter it and because he was the only one at the counter did not have time to look it up.  I left the counter called United and had myself on an earlier flight.  I now go the gate and they are boarding a flight to San Francisco. I ask if I can get on this flight and the gate agent tells me no. I ask if there are empty seats and she said there about 15 empty seats.  I explained I might miss my connecting flight because of weather delays if I was not on this flight. She said to me you are on the next flight.  As soon as they close the doors they announce the flight I am supposed to be on is delayed an hour and a half and I am going to miss my connection.  There is now an experienced agent at the gate and I explain the situation and am rebooked flying through Denver. The experienced agent turns to the new agent and asks; why didn’t you put this man on the earlier flight and she shrugs her shoulders and said she did not know that she could. I land in Boston at 11:39 and am forced to overnight or take flightline shuttle back to where my car is parked. I chose to stay overnight and do a hotel inspection of a hotel we are using later in the year.
       
      Taxi Ride
      On Sat morning I ask the hotel to call me a taxi. The cab pulls up two minutes later I get in the cab and the cab driver says something about his cab is broken and another cab will be there in a minute. I get in the second cab to go to South Station to get the bus back to NH. The freaking driver is texting or emailing at every light. I ask to pay by credit card so I have the cab number and the hack number. This clown leaves the meter running to wind up the charges because I am paying by credit card.  I confronted the driver and told him how dangerous texting and driving is and he shrugged his shoulders. I get out of the cab and called the taxi hotline and emailed the general manager of Metro cab. It will be interesting to see if I get a response or if this dangerous behavior is allowed to continue.
    4. ARE WE LISTENING TO WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS ARE TELLING US, WHAT ARE WE WILLING TO PAY FOR SERVICE, ARE WE CONDTIONED TO PURCHASE THINGS THAT WE DON’T WANT BECAUSE WE THINK IT IS A BARGAIN?

      This week a few things happened to me which are very relevant in the tour and travel industry and in business. 

      1.       I made an appointment to get one of the company vehicles serviced at a dealership. I asked what the price would be for the scheduled service and was given a price. I brought the vehicle in for the scheduled service and the person writing up the order gave me a price that was a $100 more than the price I was quoted. I asked why the price was a $100 more than the price quoted and was told the person who quoted me was mistaken. I shared that I gave him the make the model, year, and he pulled up the service history and thought that a $100 increase in the price was not reasonable. I was told you don’t have to leave your vehicle if you don’t want to.  About an hour later I received a phone call telling me that the air filter was dirty and needed to be changed and the air filter was $30 and the labor was $30. I said I could pick up an air filter at any auto parts store for $15 and it is one wing nut that would take me less than 5 mins to unscrew change the filter and put the cover back on. I was told that if I did not use an official part I voided the vehicle warrantee.  I agreed to buy the air filter and change it myself. Next I get a call that tells me the fuel filter had not been changed and needed to be changed.   I asked what the price was and was told $371. I thought this was a bit steep for changing the fuel filter and said I would take care of this myself.  I called one of the local chain garages and they told me the price would be $171, $200 less than the dealership. I received a third call advising that one of the low lamp bulbs needed to be changed. They told me the bulb was $12 but the labor was $30. I said all you had to do was reach inside, unplug the wire loosen the locking ring and change the bulb, I pointed out you did not even need a screwdriver for this. I said I would take care of this myself.  I ended up going to the auto parts store and the bulb I needed cost $4 and the person at the counter offered to change it, if I wanted him to. I thanked him and while he changed the bulb, I changed the air filter. It took less than 10 mins to do both jobs.
       
      My whole point is that I felt the dealership was trying to rip me off. When I made the comments to the service manger that I felt I was getting ripped off, he pointed out to me; that someone has to pay for the coffee and pastry in the waiting lounge, the rides back and forth to my office, the computer work station available for free, the free WiFi etc.  I started asking myself was the dealership right in charging me for the convenience and extra service? Were those services valuable to me? I said to him if someone had said to me something like; included in the price of your service, is a comfortable work space so you don’t have to lose time from work; free coffee and snacks; and if you prefer we will take you home or to your office and pick you up when your car is ready, I would have had no price resistance at all. He said he was going to make this suggestion to all front line personnel. THEY NEED TO TELL CUSTOMERS WHY THE DEALER FEES ARE HIGH.  How many of us are doing the same thing in our business? Are we advising our customers of the services we have included in the price, or are we taking for granted that the customer knows the services we provide as part of the price? After thinking about this I am going to develop a few paragraphs that advise the customer of the services included in doing business with Tye’s Tours.
       
      2.       As many of you know I have been trying to change my eating habits for the last year.  I have not had a Burger at a fast food joint in months.  When I went for my annual physical my doctor told me my weight was down and asked when the last time was I had eaten a burger at a fast food joint.  I said I was not sure but probably around Aug.  He said when you leave here I want you to go to Burger King order two bacon cheese burgers, a small fry, and a small drink and eat that for lunch. Much to my surprise I found this meal disgusting. ( At one time this was a normal lunch) Not only did I feel this food was tasteless, but after eating one of these burgers I felt bloated and did not want the second burger.  I got my doctors point, I had been conditioned to accept this crap was good to eat and had nutritional value.  How many of us are going through life consuming things we really don’t want? Are we ordering two burgers because the fast food companies are telling us that is a bargain if we consume these calories for $4. Are we conditioned to impulsively consume things we know are bad for us? I certainly believe that we should all indulge occasionally, as it makes us feel good. My doctor was right after getting away from the food I had become accustomed to, giving it up was no issue at all. In fact admitting that food from a fast food joint no longer tasted good, was a surprise to me. I am not saying I am giving up on burgers but have become more selective in what I choose to consume. It essence this is an issue of quality over quantity. What is the relevance to my business?  Right now there are many of the cruise lines, resorts, and travel packages offering two for one special at bargain prices. We sell these products because the consumer buy these products.  We are running a promotion where one of the cruise lines is offering a 2 for one 7 day cruise with a balcony cabin for $999, for two. I offered this to one of my bargain hunting customers.   He said to me I have been on that cruise line, the two for one is a great price, but I would rather spend a little more for a better quality cruise experience. How many of us are going through life not able to distinguish between quality, value, and price? How many of us are sacrificing the quality we deserve and buying things because they have the lowest price?
       
      3.       I spent more than an hour on the phone this morning with a customer trying to book a package to Alaska. I was getting frustrated because I was unable to effectively communicate with this customer.  The conversation started out with this lady telling me that “Alaska Gold Rush” and “Alaska Bush People” were her two favorite TV shows and that is why she wanted to go to Alaska. She was asking if she went to Alaska would she be able to meet the Brown Family, see Brown Town and meet any of the people from Gold Rush. I explained that these were TV shows and although the cruise ships dock in Hoonah they would be very lucky to run into the Brown family and “Alaska Gold Rush” was filmed in the Klondike. Although they could get to Dawson and might catch a glimpse of characters from the show, it was not a realistic expectation. The conversation continued with lots of questions about Alaska, such as what is the exchange rate in Alaska? Do they have indoor plumbing? Do the hotels have hot water? What type of adapter do they need to bring? I explained that Alaska was our 49th state, they use US currency, the hotels are similar to the lower 48 and all have indoor plumbing and hot water.  I explained she would need a passport as she was crossing into Canada at the end of the trip. She could not comprehend why she needed a passport if she was flying into Alaska and out of Seattle.  She could not comprehend that because she was leaving the US for two days she needed a passport. She kept bring up that the people from Mexico enter the US and they don’t have passports. I explained as patiently as I could, that anyone who enters the US from a foreign country needs a passport or they are illegal.  After an hour she told me that Alaska might not be the right destination for her. She told me that she had certain expectations of Alaska and that she had told me in the beginning why she wanted to go to Alaska. I was trying to figure out how I could have turned this ladies dreams into reality. Should I have been so practical to tell her expectations were not realistic or should I have sold her what she wanted based on her expectations? Should I have taken the time to actually find out if the customers’ expectations could have been met and what she would be willing to pay for this service?    I will never know, as I became frustrated with the endless stream of questions.  I should have asked the question if I could arrange for you to meet any of the TV characters from the show, would she buy the trip? The results might have been different and I might have made the sale if I had asked the right question.  My point is that I dashed a customer’s expectations and lost a sale because I felt this ladies knowledge of Alaska was not where it should have been. Although I was listening I was not hearing what the customer was saying.  She was telling me her main reason for going to Alaska was to meet the characters from her two favorite TV shows.

      How many of us are listening to our customers, but not hearing what they are telling us?

    5. REFLECTIONS ON 2015 AND PREDICTIONS FOR 2016

      As the year draws to a close it is time for me to reflect back on this year and make my annual predictions for next year.
      First and foremost thank you to all of my friends and customers. I truly enjoyed the time I spent with each and every one of my domestic and international customers as they taught me about their part of the world. Thank you to the many friends that allowed me to take care of their travel arrangements as they traveled the world.  It was a pleasure setting up more honeymoons and destination weddings than ever before.

      2015 was a challenging year as Tye’s Tours experienced growing pains.  It was certainly a challenge to get our products up on Viators and gain the World Wide exposure we needed. This was the first year that our International inbound travelers matched our domestic travelers. The market has shifted and less than 10 % of our customers are now over 70 and less than 20 % of our customers are now over 65. As the market has changed we have had to reinvent our style of vacation package while building a bridge to our traditional customers. We have had to drop those groups that expected taxi service and a pick up for two or three people at no additional charge. We will leave these customers to other companies.  I spent more days on the road traveling than in other year.  In between hotel inspections, trade shows, driving the sprinters, developing new tours and tour directing I was on the road a whopping 141 days this year. Thankfully the office was where my lap top was and where my cell phone rang.

      I have to admit that some of the driver /guides we hired this year were a true disappointment to me and relived them of their positions as quickly as possible.  When some of you advised me that drivers were making stops not on the itinerary, making the days excessively long, I corrected as soon as I found out. Although these guides had the best of intentions and wanted to add uniqueness to their tour, adding an extra hour or hour and a half was simply wrong. The driver /guides that made disparaging remarks about people that joined our tours for a day or two or decided not to go to the restaurants we set up, are  gone,  and will probably never work for another tour company. I offer my sincerest apology to restaurants that reserved tables and drivers decided to go someplace else. We have recruited a great team for 2016 that will wow you with their customer service.  As a company Tye’s Tours is committed to finding the best driver / guides and tour directors we can hire. We have spent a great deal of money on training and recruiting driver/ guides and tour directors for 2016 that have the right stuff. We have found that former fireman, police officers, social workers, and teachers make very good tour directors. They take direction well, have leadership ability and are team players that have great attitudes. As the world changes we want to have a team in place that is comfortable should a crisis ever occur.

      In 2016 the trends and needs of our customers are changing. Our customers are telling us they want as little structure as possible on a tour. They are telling us they want us to get them to a destination tell them what is there, make sure they have discounts on the attractions and let them know when the bus will be back. We have more and more customers telling us they want a hot breakfast and would prefer to be on their own for other meals with suggestions from our guides. They seldom want to be at a table with more than 4 -6. My customers have made it unequivocal they do not want to patronize any hotel or restaurant that still uses foam products.  Our customers are asking for meals in craft breweries   and open menu rather than a restrictive menu.  They are asking for tasting menus rather than traditional menus.  Our overseas customers want outlet shopping and will skip a city tour to have more time for shopping.  Our customers from Italy and France have a different appreciation of Art Museums then most American travelers. They want us to include art galleries in their tours where most American Tourist have to be dragged into any museum.  Our customers are now asking for something else other than the fall tours for New England.  We have put together a Dec tour that features a theme of a New England Christmas which is selling very well.  As the demographics are changing we will be featuring more soft adventure such as indoor sky diving, indoor surfing, and indoor Go Karting.  Our customers are now asking for more tours that include things like ATV adventures. The customers are telling us they want to avoid areas with large crowds and want the security of a small group travel.  As we move into the future the customers are telling us that 50 passengers on a motor coach is to many and would prefer to pay a little more and travel in groups no larger than 30. Europe is a bargain right now because of the strength of the dollar, but customers feel the European continent is unsafe. The demand for tickets for Broadway Shows continues to rise. We are entering 2016 with over 300 requests to see Hamilton on first available date and most accept in will be 2017 before group tickets are available for this show. Many of our tours are selling out early and some tours for next fall and early Dec are completely sold out already.  The whole concept of techno tours is on the rise where the products of the future are in production and the customers get to play with the new toys. Outlet shopping and tax free shopping is a key component for our overseas visitors.  

      The daily rate of Motor coaches continues to rise as the price of diesel falls. The airlines are becoming increasingly difficult to work with and group fares are now often more expensive than instant purchase fares.  The reality is that the average overnight tour in a first class hotel with two meals and sighting is going to average $175 per person per day based on dbl occ and about $225 a day for sprinter travel.
      Some of our customers have been trying to book tours less than a week out and are surprised that there is no availability. We release unsold hotel rooms 30 days out  and do not purchase event tickets until we receive a deposit. Those that wait to the last minute are going to find they are out of luck.

      We are seeing the rise of grandparents raising children and are creating more intergenerational tours where a child will be able to travel free with an adult.

      HAPPY NEW YEARS TO ALL OF MY FRIENDS AROUND THE GLOBE, MAY IT BE THE BEST YEAR EVER!!           
    6. Travel is the perfect Freedom don’t allow the world events to take this from you.
       
      So much has happened since my last blog, that I feel it important to share my thoughts and feelings.
      After the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and in California our customers have become scared of what might happen if they travel domestically or abroad. Travel is the perfect freedom that builds bridges and helps different cultures find commonalities.  If you surrender to fear as to what might happen then the terrorist win.  The world is in a state of turmoil over different belief systems and the refusal to tolerate what someone else chooses to believe.
       
      Recently I had a group that had 15 passengers paid in full for our famous Chocolate, Champagne and Pastry tour to France which we run every spring, cancel. This is one of my favorite tours and everyone always comes back feeling good and satiated.  My group canceled because they felt France no longer is a safe country to visit. I had an employee group cancel a two bus theater trip to NY because the executives felt NY is too much of a target to have so many employees in one place at one time. I had 20 individuals in the last few weeks cancel overseas trips out of fear of another terrorism event. The terrorist win every time any of us succumb to these fears. We have a choice to become isolationists and only travel to safe places or look at reality and realize that the chance of being involved in a terrorist event around the world are about the same as getting struck by lightning or winning a huge jackpot in a lottery.  Once fear starts, it grows even if it is not based on rational thought.  I welcome all of you who are afraid to travel to come to New Hampshire where there is tax free shopping and lots to do in our Mountains Lakes and Cities.  Enjoy an encounter with the wildlife, experience skiing, take a horse drawn sleigh ride, go snowmobiling, ride snowmobiles or ATV’s on mountain trails, experience ice fishing, taste our local products, enjoy our wines. If you want a safe destination come to NH where crime is low, you are safe, and the adventure and scenery is abundant.
       
      Motor coach prices seem to be increasing dramatically in 2016. There is no rhyme or reason for these as the price of fuel is falling and insurance premiums have not gone up much at all. Last year we were paying an average of $950 a day for motor coaches and in 2016 we are paying an average of $1100 a day.  The price of tours will be going up to reflect the price increases of motor coaches. Our popular trips to Foxwood as an example will be going from $35 a day to $42 a day.  In 2015 we were paying an average of $ 1600 for a one day trip to NY in 2016 the same trip is costing $2100. I am trying to advise everyone after the first of the year prices are going up so book early and get protected by the current rates.
       
      Over  this past year as groups have been getting smaller we have been doing more and more trips with Mercedes Sprinters and Ford Trax Vans and smaller motor coaches. If we are traveling by a motor coach with 30 plus passengers the average cost of transportation is $35 per person. If we are traveling with 10 passengers in a Sprinter the average cost is $55 per person. The experience of traveling in a small group for many is much more enjoyable for most of our customers and they are willing to pay for this service.  When we have groups that fall below 10 and we have to take on a Sprinter we cannot operate at the same cost as a motor coach. In 2016 groups that fall below 10 will be given the option to cancel or pay a surcharge.  It is simply not economically feasible for us to pick up these small groups without charging for the additional costs.   
       
      Over the last few weeks I have been traveling to New York quite frequently for Holiday Tours both on Motor coaches and by Sprinter.  You can’t go through an intersection without seeing at least one police officer. Someone has to pay for the police presence and security and the police are doing this by giving tickets to out of state busses for the most bizarre reasons. Everyone knows that traffic in NY can be a nightmare anytime but in Dec around Times Square can be a challenge.  Yesterday I was driving in NY was in the left lane to make a left turn and a truck came across three lanes of traffic and cut me off.  I pulled around the truck and continued to make the left turn when traffic started to move.  I was given a ticket for entering an intersection without sufficient space in the intersection.  It is impossible to drive in Times Square and wait to enter an intersection ubtil there is space, when the traffic starts to move  either a taxi will cut you off, or pedestrians will walk in front of you.  I was stopped a second time and the police officer wanted to make sure everyone was wearing seatbelts.  I was unloading handicapped passengers close to Radio City, it was taking longer than usual as the passengers were handicapped and it took them a bit longer to get out. The policeman starts screaming at me to move as I had been in a five minute loading zone for seven minutes.  I said to the officer can you not see that I am unloading some handicapped travelers that require a bit more time.  He said he didn’t care, move it or get a ticket.  I said officer may I have your badge number and he let me unload my passengers. I pass this on as a warning that the New York Police are going after out of state busses as a way to pay for the additional police presence.
       
      Everyone is bashing Trump because he is saying things that make sense. First of all I am not a Donald Trump supporter; however the majority of all worldwide terrorists are of the Muslim Faith.   I am not afraid of Muslims that believe in peace and tolerance and chose to coexist in harmony with the rest of the world.  As long as they understand that my belief system may be different than what they believe and accept that we can all live in harmony with different beliefs, they are welcome. Those that try to force me into their belief system, need to be exported to the nearest dessert so they can live among the scorpions where they belong.  The problem is not all Muslims, it is the screening process that we have in allowing people of all beliefs to enter this country. The probability is that the next terrorist is going to be someone of the Muslim faith.  Since the probability is higher that the next terrorist is going to be a Muslim, people in this group need additional screening. We do not need to deny access to this country to any group but need to screen for potential threats. If someone has been to an area known for terrorist training they need to bee scrutinized before they get on an airplane, this has nothing to do with religious beliefs but everything to do with common sense.  I hate it when political statements are taken out of context. We need the clowns in DC to change the screening process to make the homeland safe not ban anyone from entering the country. We need to give additional scrutiny to the groups that are most likely to produce terrorist. Listening to the candidates pounce on the Donald rather than try and fix the problem, only grows the support for Mr. Trump.  I have said for years that the solution to violent criminals is to create prison ships out of mothballed aircraft carriers. If the aircraft carriers were good enough for our troops they are good enough for prisoners.  Each prisoner should be provided with fishing gear so they can fish for their food.  If they want to kill each other so be it. We should not be spending millions of dollars on housing violent criminals. If they have to fish to feed themselves and are isolated from the rest of the world than the problems go away. This is where the terrorist in Guantanamo Bay belong not returned to their native lands. I strongly feel that we treat violent prisoners betters than we treat the serviceman who protect our freedom. This has to change. It is time we start treating terrorist like the animals they are.  If they believe in their religion they can pray to any God they choose to rescue them from a Prison ship. I would go so far as to even separate the ships so you have anyone engaging in terrorist activities on one ship combined with anyone who engages in Hate crimes and everyone else on a different ship. The prisoners get one meal a day and access to fishing equipment and are left to rot in the middle of the ocean and fend for themselves.  These violent criminals will be  away from anyone who they might influence. If the ship should sink, do to natural disasters then these animals can go to their maker knowing that their God did not save them and their prayers were unanswered.
       
      Here is a policy change because we have been burnt so many times this past year.  If you want to go for a tour that involves theater tickets, sports tickets or any other form of ticket, pay in advance 60 days out or pay by credit card if you are closer to departure.  The days of believing the check is in the mail are gone.  If we do not receive payment we will not hold or order a ticket for an individual or group.  In 2016 if you are not paid in advance no matter what your reason the bus will not pick up. Absolutely no one has any credit in 2016. Those of you that need to submit purchase orders, need to submit early enough to get payment on time.  Some of you think it is no big deal when you tell me you have 20 people going on a tour and then at the last minute advise you have 12. Tye’s Tours must take a more aggressive position and will be saying no more frequently. Some of you who can’t get payments in on time will be told we can’t afford you as a customer.
       
      Happy Holidays to all no matter what religion you believe in or none at all. May the world celebrate peace and prosperity in 2016 and not be threatened by Terrorist.
       
      Mel Tye

    7. I do my best to try and advise of significant changes in the travel industry that affect my customers and friends.

      1.  As of Jan 01 a NH driver’s license are not valid as an ID on domestic flights. Please don’t expect to show up at the airports and try to board a flight using a NH driver’s license as an id. You already know it will not be accepted.
       
      2.  If you are flying in the euro zone on a domestic flight, if you do not print your boarding pass in advance you will be charged a fee for reprinting boarding passes at the airport. Many US carriers will be adopting similar policies next year. The time it takes airline personal to print boarding passes is a cost that is being passed to you the consumer.  If you don’t  print at home, have your boarding pass on a smart phone, or use a kiosk to print a boarding pass expect to be charged if an airline agent has to spend time printing your boarding pass. I can’t recall the last time I went to an airport without checking in and printing a boarding pass but it seems some of my customers don’t know this is a requirement.
       
      3.  If you are flying most airlines charge for checked baggage. This should be common knowledge but some of you are still asking why I did not tell you there was a baggage charge and often cost more if you do not do it online.
       
      4.  If you are leaving the country on a cruise you need a passport. Recently I had the experience where Florida Residents boarded a cruise ship without a passport and were upset that they could not leave the ship in any of the ports.  Some of the cruise lines will allow you on the ship with a photo id and birth certificate, but that does not mean you can get off in a foreign port. The cruise lines want your money and are happy when you are trapped on a ship.
       
      5.  Air Berlin will be a new low cost carrier coming to the Boston market in May. They will have low cost flights to Europe, Texas and the west coast.
       
      6.  Amtrak is now charging for excess baggage on the trains. One suitcase per person not weighing more than 50 pounds.
       
      7.  Average air fare on Southwest going Boston to Las Vegas is $385 with a stop. Expect to pay about $100 more for nonstop flights Boston to Las Vegas. Hotel rooms in Las Vegas are still inexpensive.
       
      8.  A 55 passenger motor coach in the USA is averaging $1000 a day, a 32 passenger motor coach with a restroom $860, a 13 passenger  vehicle with a driver guide $550 a day.

      9.  The Average cost of a motor coach tour in a first class hotel with breakfast, dinner, and sightseeing in $2016 will be $175 per person based on double occupancy. About a 1/3 more in major cities.
       
      10.   Our customers have made it very clear that hotels that do not offer free wi fi  are not the hotels for them.  If our guests are charged for wi fi there is no chance of future business.
       
      11.   More and more public places will no longer tolerate smokers. If you are going to Butchart Gardens next summer, no smoking in the gardens
       
      12.   After the Paris attacks expect security around the globe to be increased.  If you are going to a sporting event expect what you can bring into the game to change.  If you are going to an event like the Boston Marathon, Macy Thanks giving Parade, or July 4th on the esplanade expect to have to go through security checkpoints.
       
      13.   The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade will be going down 6th Ave this year and there will be security check points to access areas close to the Parade Routes. Please don’t even think of bringing a back pack with you. Bring your chair, a thermos and something to protect you from the wind.
       
      14.   The US Dollar is getting stronger and there are exceptional values in Europe and Canada based on the strength of the dollar.
       
      15.   The cruise ship industry is changing; expect to start seeing more items you have to pay for once you get onboard the ship. The days of everything being included are going away.  If you want to go to Broadway Theater or have fresh squeezed orange juice, expect to pay. Want to go to a wine tasting, expect to pay, want to go to a restaurant with better service and quality of food, expect to pay.  If you want an espresso or a coffee in the afternoon expect to pay.  Not all cruise ships have gone this way yet, but the industry is shifting.
       
      16.   We are seeing the use of Styrofoam going away as more and more cities ban the use of this product. I for one will be glad to see when all Styrofoam is gone.
       
      17.   Hotel soap bars often come with holes in the middle. Get use to it. I don’t know of anyone that ever used up a whole bar of soap  during a hotel stay..
       
      18.   Get use to single serve coffee makers in your hotel room. If you need more coffee just asked for it.  There is no point in grumbling the next morning if you did not call the front desk and ask for more.
       If you prepare your mind and realize that change is inevitable you will have a much more enjoyable time when you travel. What was yesterday is not what is today. If you fail to accept change than you will be miserable and might as well stay home.
    8.  I left my office on Sept 16 and arrived home on Oct 27 at 3 AM after six weeks on the road.

      Over the last six weeks I have been to NY twice, Niagara Falls, Cape Cod, through New England, up to Nova Scotia, PEI, back to New York and on to Washington DC before getting home. Over the last six weeks I got to meet people from all over the world, meet with hotel manages, sales teams, industry colleagues, and discovered some of our strengths and weakness as a tour company.  Thank you to all of you who met with me along the way, and my team of tour directors and driver /  guides that took us through the fall season.

      Here are a few of my observations.
      1. With modern communication I was able to run the company by cell phone and lap top for six weeks. Very few people realized I was not in the office.
       
      2. After six weeks on the road up at 4 AM, doing tours all day answering correspondence in the evening, I am tired.
       
      3. I met with the sales people and hotel managers along my journey when I was away from my passengers for a few moments. I was surprised by how many had read my blog about the outstanding customer service I had received from Earls Restaurant this summer, a Canadian Restaurant Chain. I was equally surprised when I met with general managers who told me how they wished their team could emulate this level of service.  When minor incidents with guests and over charges took place, most gave little if any response.  If you want your teams to excel at customer service it starts at the top.  Your teams can never excel at customer service unless the management excels at customer service.  One particular hotel in Niagara Falls I had met with the GM a year ago and was told of all of the renovations taking place. I needed to make a surprise hotel inspection to see if the promised renovations had taken place. There were only a few rooms, so I booked through a discount booking service. On check in I was told the parking would be validated, on check out I was charged for parking. I was informed that only if I booked direct through the hotel would parking be validated, and if I booked through a discount service I had to pay for parking. Not a big deal but had this GM understood customer service not only would he have validated the parking that would have cost nothing he might have earned my tour business.  I was at this hotel for the purpose of developing future business. The hotel was empty, the parking lot empty, it was post season.  My only thought as I was leaving was this guy is a jerk and no way would I ever return. This is a GM that no one has taught basic hospitality. I booked my 2016 tours with a competing hotel where the GM thanked me for coming by wanted to buy me a beer and settled for a nice cup of coffee over breakfast the next morning.  Not only did the hotel where I booked my tour series buy me breakfast but offered to pick up the tab for the guests with me. A simple gesture of hospitality earned one company my business and the other lost the opportunity to do business.
       
      4. I had the experience of traveling with groups that spoke limited English and did not understand some of our basic customs. Although all of these groups had Interpreters, what I was saying seldom matched the information I was giving.  I might have been talking about something that happened in one period of history and heard words like Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson that had little or nothing to do with anything I was talking about.  I found that although my interpreters told me they were fluent in English I am guessing they understood half of what I was communicating and the rest of the group received 10% of that information. It is very difficult to give a tour without using any idiomatic expressions.  It was an interesting experience with local guides; some just talked and did not care that little, if anything was being understood.  Others talked slowly but gave little information. Very few of my local guides could relate to working through an interpreter or providing relevant information that a foreigner could understand or was interested in.
       
      5. On one afternoon it was cold raining and dark and I skipped a photo stop. The next morning I was told that if I did not make the photo stop, the overseas tour operator could be sued. I drive an hour out of the way to make a five minute photo stop.  Had I known that this stop was so important, I would have stopped the night before in the rain.  On the other hand I was told to skip the Boston City Tour and take the group to the Merrimack Premium outlets for tax free shopping.  This again was a cultural difference where the group leader felt that shopping was far more important than visiting another American city. Shopping is a must for our overseas visitors and even better when it is tax free.  I learned that many of our overseas guests come to the USA for good shopping  is far more important for some cultures than any historical information or attraction.   
       
      6.  It became very tedious when a group was shouting at each other in a foreign language and I had no clue as to what was being said. All I knew was at the end of the day I needed an aspirin. The groups were loud and animated and I assume they were having a good time. They never realized how loud they were.
       
      7. Over the fall season I had groups whose custom it was to belch loudly after a meal. At first I was embarrassed by this cultural difference and realized that all I had to do was seat them away from other guest in restaurants. It had nothing to do with manners but accepting different customs that allowed me to know they were satisfied with the meal. 
       
      8.  Things like explaining the use of washrooms was a cultural challenge. On one tour I would hear stop bus, stop bus. I would pull over and the gentleman would urinate on one side of the bus and the ladies would go a few feet into the woods.  I explained that if they said washroom or toilet, we would stop at a toilet.  I could never communicate that it our culture, urinating in public was not an accepted practice.
       
      9.  On many of our tours our customers order off of the menu. Our Asian friends wanted to share plates and when I allowed them to order on their own they would order food for 100 people.  I found I was ordering food for the whole table and they would share. For small people my guests were always hungry and consumed vast amounts of food several times a day. It was hard to get restaurants to understand that our Asian guests want hot water, not cold water and if ice water was served it was pulled out of the glasses and melted on the plates or tables.  We made a food stop at A & W and I realized I could not explain the menu.  My guests pointed at the pictures and did not know what they had ordered.  I had no idea that chocolate milk was  something that was desired but only if it was at room temperature.
       
      10.  I found it was hard to teach people how to eat with a fork, if they were not accustomed to using a fork.  I learned quickly that two inverted forks made great chopsticks.  I have the same challenge teaching American’s to eat with chopsticks.
       
      11.   As observed people hunching over their food and shoveling the food in. I kept hearing the words of my mother: sit up straight at the table, chew your food, elbows off of the table.  I realized what we must have looked like to our parents while observing others eating.
       
      12.   I always feel the same since of wonderment when I bring our guests to Time Square for the first time in the evening. I hope that I will always feel this excitement with all of our guests.
       
      13.   Many of our guests this fall season had very expensive cameras and getting the photo with traveling companions was very important to them.  On one trip I would guess that each of my passengers took close to 2500 pictures on a 10 day tour. That would be 25,000 images captured from one tour.
       
      14.   It was an interesting observation that many of my guests this fall thought I was the most knowledgeable tour director they had ever had. It did not matter if I was in Boston, New York, Washington, Niagara Falls or PEI. After all these years on the road I have accumulated a wealth of Knowledge which I am able to retain. More importantly I review the area maps and attractions, every day before going on tour. It does not matter how many times I have done the tour I never skip this step.  Even if I had not been to an area for several years I will always appear to my customers that I tour a given area every day. One customer could not believe I did not leave in New York as she thought I knew every building.  In Washington my customers thought I lived in DC. They believed I know every building and every restaurant. What they did not realize was that while they were sightseeing I was goggling the information on the next stop.  We live in an information age and we need to use the technology available to us.
       
      15.   This fall we had customers from all over the world. We had tour directors that were told if  customers from Great Britain did not get their afternoon cocktails they often turn mean. Every tour director that failed to understand this cultural difference were trashed by our guests.  As tourism professionals we all have to understand that our guests from around the world have different customs. As  tourism professionals we are all cultural ambassadors and we have to build bridges among our customers. Just because someone has different customs or beliefs does not make them right or wrong, only different.  We would probably have a lot less strife in the world, if we each took the time to try and understand these cultural differences and build bridges  rather than walls.  
       
      I could write forever about all the things I learned this fall being on the road but who has time to read  all this?

      Mel  Tye
    9. Are You Having A Good Day?
      I have been asked this question every day for the last month at least once.  I am not sure if it because I seem to be grumpier than usual, or if people know I have so little time during the peak season, or if my friends, family, and customers are concerned about my well being.

       I have a good day every day because I choose to have a good day.  I am the only one that can decide if I have a good or a bad day.  At this time of the year I do not allow outside influences to determine how my day will go.  I am grateful that I have 35 tours on the road over the next three weeks, all the operations are done, all the tour guides have packets, the bills are paid, and we are ready for the fall season.

      Yesterday I had my first foliage tour of the season to Squam Lake and the Turkey Train. We saw 12 Loons, and passengers caught the Loons in flight with their cameras. The food and service on the train was as good as it could be.  The group filled up on ice-cream and candy at Kellerhaus, and all went home with a smile. The trees are changing colors, the day was warm and sunny, top that off with a fantastic Luna event.  

      Today I filled the slots on tours that I that needed tour directors or driver / guides. Tomorrow I begin my fall foliage marathon and will be off to New York to pick up a group on the 30th of Sept. and have scheduled myself on back to back tours until the 25 of Oct. where I will return home and sleep for a day or two.  Beginning on the 1st of November I have 112 sales appointments booked over three weeks with people that want to do business with Tye’s Tours.  Then it is Thanksgiving and time to gear up again for all of the holiday tours.  

      I love this business and can't imagine every doing anything different.

      Every day my suppliers are offering me theater tickets, to come and enjoy a resort for a day or two, or try a new restaurant.  It seems that there is no end to the list of people who want me to experience their products. The invitations to exotic places or weekend getaways,  seem to arrive on a daily basis. Unfortunately not enough time to enjoy the perks and still run a business.

      The company is experiencing a phenomenal growth factor this year and the tours are going out full. My online sales are doing fantastic and every morning I wake up to see what was booked overnight. My online sales are like a cash register that never stops ringing.

      I have a great team of tour directors and driver / guides with a support staff of independent contractors that allow me to do so many things and be as creative as I can be.  

      Hard work and sensible eating is allowing the pounds to fall off.  My health is good, my bills are paid, my customers rate us very high for customer service.  The industry seeks my advice on all kinds of matters from technology to business management style.   I feel I have gained the respect of the industr, and my colleagues as well. When I am invited to speak, I am told that my perspective is insightful. When I share my ideas, I often hear why didn’t I think of that? The knowledge I gained from going back to school last fall and learning the stuff I didn’t know, I did not know, put me light years ahead of my competition.  I bitched and moaned about how much work my professors were making me do, and how the expectations were higher than on other students because of my life experience. I am now thankful I had professors that cared enough, and were able to extract my full potential.

      Although I may be tired and Grumpy after working 16 hour days 7 days a week for the last six weeks. I feel full of energy every day, I am happy to get to work, and end every day with a great feeling of accomplishment.

      When I am asked if I am having a good day, I truly am having a good day.  I am not sure if it is my attitude, or that the stars have aligned in my favor. Whatever has happened to give me peace and tranquility, hopefully will continue forever.   It is a joy to find something to laugh about every day which helps the stress disappear. It is fun not to worry about not being politically correct.  It is fun to mock the people wearing items like nose rings. (When I see a person with a nose ring, I assume they want to be lead like animals.) I mean how can anyone respect a person with a nose ring?  I love that I am able to fight for what is right, and find a person to help each and every day.
      I truly believe that the more I am able to help others, the more help I will receive.

      I feel blessed that I can make those around me laugh, and that I have a good sense of humor. I feel honored to be able to help people up, rather than trampling over, as other businesses do.   I feel joy in saying thank you, and being able to ask for help when I need it. I feel pride in what I have been able to accomplish.

      My life is in balance so yes I have a good day every day.
    10. This past week we had a day of remembrance on 911,  the Jewish faith celebrates the New Year, a day of atonement  and a reflection on a period of forgiveness and spiritual revitalization. This past week I saw on facebook and other forms of social media, the promotion of  blowing up mosques, as a solution to the terrorism taking place throughout the world.   This really bothered me as the destruction of any religious institution is never a good thing.  Please don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that organized religion is the cause of many of the world’s problems, but at the same time believe that organized religion provides a framework for societies to exist and provides a perspective on morality separating man from the animal kingdom.
      The problem is not: the mosques, the churches, the temples, or the synagogues. The problem is not: Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, or the teachings of any other religion in the world.  The problem stems from those that teach: if you don’t believe what I believe you are wrong. This is the time when we should be teaching tolerance and that more than one belief system is ok, as long as it does not harm others.    We should be teaching that diversity is ok.  Just because a person has different skin pigmentation, or a different hair color, does not make them better or worse than another person.  Just because a person believes in one religion or no religion they are not a better or a worse person.  It is what is in the mind that determines how a person acts to his fellow man. 
      In my profession, I am fortunate enough to be able to travel the world exploring different cultures and belief systems.  All the good and bad ideas and beliefs do not reside in one, place, religion or culture; they are spread throughout the world.  The good and bad ideas and beliefs are distributed around the world equally. What happens around the world is fear of what is different is being taught, which creates the problems.  I can’t say how many times I have heard children seeing Muslim women wearing head scarves, ask if the women are terrorists.  Where does a child learn to fear someone wearing different attire? Recently in the Toronto airport I heard a child ask his mother when seeing a man wearing a turban, “ is that man a genie? ”  Seldom do I ever hear why is that woman wearing a head scarf?  I often see the orthodox Jews as they travel, looked at and gawked at, because their dress is different than what is considered normal.  Why do the children perceive these people as quaint and a person in a head scarf a terrorist? Why are the children taught to fear one and not the other?  Why are people in Asia taught that those that are non Asian should be feared?

      Rather than promoting destroying or defacing religious institutions, why not take the hate out of all religions. Instead of teaching children to fear what is different; why not the children to question, why someone appears to be different?   

      I am a person that believes that when people from around the world come to this country they keep their own culture, but assimilate into American culture.  I am a believer that outward displays of any religious or cultural items, should not be displayed in public and should be kept private. We should tolerate those whose belief system encourages them not to assimilate.  I say tolerate not necessarily accept.  I do not believe tax payer dollars should be spent on those who chose not to assimilate into American Culture.   Am I bothered by a person wearing a head scarf, displaying a large star, or a cross, of course not.  Do I interact differently with people who have made a conscience decision to let me know that their beliefs may be different then mine? Of course I do, and respect they have chosen to identify themselves as being different.   Do people who identify themselves as being different affect the work place, without a doubt. Is this a good or a bad thing? It really depends on the culture and if it is inclusive than a good thing, but if people fear whatever is different a bad thing.  I believe that we all like to bond with those who are similar to us.  Publicly showing you are different just creates barriers that are not needed.

      For those that think destroying religious or cultural icons will solve anything, you are wrong. It did not work in Europe leading to World War II, it did not work in Cambodia, it did work in Armenia, or with Native American People, or with the Kurds or any other people or place in the world. It is time to stop thinking that the destruction of any culture or religion will ever be a good thing. If we want to change the world than we must  teach that all human life has value and killing or destroying, those with different belief systems will not lead to any type of reward.     
    11. Outstanding Customer Service
       
      Today I had the experience of working with a manager at Earl’s Restaurants in Vancouver BC that really gets customer service. We use Earl’s Restaurants across Canada for many of our tours. We purchase thousands of dollars in gift cards so that our customers can dine at their leisure, not as a group. As we come to the end of our Alaska and Canadian Rockies series I realized I was short one gift card because of a last minute booking. I called Earl’s on Hornsby Street in Vancouver and spoke to a  manager by the name of  M Garcia. Mr. Garcia advised me that he could not take credit cards over the phone but was willing to work with me. I explained I was in NH and there was no way I could come in person.  Mr. Garcia, not only trusted me to send him the money but offered to deliver the card around the corner to my guests. 
       
      Not only is the food at Earls really good, it is obvious that senior management has empowered store managers to make the decisions necessary to provide amazing customer service.  If you are in Banff or Vancouver or any of the many other places where you find Earl’s Restaurants across Canada, stop in for a great meal.  I have found the management in the store on Robson St, on Hornsby St and in Banff to go way beyond what was expected to make our customers happy. Last month I had 53 guests eat at the store on Robson St and all rated the food and service as exceptional.  I have had the same experience when a restaurant we used to use in Banff was overbooked, Earl’s took our customers with no hassle what so ever. The restaurants and management that train their staff so well in customer service need to be recognized. Great food without great service leaves an average feeling. Because of the service M. Garcia provided today we will be using Earl’s for a long time. Senior management should know that because M. Garcia was willing to help me resolve a challenge the chain will gain about $10,000 in additional sales in 2016 from my company.
       
      Please share this story so that those that do the right thing get recognized.
       
    12. There are so many scams going on that I thought I would take the opportunity to a share a few in the hope I can make some of you aware of how people are trying to steal your money and get you involved in money laundering schemes.

      The first step is that small business owners are being contacted asking if they would like to make a little extra money for a couple of hours work.  This is the bait.  The story is something like it is too expensive to process credit cards overseas and they need a US representative to handle the transactions for the US or Canada.  There are multiple approaches the scammers take. One version if you agree to process the transactions is; they will send a contract on the letterhead of some world corporation. They will offer you a percentage of the funds you help collect (usually 7 -10%)  They will then send you to a website of this corporation trying to establish legitimacy.  The corporate web site has no relationship to the scammer other then they might have obtained a piece of letter head.

      Check the email address of the person trying to hook you; it will seldom be a corporate email. Often it will have the name of the corporation in the email but will have a dishnet or gmail ending rather than a corporate email.  The scam; they will have their customers sending you money and requesting you send out small transactions to obscure places by Western Union, Monygram or ask you to make a cash deposit to a bank.  The money that you receive is generally stolen from a brokerage account, a finance company, or medical benefit company etc.  The person sending the money is generally duping someone into believing they are making an investment, or purchasing some type of insurance, or they are a finance company that is financing the purchase of equipment.  Often they will contact tour companies saying they are purchasing trips for incentive travel. They will often claim to be art dealers sending works of art.  Don’t fall for any of this, think it through.  Why are they offering to pay you 7 -10% of the money collected? Any legitimate company can have funds sent by wire or via paypal or a credit card or get an online merchant account.  They can get a US bank account and have funds deposited direct into that account.

      The promises are that you can make an extra $10,000 a month for processing these transactions.
      If you have investment accounts you need to monitor them to make sure someone has not hacked your accounts.  If you are an institution you need to balance the books on a regular basis.  The thief’s are looking for those that are unaware.

      In the last six months we have had four different companies try and scam us. We have had companies that have tried to pay for group tours with stolen money; we have had companies try to pay for incentive travel with stolen money from brokerage accounts they were not authorized to use. We have had customers try and pay for high end vacations with stolen credit cards.  As the travel industry evolves many of us never see or meet our customers.  You have to have security protocols in place so the scammers don’t win.  If someone offers to purchase high end travel on short notice and you don’t know the customer , check the customer out. Be certain you know where the money is coming from. Don’t engage in a business transaction with anyone unless you have a name, address and phone.  If someone is not willing to give you an address walk away, you most likely are being scammed.  If someone starts making purchases that are out of the ordinary validate the checks or the wire transfers. If it is a corporation, look up the address and verify that the person you are dealing with works there, and is authorized to spend the funds.  Don’t use the phone number you are given, as it may be just a boiler room phone bank.  Look up the number and call the business on the phone number listed. Don’t be afraid to call the fraud department at your bank if you are suspicious.  Most of the time, the banks are happy to help you if you suspect fraud.  If you do discover fraud, you might be surprised that it is not easy to get the money back to the rightful owners.   This is a time consuming process if you want to do the right thing. 

    13. Recenly I had the opportunity to return to Seattle and the Canadian Rockies a place someday I hope to retire to.  It was interesting looking at hotels that had changed ownership over the last year and restaurants that had new management or lack of management. When our tour directors do a trip this is the type of information I receive and give.

      My first stop was the Quality Inn in Seattle now owned by the Blackstone group. The guy at the frnt desk must never had seen a tour. He was clueless as what to do with the bags and how they got to the room. I was very surprised that after I told what to do with the luggage he called the sales office and they verified my instructions were correct.  What ever happened to training people to do their job.

      Went to the Crab Pot restaurant for dinner where  buckets of crab, mussels, shrimp, corn, potatoes, sasueage and other shell fish are dumped on the table,  Our customers are given a hammer and go at it. The food was great, the price was right and the perfect way for our customers to start interectaing with each other.  How can you not talk when you are grabing and smashing crab legs. This is a restaurant that truly understands taking care of groups.

      Next we crossed the Cascades and into the quaint town of Levenworth for lunch. This is  another town that gets the tourist industry, with clean washrooms where we load and unload the coaches.  No one wanted to leave the town and thought it would be a fun place to stay. ( We stay in Levenworth on other tours)

      On our way to the Canadian Rockies we stopped at one of my favorite fruit stands. Where the group bought cherries and fresh fruit, Some in my group had never tasted a fresh appricot. The cheries were sweet and delicious and about $2.99 a pound.  It would be nice if  someone taught these people that a little hospitality towards tour directors would increase their business.  My driver had never made this stop and was surprised that they charged him for a cup of coffee and a few pieces of  fruit.  Had they extended a little hospitality  I am sure this stop would be on  many drivers list of stops, not just mine.

      On to the Canadian Border and dinner in Osoyoos. We had dinner at the Cafe del Sol where the food was good but the manager had know clue on how to manage a restaurant or the meaning of the word hospitality.  The manager of this restaurant was an Arogant Prick, that simply did not care that his staff was untrained and refused to help serve the group.  I mean he refused to move the tables six inches so guests chairs were not up aginst each other. As soon as this prick went away I moved the tables and made our customers happy. I can't blame the bad service on the waitstaff, one was there five days, the other two. The restaurant manager  and the senior waitress not only refused to help the new girls but didn't teach the basics like putting salr and pepper on the table or serveing drinks to one table at a time. My only comment is that if you stop in Osoyoos find another restaurant.

      We arrived at the Comfort Inn in Kelowna, where the staff was too lazy to put names on the key packets. It was like a heard of cattle as everyone tried to pick up room keys by looking on a rooming list.  I say this to all of my hotel friends; If your staff is too lazy to put names on group key packets then they don't want group tour business,

      Next day had a picture perfect day as we started out weith a visit to Gray Monk winery. This is one of my favorite wineries for spectacular views of the Lake.  On to Three Valey Gap  where the group liked the option of cafeteria or dinning room.

      Arrived in Banff and on to the Balkin Restaurant for dinner.  I have a lot of history  with this restaurant that goes back to the late 70's.  Yanni is the son of  a former freind that passed away.  The staff of this restaurant truly understand hospitality.  The food is great, the service frtiendly and efficient.

      Arrived at the High Country Inn in Banff to find a clueless twit from Austrailia manning the front desk.  We were delayed waiting for thee train to cross. I could not call the hotel as we did not know how long the train would take (45 mins). She tried to tell me their was no baggage service because we were more then an half hour late for our scheduled arrival time. The baggage was prepaid and it was only call to the manager to get this taken care of.  There was another group staying in the hotel from Germany.  It wasn't long before my customers were telling me that the group from Germany were like pigs at a trough.  Not only were they stuffing as much as they could into their pockets and bags, but would not even pick up their dirty dishes. When groups travel they leave impressions on other tourists.  My group left feeling that everyone who travels from Germany should be just feed at a trough not at a table. The ungly American's give other countries these impressions about  our country.  (Happy to say we chose another hotel for 2016 and will be staying at the Ptarmigan Inn not the High Country Inn) 

      The scenery in Banff is always spectacular. The Gondola rides, the park , the gardens etc.  We had a little rain at the Cave and Basin and in all my trips to the Rockies it was the first time the rangers allowed the bus to come to the upper level to pick up passengers so they did not have to walk in the rain.

      On to Emerald Lake, Takaksaw Falls, Morraine Lake, and Lake Louise. these are some of the most beautiful places on earth.

      Group checked in to the Lake Louise Inn only to find that one of the rooms had nesting animals. They were only Columbia Ground Squirles that scared the bejebers out of my guests.  A quick room change and off to the Mountain House for dinner. Overall the food was good with the exception of disgusting elk burgers that were overcooked, covered in a sweet sauce, with rank blue cheese. They tasted like there was something other than beef, dead on the bun. 

      The manager at Lake Louise Inn another Jerk. Eventhough keys were ready. He  would only give me a few until they were all ready.  The front desk manager may be a good manager but he truly lacks  in hospitality.

      Perhaps in the future when I tell groups that when it comes to dining at the Lake Louise Inn the best system is a dinner voucher and choice of dining establishments. The Lake Louise Inn just does not do group dinners well because of limited space.

      The Icefield Parkway was sperctacular as it always is. Group loved the snow coaches, lunch at the icefields, the scenery and river rafting with Jasper Raft Tours.

      The new Crimson hotel in Jasper is beautiful.  For dinner the group ate at the L & W Restaurant did ad a fantastic job with food and service. My only comment was I talked about how good the Lemon marangue pie was  and there was none left when I was ready for desser,.as my group bought every slice.

      Did the morning tour to Maligne Lake nothing has changed in 30 years and group like this trip and the food at the restaurant.

      No one ever listens, when I tell them the train ride is a long trip from Jasper to Kamloops. Faster and better by bus.

      Stayed for the first time at the Pacific Inn. I loved this prioperty and only wish I was there longer.  The breakfast was way below my expectactions.

      Continued on to the Ashcroft Mannor Teahouse. This is a great stop my guests bought lots of stuff in the gift shop and I think every piece of pie in the shop. This is a great stop that everyone appreciated.

      Did Hells Gate for lunch. This is another atteraction that had been sold. It did not seem right the Debbie and Brian McKinney were not there to greet me,

      On to Vancouver and the Blue Horizon Hotel. I had not stayed in this hotel for several years. The rooms were clean and comfortable with a great location. Had dinner at Earl's the food was great service was better and group was happy.

      The ferry crossing to Victoria was smooth the Butchart Gardens spectacular with color.  Most of the group enjoyed having free time in Victoria.

      The Pacific Buffet on the return ferry was very good and highly reccomended.
       
      The last night dinner we went to a Brazilian Steak House that is called Rios. My best advice is that if you want dried out beef, gristle poor service and no atmosphere go to this restaurant. I had been to this restaurant in the past and the food was good.  In all honesty it is time for this restaurant to close down. The food on the slad bar was not bad, everything else is the restaurant is pure garbage that I don't think a hungry dog would eat.

      I had a great time in the Rockies with a great group of people and caan't wait until I can get back again. Hope all of my friends and customers can join me next year.


    14. The Price of Freedom
       
      As you celebrate the 4th of July,
       
      Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?
       
      Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
       
      What kind of men were they?
      Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated, but they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.
       
      Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.
       
      Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly.  He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding.  His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.
       
      Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and  Middleton.
       
      At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters.  He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.
       
      Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.
       
      John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying.  Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste.  For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. Many of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn't. 
       
      Patriotism is NOT a sin, and you can be a Patriot and still work towards Peace.  As you celebrate this day reflect on what others gave up so you could be free.
       
      Travel is the perfect Freedom that spreads understanding and tolerance through the world.

    15. As a Tour Operator How Do I Choose A New Destination For  A Tour?


      At Tye’s Tours we are constantly adding new tours and developing new tours. Destination Marketing Organizations are constantly trying to encourage tours to their area without marketing their own area. The reality is the budget for developing new tours is limited. If no one has asked for to a tour to this destination, and I have never heard of this destination then the answer is no.

      Here is what I look for in developing new tours.
      The first and most important thing is can I make a buck and what is the competition in selling this destination? If there are numerous tours on the market to this destination there is no point in adding another tour company and further diluting the market.

      On a day trip is it less than 3.5 hours to get to the destination from either the Boston or Manchester area? If it is any further then this distance I am really not interested in developing tours to this destination. Once we get the customer to this destination what is there for the customer to do? If the activity involves watching a demonstration of some sort that destination is eliminated. We are only looking for destinations that involve the customer in the experience. Our customers want to feel it, taste it, see it, smell it.  Am I going to make a country store the theme of a day trip, absolutely no? Am I going to take our customers to a static museum, only by request?

      On overnight tours the first question is the destination known? If a destination is unknown it is a wasted effort on our part to even attempt to market a location that no one knows about. Is there an airport to fly into? Can we reach the destination in under six hours? What is there to do in the area that will be fun and exciting for our customers? Can we develop a theme to the tour? Is there enough to do for our customers to be able to explore on their own? Can we make money selling the tour?

      Here is an example. For the last few years customers have been asking for the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. Do we choose Alaska or Northern Europe to provide this experience? Right now the dollar is strong, the distance to northern Europe and Alaska is the same. The price is about the same and the profit margin about the same. Is there a specific festival the customers might enjoy? How well do I know the destination? Who is my target customer? Is there someone I can create a partnership to enhance the tour? The answers to these questions are important. You can’t turn on the TV without seeing some sort of show on Alaska, to name a few “Alaska Bush People”, “Gold Rush, “Bearing Sea Gold ”, “buying Alaska” etc. The list seems to be endless on TV shows about Alaska. The result is that there is a genuine market for Alaska outside of the summer tourist season. Fairbanks has a winter ice festival with lots of hotels that want winter business. The experience is a hands on experience and a visit to Fairbanks in the winter is considered an adventure by most. We found a professional photographer that has a customer base that wants to go to photograph the northern lights combined with our customers that have asked for a trip to see the northern lights. All of these factors combine for us to spend the money to create our new Alaska Northern Lights Photo Tour.

      Hear is another example: I was looking for a new 3 day Holiday themed tour for Dec. My customers were asking for nostalgia, something that was going to give them the warm fuzzy feeling they remembered from Childhood. I was looking for a location in New England to create the right setting. I heard that the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens was going to be creating a new holiday lighting display with a 100,000 lights. These gave me the idea to build the tour around this theme.  At about the same time a long time industry colleague contacted me letting me know that she had changed jobs and was now representing a property in Camden Maine that had a country inn theme. We got together over lunch and came up with our new “ A traditional old New England Christmas tour” .  This tour came about because I learned about a new attraction, a sales person that understood my needs the desire by our customers for a new holiday tour that was different and the right price point.

      We will be offering a new tour to Miami over New Years because the New England Patriots are playing the Miami Dolphin’s on Jan 03.  We know we have a strong base with Patriot Fans. We know our customers want to get out of the cold in Jan. We know our customers like to celebrate over New Years. The Miami area has two airports with reasonable fares. There is absolutely no reason why this tour would not sell. As soon as the Miami Dolphin’s confirm our seats, this tour will be on the market. The sales rep from the Dolphin’s called me this winter and told me that if I placed a $100 deposit I would be guaranteed seats at the best price for this game when the schedule was announced. This tour came about because my Miami Dolphin sales rep was doing his job.

      On the flip side, sometimes we will spend the money to develop a new tour and no sales will result. We will often go back to our suppliers looking for new ways to rewrap the package. Sometimes they can give us fresh ideas that work, sometimes they have no new ideas and the tour just dies. Sometimes it is the customer perception of the region that causes a tour to fail. For example: The Catskill Region of NY is a great destination with lots to do. Our customers perceive the Catskills as old resorts that are past their prime, with entertainment that is geared for the nearly dead. They see the staff at these resorts as locals that are there only because it is the only place they can get a job. They see the staff in uniforms that are rumpled and wrinkled, giving the impression that the management doesn’t care. It is not that the Catskills region of NY is not a viable destination, it is the perception that our customers have of the Catskills that make it difficult to market. The perception has to change before we can market the region. The same thing is true with a destination such as Branson, Mo. Branson has an airport, has great entertainment, the price is affordable but I could not give away a trip to Branson (I have tried and had no takers). I have tried marketing Branson in a number of different ways, however the perception my customers have is it is a destination for seniors and families and there is no reason for the 45 – 65 year old to go to this destination. My prime market just does not want to go and watch show after show with entertainers that are ready to retire. They don’t believe the advertising that Branson is evolving into a destination that has more to offer then endless shows. As much as I would like to sell Branson and the Catskills the perceived image to our customers, make this a next to impossible sale.  Both destinations have a good product to sell but the consumer message is wrong. Until the consumer perception changes I have to find other destinations that will sell.

      Another example is Portsmouth NH is a great destination but as a tour operator we did a poor job of selling this local destination. My friends at the Chamber of Commerce offered to take my staff on a tour of Portsmouth with a local guide. The results were that we went from having one or two tours in Portsmouth over the year, to having more than 20 this year. It is hard to sell what you don’t know. If the Chamber had not invited us we would not have discovered so many different attractions in Portsmouth.  We didn’t even know what a gem we had in our own backyard.

      A local company asked for my help in marketing their product as a tourist destination. I went to their facility, tasted their product, and did not care for the harshness of the product. Does that mean we can’t develop a tour around the product? The answer is no, it only means that we have to wrap the package so the product is more palatable to the consumer. We have to involve the consumer in how to use the product so it becomes enjoyable to all of the senses. Will I sell tours based on this product that is up to the owner of the business to develop relationships with other merchants so we have something to sell. As a standalone business the answer is no, as the quality of the product would not encourage repeat visitation. If the product is packaged with other local merchants there is a chance we could develop a tour in the future.

      A customer asked if we would develop a tour to Brandford Ontario for an International Festival. I felt this destination was not suitable for a tour because of the distance. I met with the people from Ontario at a Trade Show. I listened and developed a tour concept that would take in Ottawa, Toronto, the Festival, and Niagra Falls. I thought this had the potential of a new tour. I asked the customer who had requested the tour if she could find five other peole interested in this tour.  I posted on Social Media with no comments. She could find no one, so this tour was put on the shelf for another time. 

      This past winter at the American Bus Association I met the ladies from The Beauport  Princes in Gloucester, Ma. I had never heard of the boat, did not have an appointment at the Trade Show, but met by accident at an evening function. We started talking and I realised they had a product that was quite marketable.   Bridget, was very good at her job and before I realised it I had a two new tour on the market. I can't stress how important the trade show functions are for establishing relationships. They are not about hanging out with friends but having the opportunities to engage and find new customers and suppliers. This one chance meeting was the most productive time and appointment I had at the ABA marketplace. The ladies from the Beauport Princess did not do a hard sell, they engaged me in conversation about their product and how we both could make money. If they had not engaged me in conversation then they would not have 10 trips over the summer /fall season. The new tours bloomed out of a genuine desire for friendship combined with business. We all choose to do business with peole we like.  I contrast this approach to a vendor who had an appointment with me at the same trade show, who became overly aggressive because I told him we did not have a market for his product. Instead of trying to solve the problem, he chose to attack me. Not only did I ask this person to end our appointment, but he left me with the impression of no, nay, never would I ever want to do business with him. 

      Every tour operator has the same goods to sell but each wraps the package a little different. The tour operator with the best packaging wins the custome
      r. We are open to new ideas and encourage the submission of new ideas. When I meet people at Trade shows or receive calls in the office that ask me if I go to East Podunk, the answer is always I no. Give me a reason to visit your destination. 
    16. Time for tour guide licensing in New Orleans to go
      Independent Guides can’t contract with individual tour companies as the list of licensed guides is kept secret.

      Protectionist Laws are keeping good people who have passed the test for a guide license from working.  New Orleans either has to make the information public so tour operators can comply with the law, or do away with the law.   I have taken it upon myself to obtain pages from the New Orleans Guide Association membership book and am publishing the list ofsome of the licensed guides found on these pages.   

      Recently I had the experience of trying to hire a guide to do a walking tour of the French Quarter in New Orleans and guides for our motor coach tours that visit New Orleans. For those of you who are unaware New Orleans’s has protectionist laws that take away our right to Free Speech.  The law requires you to hire a licensed guide to tour New Orleans on foot or by vehicle.   This should not be a problem however if you call the licensing bureau they will tell you the list of licensed guides is not available to the general public, it is protected information. Ok so you would think that the Convention and Visitors Bureau would have a link to a list of licensed guides.  No such link exists. Next guess is that you call or email the New Orleans Guide Association; they have no link or list their members.   If you call or leave a message to the guide Association, no one responds by voice or email.  If you try and post a job on their website , you have not been able to post gigs in months.  If you Google New Orleans guide the first name that comes up is a company I would be afraid to do business with.  This company is run by a person that is pretty clueless about business. She does not record or write down the quotes she gives, checks the internet for pricing. and does not honor the quotes she makes. 

      It is very frustrating to try and comply with a law where the information to comply is kept as a secret.  Is this system designed so that only if you know the right people can a guide get work?  Does a guide have to pay a bribe to get listed on the official list? This system sure looks like cronyism to me.  After going in circles I finally got the Convention and Visitors Bureau to send me a partial list of guides.  The list of guides they sent, tells which languages these guides speak.  Not one on this list says English.  As I started trying to contact guides on this list, I found about a third had wrong emails, had retired, or were no longer serving as guides. Shows how often this list is used.      I once again emailed the CVB and was told that all the guides on the first list  speak English and the languages listed were other languages the guide spoke. Why not from the beginning tell me the guides on the list  they sent, spoke English?  The interesting thing is that when I posted on linkedin I was looking for a guide in New Orleans I had about 20 unlicensed guides contact me.   I tried another approach and finally received pages from the New Orleans Guide Associations member’s book listing guides.  At the end of this blog I will publish this list and provide anyone that needs licensed guide contact information.   I am appalled that it is so difficult to comply with a protectionist law. To all of those that are trying to get the tour guide license law repealed in New Orleans I will be happy to testify on your behalf. If the information to comply with the law is a big secret what is the purpose of the law other than to make money and keep work for those who want to be independent and provide service to the traveling public.

      I was able to hire a licensed guide at a fair price, seconds after obtaining this list.  Let’s put those who want to work to work.  As an industry lets end protectionist laws that keep those who want to work from working. 
       
      Abbreviations Tours:
      CT - City Tour
      FQW - French Quarter Walking Tour GDW - Garden District Walking Tour CE - Cemetery Tour
      HH - Haunted History Tour PL - Plantation Tour.
      SB - Swamp & Bayou Tour
      SC - Specialty/Custom - This guide has a tour that is not considered a standard tour and or can develop a tour designed for a special group or topic. Example: Churches & Shrines, Women, Creole, etc.
       
      Services:
      DG - Driver Guide
      HTD - Hospitality/Tour Desk TD -Tour Director/Escort
      TS -Transportation Supervisor AMG - Airport Meet & Greet
      DA - Dine Arounds
       
      * denotes member has liability insurance
       
       
      The Tour Guides of Greater New Orleans, Inc. (TGAGNOI) publishes this directory solely for the use of its members and sponsors. TGAGNOI assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions. Errors or omissions will be corrected in a subsequent issue, if reported by letter to
      Anderson•, Sid
      New Orleans, LA 70122-4341
      sidpanderson@cox.net
      Phone: (504) 283-4674
      Cell: (504) 908-1728
      Fax: (504) 283-4674
      Availability:  Day/Night
      Tours & Services: CT, PT, FQW, SB, GOW, AMG, DG, HTD
      Member since 3/1/1997

      Applebaum, Dr. Robert L.
      New Orleans, LA 70124
      noapple@earthlink.net
      Cell: (204) 376-9144
      Tours & Services:. FQW Availability: Day/Night
      The Story of Judah Touro Lecture Member since 1/1/2013
       
      Audibert, Stephanie
      Slidell, LA 70458
      ms.audibert@gmail.com
      Phone: (504) 552-5747
      Cell: (504) 655-2153
       
      Augustine, Denise
      New Orleans, LA 70117
      creolemuse@yahoo.com
      Cell: (504) 452-9237
      Availability:  Day/ Night
      Tours and Services: FQW, HH, AMG, HTD, DA
       
      Aveline*, Muriel
      Metairie, LA 70001
      ma2012france@yahoo.com
      Phone: (504) 218-8261
      Cell: (504) 473-4810
      Availability:  Day/Night
      Tours & Services:  CT, FQW, SB, PT, GDW, KT, HTD, AMG, TS, DA, DG
      Member since 4/1/1999

      Bale*, Harry
      New Orleans, LA 70116-1905
      donharry@cox.net
      Cell: (504) 427-4091
      Fax: (504) 944-8996
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: All Tours &
      Services
      Member since 10/1/2001
       
      Barbara*, Danielle
      New Orleans, LA 70124
      Phone: (504) 288-8279
      Cell: (504) 874-0732
      Availability: Day
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE, GDW, HTD, AMG, TS, DA
      Member since 8/8/2011
       
      Barbara, John S.
      New Orleans, LA 70124
      Fisi83@yahoo.com
      Phone: (504) 288-8279
      Availability:  Day
      Tours & Services:  CT, FQW Member since 8/8/2011
       
      Barker*, Jamie   ·
      New Orleans, LA  70122
      jdvneworleans@yahoo.com
      Phone:  (504) 252-9968
      Cell: (985) 237-3373
      Availability:  Day
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE, GDW
       
      Batterman*, Michael
      New Orleans, LA 70115
      mbatterman@wanadoo.fr
      Phone: (504) 896-9072
      Cell: (504) 256-9540
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE, GDW, AMG, HTD, TS, DA
      Member since 1/1/12
       
      Benge, Dorothy L
      New Orleans, LA 70130-1016
      dotbenge@aol.com
      Phone:  (504) 267-0472
      Cell: (504) 554-8412
      Fax: (504) 523-2254
      Availability: DayNolunteer Only Tours & Services:  FQW Member since 12/1/01
       
      Bernstein, Benay
      New Orleans, LA  70130
      benayb@gmail.com
      Phone: (504) 833-1492
      Cell: (504) 427-4249
      Fax: (504) 525-8527
      Availability: Volunteer Only Tours & Services: FQW, GDW Member since 6/1/09
       
      Bibb, Randy
      New Orleans, LA 7011.5
      randyneworleans@hotmail.com
      Cell: (504) 914-7014
      Availability: Day
      Tours and Services: All Tours, DA, DG van only
      Member since 3/24/2011

      Bolotte, Wade J.
      Covington, LA 70433
      wbolotte@gmail.com
       Phone: (985) 276-0700
      Cell: (985) 867-8264
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: FQW, AMG, DA, HTD, TS
      New Member 2013
       
      Breeden, Margaret W. 
      mimi.breeden@yahoo.com
      Phone: (504) 621-4160
      Cell: (504) 621-4160
      Availability: Days
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, GD, HTD, TS
      New Member 2014
       
      Budenski, Dale 
      Metairie, LA 70002
      k5nq@vahoo.com
      Phone: (504) 455-3051
      Cell: (504-250-0230
      Availability: Volunteer only, Day Tours & Services: FQW, GDW, AMG
       
      Buisson, Beverly 
      Metairie, LA 70001
      tigers.4444@yahoo.com
      Cell: (214) 926-3389
      Availability: Night/Weekends
      Tours & Services: SB, HTD, AMG, DA
      Member since 8/1/1992

      Calabrese*, Judy 
      Destrehan, .LA. 70047-3122
      cala55@bellsouth.net
      Phone:  (985) 764-3605
      Cell: (504) 559-8717
      Availability: Day
      Tours & Services: CE, FQW, GOW,
      HTD, AMG
      Member since 211/2010
       
      Carll, Angela  M.
      New Orleans, LA 70016-1927
      angcarll@gmail.com
      Phone: (504) 947-6575
      Cell: (504) 258-1647
      Availability: Day
      Tours & Services: CT, PL, CE, TS, TDS
      Member Since 211/2010
       
      Carr, Jr.•, Milton J. 
      New Orleans, LA 70117
      boobooufcw@hotmail.com
      Phone: (504) 309-8404
      Cell: (504) 259-3045
      Fax: (504) 309-8404
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, PT, CE, Treme,
      Free People of Color Member Since 4/16/2011
       
      Chauvan, Elmore A. .
      Metairie, La 70005
      eac4910@cox.net
      Phone: (504) 849-0929
      Cell:(504) 460-2835
      Availability: Day/Night Tours & Services: PL Member since 4/1/2003

      Chetta•, Maria Kay
      Metairie, LA 70001-6300
      mkchetta@nola.gov
      Phone: (504) 219-3260
      Cell: (504) 450-1015
      Fax: (504) 658-4066
      Availability:Day (weekend)/Night Tours & Services: CT, FQW, SB, CE,
      Catholic Church Shrines Tours All Services
      Member Since 10/1/1989
       
      Childress•, Charles F.,Jr.
      Metairie, LA 70001
      cfcjr@att.net
      Phone: (504) 281-4263
      Cell: (504) 975-9378
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, PL, CE, GOW, SB, HH, HTD, AMG, DA
       
      Childress, Marijane
      Metairie, LA 70001
      cfcjr@att.net
      Phone: (504) 281-4263
      Cell: (504) 975-9378
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: HDT, AMG New Member 2014
       
      Clark, Valerie A.
      Slidell, LA 70458
      valndon@bellsouth.net
      Phone: (985) 645-9089
      Cell: (985) 640-3709
      Availability: Day/Night Tours & Services: HTD New Member 2014
       
      Cossart, Isabelle
      New Orleans, LA 70174
      info@toursbyisabelle.com
      Phone: (504) 398-0365
      Cell: (504) 912-2093
      Availability: Day
      Tours & Services: CT, SB, PT, AMG, DG
      Member Since 11/1/1994
       
      Crespo•, Diane  D.
      Covington, LA 70433-8699
      dianecrespos@bellsouth.net
      Phone: (985) 246-6994
      Cell: (504) 453-9316
      Fax: (985) 246-6994
      Availability: Day
      Tours & Services: CT, SB, PL, CE No Services, DG
      Member since 9/2/1996

      Criswell*, Dana
      dmariecriswell@gmail.com
      Cell: (504) 250-6028
      Availability: Day
      Tours & Services: FQW, CE, AMG New Member 2013
       
      Curole*, Marcia
      Metairie, LA 70002
      mrcurole@yahoo.com
      Phone: (504) 834-2709
      Cell: (504) 301-5691
      Availability: Day/ Night
      Tours & Services: CT, Cocktail, HTD, AMG, DA
      New Member 2013
       
      Daley, Carole C.
      Destrehan, La 70047-2536
      Phone: (985) 764-9641
      Availability: Day/ Night
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, PL Member Since 9/1/1985
       
      Davis*, Dorette
      Gretna, LA 70056-4526
      dorettedavis@hotmail.com
      Phone: (504) 393-8325
      Cell: (504) 261-9095
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: All Tours & Services;
      Site Inspections, Fam Trips, Over the Road
      Member since 3/1/1995
      DeJean,Jr.•,Joseph E.
      New Orleans, LA 70118
      jdejean@cox.net
      Cell: (504) 666-1988
      Availability: Day
      Tours & Services: FQW Member Since 2/22/2012
       
      Detraz, Berry "Geanie"
      Metairie, LA 70003-2131
      chagee@aol.com
      Phone: (504) 887-4832
      Cell: (504) 451-8296
      Availability: Day
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, SB, PL, CE, GOW
      Sire Inspections, HTD, TS, AMG Member Since 7/1/1988
       
      DeVerges*, Estelle
      New Orleans, La 70115-4312
      pdevera@bellsouth.net
      Phone: (504)(891-7498
      Cell: (504) 554-9840 (secondary)
      Fax: (504) 891-7498
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: All Tours & Services
      Member Since 10/1/ 2001
       
      Downs*, Don A.
      New Orleans, LA 70116-1905
      donadowns@hotmail.com
      Cell: (504) 430-3267
      Fax: (504) 944-8966
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: All Tours & Services
      Member Since 2/1/1997

      Dubaz*, George
      New Orleans, LA 70116
      nolatourguide@me.com
      Cell: (228) 324-8225
      Availability:  Day/Night
      Tours & Services: FQW, CE, HH, AMG, HTD, TS, TD, DA
      HH & All Services Member Since 3/1/2009
       
      Duplantier, Guy Louis 
      Metairie, LA 70003
      gduplanti1@aol.com
      Phone: (504) 888-9535
      Cell: (504) 858-0722
      Availability: Night
      Tours & Sewices: HOT, AMG, DG New Member 2014
       
      Dupuy, Patricia
      Metairie, La 70006-4010
      adupuy1@cox.net
      Phone: (504) 454-2851
      Cell: (504) 214-5809
      Availability: Day
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE, GDW
      Member Since 4/1/1994
       
      Durio, Leslie C.
      Covington, LA 70435-8807
      mike-les@att.net
      Phone: (985) 893-2528
      Cell: (504) 606-9500
      Fax: (985) 893-2528
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: All Tours, HTD, AMG, TD, DA
      Member Since 7/1/1999

      Eshenour*, Mary
      Metairie, LA 70001
      meshenour@cox.net
      Phone: (504) 837-2640
      Cell: (504) 250-2640
      Availability:  Day/ Night
      Tours & Services: CT, PT, CE, GDW, HTD, AMG
      New Member 2013
       
      Esteves, Jr., Bertin B.
      New Orleans, LA 70130-1016
      Cell: (504) 439-1828
      Availability: Day -Volunteer Only Tours & Services: FQW, CE, GDW,
      St. Bernard Parish Member since 5/1/2001
       
      Faber*, Edgar A.
      Metairie, LA 70006
      edfab12@hotmail.com
      Cell: (504) 388-0914
      Availability: Volunteer, Day/Night Tours & Services: CT, FQW
      New Member 2014
       
      Fandrich*, Ina
      New Orleans, La 70119
      inafandrich@amail.com
      Cell: (504) 669-6040
      Availability:   Day/Night
      Your & Services: CT, FQW, SB, . PT, CE, GDW, HH,
      Treme, Canadian Heritage, AMG, HTO, TD
      Member Since 4/16/2011

      Forrette*, Terry L.
      Mandeville, La 70421
      forrette@yahoo.com
      Cell: (504) 722-3739
      Availability: Day/ Night
      Tours & Services: FQW, CE, FQ Tasting Tours
      Member since 5/19/2011
       
      Fortier, Byron 
      New Orleans, LA 70117
      spain913@gmail.com
      Phone: (504) 218-4545
      Cell: (504) 722-1105
      Availability: Day
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, SB, CE, GDW, HTD. AMG
      New Member 2014
       
      Frank*, Lynn
      New Orleans, LA 70118
      lynn-frank@att.net
      Phone: (504)866-7251
      Cell: (504) 201-9438
      Availability:  Day
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, GDW, PT, Treme
      Member since 2/17/2011
       
      Freeland*, Robert Gray
      New Orleans, LA 70125
      robertfreelandor@aol.com
      Phone: (504) 861-7876
      Cell: (504) 858-7117
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, PL, CE, AMG, TD
      Member since 1/1/2009

      Funck*, Dottie
      New Orleans, LA 70122
      dottietours@aol.com
      Phone: (504) 301-9966
      Cell: (504) 905-4081
      Fax: (504) 301-9966
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: All Tours & Services
      Member Since 3/1/1986
       
      Gendusa*, Joseph A.
      Metairie, LA 7002-6297
      jagcollege@cox.net
      Phone: (504)-832-4946
      Cell: (504) 905-3231
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: All Tours, SC, Cocktail AMG, DA
      Member Since  10/1/2001
       
      Gniady, Carol
      New Orleans, LA 70117
      carolgniady@hotmail.com
      Cell: (504) 948-1859
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE, GOW, AMG, TS, DA
      SC: Music and Art New Member 2014
       
      Goetz, Rosemarie K.
      Kenner, LA 70065-3144
      rmaets@yahoo.com
      Phone: (504) 443-6408
      Cell: (504) 606-1180
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: All Tours, HTD, AMG
      Member Since 3/1/1998

      Green, Saundra Lear
      New Orleans, LA 70115-1539
      leargreen@hotmail.com
      Phone: (504) 304-1591
      Cell: (504) 952-1102
      Availability: Day/ Night
      Tours & Services: All Tours, HTD, TS, AMG, DA
      Member Since 1211/2001
       
      Guerra*, Anna M.
      New Orleans, LA 70131
      annamguerra@gmail.com
      Cell: (504) 813-5717
      Availability: Day/Night, Weekends Preferred
      All  Tours & HTD, AMG, DA
       
      Gussoni,Charles  A.
      Kenner, LA 70062
      cgussoni@cox.net
      Phone: (504) 466-4552
      Cell: (504) 421-4578
      Availability: Day, Volunteer Only Tours & Services: FQW,  AMG, Member since 211/2009
       
      Harrell, Katherine
      New Orleans, LA 70117
      kathypharrell@gmail.com
      Cell: (504) 235-5389
      Availability:  Day
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE New Member 2014

      Harris, Allen
      New Orleans, LA 70016
      alharrisofno@yahoo.com
      Phone: (504) 522-3745
      Cell:(504) 669-8037
      Fax: (504) 522-3745
      Availability: Volunteer Only, Day Tours & Sevices: CT, FQW, PT, SB, CE, GDW, Treme, HTS, AMG, TDS, DA, TS
      Member since 1/1/2013
       
      Hester, Sandy M.
      New Orleans, LA 70116
      faolnua@gmail.com
      Cell: (504) 231-9616
      Availability:
      Tours & Sevices: FQW, CE, Treme
      New Member 2013
       
      Huff*, Brian
      New Orleans, LA 70117
      bf_huff@yahoo.com

      lennusa, John A.
      Madisonville,  LA 70447-3708
      iennuj@charter.net
      Phone: (985) 845-3382
      Cell: (504) 432-5726
      Fax: (985) 845-3383
      Availability:  Day/Night
      Tours & Sevices: CT, FQW, SB, PT, GDW, HTD, TS, AMG, TD, DA, DG
      Member since 6/1/1997
       
      Indest*, Michael Stanley
      New Orleans, LA 70115
      grandtoursneworleans.com
      grandtoursneworleans@gmail.com
      Cell:(504) 784-8739
      Availability: Day
      Tours & SeNices: FQW, CE, GDW
       
      Jacobs, Nancy
      jnancy8310@aol.com
      Phone: (504) 488-6197
      Cell: (504) 884-1677 (call 1st)
      Phone: (504) 335-2988
      Cell: (504) 616-0630
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Sevices: FQW, Cocktail, HH, HTD, AMG, DA
      Member Since: 2/2/2010
       
      Hurtado, Angel R.
      New Orleans, LA  70130
      bestofno@bellsouth.net
      Phone: (504) 392-4855
      Business: (504) 561- 9050
      Fax: (504) 561-9060
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Sevices: All tours, AMG, DA, DG
      Member  Since 1/1/2007
      Availability:  Day/ Night (occasionally)
      Tours & SeNices: FQW, CT, GT Member Since 1/20/2011
       
      Junius*, Heidi
      New Orleans, LA 70124
      heidijuniustours@gmail.com
      Phone:(504)282-3298
      Cell: (504) 908-3298
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Sevices: CT, FQW, CE, GDW, HOT, AMG, TS, TD, DA
      New Member 2014

      Kagan, Candance
      New Orleans, LA 70114
      c.kogan@cox.net
      Phone: (504) 367-0636
      Cell: (504) 296-2513
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE, AMG
       
      Kaplan, Jill J.
      New Orleans, LA 70115-6564
      tourjill@cox.net
      Phone: (504) 891-7201
      Cell: (504) 491-0382
      Fax: (504) 891-5222
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, SB, PL, CE, GDW,
      HTD, AMG, TDS, DA, SC: Jewish
      tours
      Member Since 7/1/1987
       
      King, Matthew
      New Orleans, LA 70119
      whaleheadking@gmail.com
      Phone: (504) 301-1424
      Cell: (504) 388-5788
      New Member 2014
       
      LaCoste, Mary
      New Orleans, LA 70112-3406
      edprofno@aol.com ·
      Phone: (504) 552-4300
      Cell: (504) 259-8097
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, SB, CE, PL, HH
      SC: Voodoo, Stain Glass, Black History, Food
      Member Since /1/2000

      Landry, Darleen
      Harahan, LA 70123-4917
      dllandry@bellsouth.net
      Phone: (504) 737-0848
      Cell: (504) 583-5641
      Fax: (504) 737-5588
      Availability: Day
      Tours & Services: All Tours, All Services
      Member Since 2/1/2004
       
      Laporte, "OZ" Oswald
      Metairie, LA 70005-1235
      toursbyoz@aol.com
      Office: (504) 587-7115
      Cell: (504) 430-3982
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: All Tours, DG Member Since 9/1/1992
       
      Laylle, Maria
      Arabi, LA 70032
      friends1955@yahoo.com
      Phone: (504) 909-1954
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: DG, AMG, DA, HDT, TS
      New Member 2014
       
      Lefevre, Virginia (Ginger)
      Jefferson, LA 70121
      gingerlefevre@yahoo.com
      Phone: (504) 733-7649
      Cell: (504) 451-3899
      Availability: Day/Night, Volunteer Only
      Tours & Services: FQW, CE, HTD, AMG,
      Member Since 7/23/2001

      Looney, Marty
      Marrero, LA 70072-4916
      toursbymarty@cox.net
      Phone: (504) 348-3660
      Cell: (504) 495-1307
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: All Tours & Services
      Member  Since 3/1/1987
       
      Lowe*, Zina M.
      New Orleans, LA  70124-1754
      zinalowe@yahoo.com
      Phone: (504) 488-6087
      Cell: (504) 439-2470
      Availability: Day
      Tours & Services: All Tours, SC: Women of New Orleans
      Member Since 3/1/1986
       
      Loyd, Bea
      New Orleans, LA 70175
      bea@miyprivamail.com
      Phone: (212) 660-0150
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE, GDW,
      Anne Rice tour, St. Charles Avenue tour
      New Member 2013
       
      Marino, Jr., Michael
      Metairie, LA  70005-1304
      marinoJR@bellsouth.net
      Phone: (504) 834-6508
      Cell: (504) 442-9490
      Availability: Day
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, PL, CE, DG
      Member Since 6/1/2002

      Martin*, Philip E. 
      Metairie, LA 70002
      papalpro@aol.com
      Phone: (504) 834-4802
      Cell: (504) 235-1029
      Availability: Days
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE New Member 2013
       
      McCelland, Charlotte
      Carriere MS 39426-7804
      tbmacm10@yahoo.com
      Phone: (601) 749-7919
      Cell: (504) 214-0408
      Fax: (601) 798-7943
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: All Tours & Services, SC: Voodoo, Cruise Ships,
      Over the Road
      Member Since 4/1/1985
       
      McElwain, Mahlon "Mick"
      New Orleans, LA 70016-1603
      m.mcilwain@cox.net
      Phone: (504) 940-0313
      Cell: (504) 723-0965
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: All Tours & Services
      Member Since 11/1212006
       
      Mendez•,Servando
      Metairie, LA 70003-2139
      servandomendez@bellsouth.net
      Phone: (504) 888-4657
      Cell: (504) 481-8778
      Fax: (504):
      Availability: Day - a.m. only Tours & Services: CT, FQW, CE Member Since 4/1/1985

      Meriwether, Denise
      Metairie, LA 70001-3314
      Phone: (504) 454-3412
      Availability: Day
      Tours & Services: Volunteer Only Member Since 4/1/2002

      Midkiff", Donald Keith
      Metairie, LA 70006-2220
      dkmidkiff@gmail.com
      Phone: (504) 887-5074
      Cell: (504) 784-5323
      Fax: (504) 887-5074
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: FQW, CE, SC: Battle of New Orleans Back Story Tour
      New Member 2013

      Miller, Barbara
       Slidell, LA 70458
      bkjm3@yahoo.com
      Cell: (269) 267-8469
      Availability: Volunteer Only Tours & Services: FQW

      Moak*, Kath!een
      New Orleans, LA 70119-2906
      kmoak1@cox.net
      Phone: (855) 968-8687
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: CT, FQW, PL, AMG, DG
      Member since 1/1/2009

      Monroe*, Marie
      New Orleans, LA 70118
      furnituregal1@yahoo.com
      Cell: (504) 606-8906
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: All Tours &
      Services, DG
      Member  Since  4/1/2011

      Moore, Sabine 0.
      New Orleans, LA 70131-8616
      mooretours@gmail.com
      Phone: (504) 392-2626
      Cell: (504) 812-3740
      Fax: (504) 392-2626
      Availability: Day/Night
      Tours & Services: All Tours, HTD, AMG, 
    17. Are we aware of our own prejudices? First impressions are important.
      I like to think of myself as a fairly enlighten person and try to be aware of prejudices that reside in my subconscious. Recently I arrived at a hotel in Savannah and heard the noise of little children playing. My first thought was this hotel was invested with rug rats and I would get no sleep. Next thought was that the group was mentally challenged people, which would not be so bad as those folks are usually in bed at reasonable hours and overall well behaved when traveling. As I listened, it turned out that there was a troop of girl scouts from North Carolina. Why did I think that the sound of little children playing were rug rats? Why was brain telling me that the sound of children playing was a specific culture? What caused this thought hidden in my brain to surface? As I listened I heard the children were from North Carolina with their Girl Scout leaders who had a southern accent. I thought these children were mentally challenged because when they spoke they sounded like they had a mouth full of marshmallows. What caused this thought to surface? Why did the sound of a southern accent make my brain think mentally challenged? The children were well behaved and supervised and I had no reason to believe they were anything but children. In the back of all of our brains there are prejudices that are learned responses to sights, sounds, and smells. If we are not aware of our own prejudices, then our decisions might be influenced by irrational thoughts. As I started writing this blog I started to make myself aware of all the subtle signals and triggers my brain was sending and it was very startling: I saw a person of color with wide flaring nostrils at the airport and I started thinking “Planet of the Apes.”  My next thought was the rescued chimps, I saw on my last trip to Africa.  These chimps were incredibly intelligent, the person I was speaking with could not focus on the task at hand for more then a few seconds. Why was my brain sending me these thoughts? As my attention was drawn to some of the beautiful people in Savannah my brain was sending different thoughts. When I saw blond fit women, why was my brain sending the signal, desirable? Why was my brain evaluating these people by surface appearance? When I noticed a woman with flowing red hair my brain was sending the signal, fun to be with. When I noticed a woman with straight black hair why was I getting the signal, in control? Why was my brain sending signals that were so irrational? Why was my brain telling me that women with curly blond hair were high maintenance and woman with short brown hair were not decision makers. What was influencing these thoughts? Were these thought patterns some how influencing my life?  Why did I associate a person with a red and white checked headwear as a Palestinian terrorist? Why when I see a person wearing a headscarf does my brain send the signal extreme caution Muslim Terrorist? Why does my brain send the signal when I see a police officer of fear and avoid any conversation? When we were kids weren’t we taught that the police were the good guys and there to protect us? I tried to figure out when my brain started to think that the police were to be avoided, and could not come up with a rational thought. Why is it that when I hear a voice from India does my brain say dishonest person or when I hear a voice from Pakistan my brain says the con is coming? Why is it that when I see Nigeria my brain says watch for the scam or when I see a person in uniform protector of my freedom?
       
      The more I thought about this, the more I realized that we all have thousands of irrational triggers hiding in our brains. As we travel through life we experienced something that planted these negative and positive seeds in our minds. Only when we struggle to evolve can we bring these thoughts to the forefront of our brains. We can choose to allow these irrational thoughts to influence our decisions or make a rational decision and force our brains to acquire more information on which to base our decisions. Only when we all make a conscience decision to be aware of our own prejudices can we make decisions based on rational thought. Are you willing to delve into your own psyche to discover what prejudices are hiding in your subconscious?  Are you willing to admit to your own prejudice based on irrational thoughts, or are you going to allow your judgment to be clouded by not admitting you have these prejudices? We all have prejudices if we are aware of them we can factor them into our decision making process and allow  ratioal thought to dominate. 
    18. Recently I contacted a company in New Orleans called Tour New Orleans. I spoke to whom I believed to be the owner a Jocelyn Cole. She advised me that she was driving and would get back to me shortly. This is a good thing as I get very concerned with anyone driving and talking on a phone. We spoke later in the afternoon; I told her I was looking for a step on guide to do a walking tour of the French Quarter and Ms. Cole advised me she could provide this service. I shared with her that we usually pay guides by the hour in New Orleans and the rest of the world, when she told me she had to check with guides to get a rate. It is always a concern when the owner of any business does not know the cost of what should be considered a core product.

      Ms. Cole, called me back and offered me a per person price. I questioned this price because I have never paid a guide in New Orleans a per person fee in the last 20 years for a walking tour. She confirmed this was the price; I quoted this price to my customer and was paid according to this quote. This week when I called to confirm the services the price was now doubled the original price. She informed me via email that she did not write anything down and that the new price was her price. She claimed this was the going rate, further confirming she does not know the price of her core products, or what step on guide service costs. You can just imagine what my response was to this nonsense. As everyone knows I have a zero tolerance for this type of unethical behavior and do what I can to expose these business practices. I truly feel sorry for any business that can’t remember the prices they quote and don’t record the quotes they offer on jobs. I think it is even worse that a business would attempt this behavior and not expect to get called out.

      I assumed that because this woman did not know the price of a walking tour of the French Quarter or the going rates for step on guide service, she was a new company, yet her web site says she has been in business since 2001. Who is she trying to fool? Perhaps the company has been around and she just acquired it? My real concern is: Does Ms. Cole just have bad business practices, not writing down the information or quotes she offers, or is she engaging in unethical bait and switch tactics? I asked this lady if she wanted to correct her quote and honor the original quote given. She told me no.

      It doesn’t matter if Tour New Orleans and Ms. Cole are bad business people with bad business practices, or if she believes doubling the price of one of her quotes is ethical behavior. I should not have to instruct any business, in the basic business practices of recording quotes, nor should it become my problem if a business person can’t recall the quotes offered.

      I found another step on guide with one phone call, who agreed that guides get paid by the hour.

      As an industry should we support companies with bad business practices who can’t recall their quotes, or don’t record their quotes? Should we support companies when they make an error and don’t make things right? How do we determine if the behavior is intentional an unethical or if we are dealing with someone who does not understand basic business practices?

      This type of small business plague the travel industry. Want to be Entrepreneurs go into business for themselves not understanding the fundamentals of business. They are in business on a wing and a prayer and eventually will fail, most often burning the consumer. I have made my decision and hope that others will help protect the consumer and let the travel industry know about these companies that think it is ok to engage in this type of behavior. On my part I am committed to making information public when I run across these companies. There are far too many good and hard working people in the travel industry, trying to make a living, for any of us to have to put up with bad business people. If I was an independent guide for this company would I ever see a pay check, or would I be negotiating on every job, because the owner could not recall what she agreed to pay? We all make errors in business, what is important, is how we fix our errors when we make them. A company like Tour New Orleans will put itself out of business in a short period of time, either because of bad business practices or unethical behavior. We all have the choice of who we choose to do business with and most of us choose to do business with people we like. In Ms. Cole’s response below to me she somehow thinks this had something to do finding a lower price, or that I did not give her the opportunity to correct her pricing. She fails to acknowledge that her business practices are the root of her problems and thinks I am the bad guy for calling her out on what I consider unethical behavior. In our original call I told her what we were paying for guide service and told her I had someone already willing to take the job. She seems to believe that I assumed the worst of her and her company or would publish something that was untrue. When I gave Ms Cole the opportunity to fix her error and she refused, after doubling the price, that is when I began to think badly of her, not before.

      Ms. Cole, requested that I publish her unedited response out of fairness. In her response she only restates what I have stated that she does not know her costs, has no written records of her quotes, is researching on line to obtain her core pricing, for quotes. In other words she has bad business practices, which is the premise of this blog. I will never know if this was an intentional attempt at bait and switch, or if I was dealing with a person whose business practices are so ba,d that they will be out of business before the service could be performed.

      There never was an intent on my part to be unethical and anyone who knows me knows that. I understand that you DON'T know that. Why assume the worst? Were I dealing with YOU I would have assumed that you simply made a mistake. I had no written record of a price quote to you. I based this price on what I saw on a per person basis after I researched prices last night. You found a lower price? Say that instead of transferring your erroneous opinions onto me.

      It's fortunate that you are not interested in doing business with me because I assure you I would never do business with you. Understand this. You have seriously misjudged me. Whatever you write in your blog is your business, but in this case in will not be true.
      Joycelyn Cole
    19. Striving for Mediocrity
       
      Yesterday I made the error of playing a movie on a bus that made my customers angry.  I was doing a day trip, stopped at the local Red Box machine and was looking fore a PG movie to play on the way back.  The first PG movie that popped up was Atlas Shrugged a book that was written in the 1950’s. I remembered how much I had enjoyed this book when I was in college, I remembered the roll of Dagny Taggert who was a strong female character, I remembered the character of John Galt and how that character influenced my belief system.  I thought this would be a great uplifting movie for those that had lost money gambling.
       
      I was driving the sprinter and thought everyone was enjoying the movie. As I was listening I kept thinking this is what is taking place in America today.  This is what Common core is all about; this is what President Obama is doing to this country. At the end of the movie I had a passenger who was sitting in a seat unable to watch the movie that became angry with me for showing this movie. She accused me of holding the bus hostage to an anti government political movie. How dare I play such a movie on the bus? Why didn’t I play something like a Bill Murray Movie?  It was never my intention to offend anyone but only to play the movie version of a classic book that I though might be uplifting, never did I dream that this movie would evoke such visceral emotions.
       
      I started to think and ask myself what in this movie was so upsetting to this traveler, could it be that the movie was to close to reality? Was it a wake up call that those of us who strive for excellence and work hard, have had enough of the government wanting to bring us to the average and mediocrity rather then to encourage individuals to excel (common core)?  Was it the reality of what Obama Care is doing to the heath system of this country? (I was forced to change health plans at the end of last year and had to go 60 days with out coverage because of government bureaucracy and a 60-day waiting period.) Was it that there was a strong female character that was independent, made things work and got paid what she was worth? Could it be the movie made us think about the times we live in? In a society where you do not have innovators and people striving to be better then everyone else, society crumbles and falls. Socialism has failed in most societies where it has been tried.  My reality is that there are many ordinary freedom-loving citizens in this great land, that because of strong work ethic and open minds have become extraordinary.   Why should we support those thinking there is a free lunch in my pocket? I am not opposed to giving someone a helping hand; I am opposed to giving some one a hand out at my expense.
       
      In the end I came to the conclusion that there was more then one person upset with me for playing this movie, a (whopping $10 tip from 12 guests). I apologize to all I offended, as my intention was to play an uplifting movie, not make a social comment. 
    20. Last week I was in Houma, LA trying to help get a new company off of the ground.  The new company is calleed A Cajun Expereience and will be run by Barbra Cenec who also owns 12 oaks plantation Bed and Breakdast in Houma.

      Before traveling to Houma I looked up on the internet what the major attractions were. I had been to Houma several times when my friend Sandra Peligrin was alive. Some of you might recall Sandra as the former owner of Cajun Tours.  The internet listed three main attractions: a swamp tour, a visit to an Aligatoer Farm and the Pedestrian Bridge. Yes Trip Advisor rates the Pedestriam Bridge as an attraction.  I sat down with the new tem and started doing some creative writing to help them develop new product. At the end of my short stay A Cajun Experience had 10 new core products that were created. These products included a cultural tour, a tasting tour, an aligator farm and swamp boat tour and so many others.  I felt like I was in a fruit orchard with all of these plums to pick. Being a tour operator and finding virgin territory where the area is rich in products that no one is promoting is always a thrilling experience.  I just wonder what the folks at the tourist office are doing to promote the area if a pedestrian bridge is listed as the number three attraction.

      Houma service as a supply point for the oil industry, the Mandelay Bay Wildlife area is there, rich cajun history, swamp boat tours, aligators, great seafood. There are orange groves and sugar cain plantations and great opportunityies for agri tourism.  There is the opportunity to have dinner in a plantation house and a great location for Mardigras parades and to see how floats are put together.

      The more I taught my students, the more I realised how much information was stored in my head. I realized that the tour and travel industry needs a mentoring program for those new start up businesses trying to get going. I have decided to offer a consulting service for those that want my expertise. I am also looking at how I can get this information down on paper. Teaching new students about business plans, marketing plans, tour pricing, how to source product, and creative writing helped me codify my thought process.

      72 hours after ariving the first sale was made and additional sales were made over a short time period. Additional sales were made and they now have product that can be sold for an individual to a full motor coach.

      I look forward to watching A Cajun Experience flourish.  If anyone is looking for new product in South Louisiana give them a call.  They have the desire to provide your customers with outstanding customer service.
    21. Last week I was departing for Winter Carnival in Quebec. Some of you might remember that it was a cold snowy morning. We were scheduled to depart at 6:30, we were missing two passenges and at 7:00 I decided to depart. There was no answer to this couples phone no message left in the office. At 7:15 they called the office asking where the bus was and they were not happy they missed the bus. I told them we waited a half hour and there no message as to where they were or they were trying to make the bus. Of course the next question was would they get a refund. Once again they were not happy when I said no.  In the winter time none of us know what is going to happen and that is why travel insurance is so impoertant. Had they taken the travel protection and missed the bus because of weather they would have received a full refund. This morning  I have been trying to help customers trying to get out of Logan for School Vacation Week and have been trying to book flights for them for tomorrow. Had these customers taken travel insurance they would have been compensated for the missed days of  their vactions.  I am flying to a meeting on March 1 and would not consider booking a ticket with out travel protection for myself. On our winter trips we have added snow protection insurance for $5 a day, which is a deal.  To all of my customers that leave in New England it is winter, it snows and if the roads are open the trips depart. If you don't make the trip and you don't have insurance there is no refund. It is prety straight foreward.  
    22. I am in the final week of the class I have been taken and have learned 54 new concepts over the semester and have to find the time to implement what I learned into the business.
       
      One of the things I realized as I was going through my class is that I was not asking you my readers for referrals. If any of you know people who like to travel as an individual or group would you ask them to sign up for our  newsletter at www.Tyestours.com. This is my best way of getting the word out when there are sales and deals.
       
      The first week of January I was in St Lewis at a convention.  I had not been to St Lewis in about 10 years and there were many changes. On my last trip to St. Louis, in order to gamble you had to be on a River Boat and now there was a beautiful Casino close to the downtown area.  There was a  ball park in the downtown area that was not there on my last visit.  I also got to see the Fox Theater and this is truly one of the most opulent theaters I have ever seen. It is hard to believe that this theater was almost torn down.  If you ever get to St. Louis and have a chance to see this theater take ie it. As I saw the Gateway Arch  I remembered back to my early days as a tour director  and some of the crazy stories the conspiracy theorist proposed. At one time some of the nut cases believed that the real purpose of the arch was a secret device to control weather.  I took my mandatory ride to the top in the egg shaped capsule  and remember thinking that it reminded me the old sit com of Mork and Mindy.   I did not get to see a lot of the city as most of the time was spent in the Convention Center learning about new products to make our tours better, as well as meeting with some of the vendors for our tried and true tours.  I walked through a few of the hotels in the convention center area and kept thinking that these buildings must have been built around the Civil War. The good news is the downtown area was undergoing a lot of construction and redevelopment. At the Convention Center my first comment is they need to hire a real chef. as the food was just awful. The only time I can remember food at a Convention that was this bad, was the one and only time I was in Cleveland.  I can only remember that in Cleveland nothing at the convention center worked and at every meal we were served some form of a sausage.  I digress, I was expecting maybe to find some good barbecue ribs or something traditional of St Lewis. When going to conventions now I will pack MRE’s (meals ready to eat) so I am sure that  I am not consuming more salt then I would eat in a year.  I kept asking myself if anyone in St Lewis has taste buds because the food was so bad. Until St Lewis, I believed that with my travels that my stomach could tolerate anything. One morning for breakfast we were served this baked egg dish with ground up pepperoni and one day for lunch we were served what looked like cat food and grass on an oil slick. Many of us spent a good deal of time in the restrooms that day.  The convention center in St Lewis is huge and just to get to my booth at the show was a ¼ mile walk. Over the 4 days I was in St Lewis I never walked less then three miles in a day.  After four days of walking, more salt and sugar then I would normally consume in a year, my feet hurt and I was ready to come home.  The good part of a convention is always catching up with industry friends if only for a brief moment. Usally when I leave a convention I am pumped up and ready to go to work, my only feeling leaving St Lewis was I was exhausted.
       
      While at the convention I took a seminar on the proper way of using a networking event to my advantage. How many of you when you go to a networking event remember to ask for referrals of people who can use your services? To be honest I realized I was doing the blah, blah, blah, engaging people in conversation, but seldom asking for business and referrals.  I now make it a point to end my conversations at networking events asking if anyone knows of groups that like to travel or if they have friends that need a good travel agent.  To my readers I ask the same questions please send me your referrals. Since I once again started asking for the referrals, the number of referrals I get in a week has doubled and the people subscribing to the newsletter is also growing.  If you don’t ask for the business you probaly won’t get it.
       
       
       

    23. This week while working on a custom Honeymoon package, I discovered a great new idea for city  tours. The idea is to do tours on golg carts with private guides and using headphones for commentary. Just think a golf cart can go where buses and cars often can't go. Golf Carts are the perfect soloution for those that can't or won't walk. Think about how much fun your customers will have if they don't have to look out a bus window. Think of the customer that is dead tired and would take a cab rather then walk. Think about being in Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco or any other city and being able to go where only pedestrians can go.  There is a company in Rome already doing eco friendly tours using golf carts. It is time for this idea to come to America. 
    24. This morning I was on the radio on the Girard At Large Radio Show, you can hear the interview here.
      https://soundcloud.com/girardatlarge/12-26-2014-hour-2b

      talking about how I got into the Travel Business  and what makes Tye’s Tours Different.  When we listen to ourselves we realize that we sound different then we think we sound. One of the things I encourage our tour directors to do is to record their narration of every tour. The days of winging a tour are long gone.  I don’t mean that any narration should be canned but should be fresh and the content fun.  Every year I make it a point to ride our own tours, with various tour directors, often when I sit in the back of the bus I cringe with the delivery I hear. We had one tour director that had been getting great reports from other companies, dynamic personality and someone that is fun to be with. When I listened to the commentary it turned out that every time she opened her mouth it came out as disjointed information in a whine. When I suggested she needed to record herself so she would hear what she sounded like she choose to work for another company.  A good tour director has to be a storyteller first with commentary using engaging facts. Few People want to listen to a lecture while on tour, they do however want to know about the area they are going through.  When teaching our tour director classes, we make sure our tour directors understand that if they are talking for more then five minutes at a time no one is listening.  No one cares how much a tour director knows if they are not having fun.  We have all been on the tours where the tour directors go on and on about nothing. At Tye’s Tours before hiring any tour directors we require them to submit an audio tape giving a narration on anything. If they can’t do this to get the job then they will never do it before going on the road.    I feel I have eliminated the tour directors that were not engaging.  I have got rid of the whiners, and the tour directors that were trying to wing tours. In 2015 at Tye’s Tours we are striving to find the tour directors that will be engaging and fun.  You will see a change in faces next year as we strive to find the tour directors that will deliver the commentary you will want to listen to. If I am willing to go on the Radio and do live commentary and publish these interviews, then those that work with us must also provide enjoyable commentary.
       
      Tye’s Tours is constantly evolving a and sometimes we have to go back to the basics in order to become better.
        
       I wish all of you a Happy and Prosperous New Year. 

    25. TODAY I WAS REGOGNISED FOR SOME OF THE THINGS I DO IN THE COMMUNITY, TO MAKE MY LOCALITY A BETTER PLACE FOR EVERYONE TO LIVE. IT SURE FEELS GOOD TO KNOW THAT THE COMMUNITY I LIVE IN, NOTICES THE THINGS I DO. I AM  NOT LOOKING FOR CREDIT BUT ONLY TO ENCOURAGE OUR BUSINESS LEADERS TO BE RESPONCIBLE CITIZENS IN THE COMMUNITY WE SHARE. TREAT YOUR CUSTOMERS AS YOU WANT TO BE TREATED BY YOUR CUSTOMERS.

      BEST OF MERRIMACK AWARD
      Tye's Top Tour & Travel Receives 2014 Best of Merrimack Award

      Merrimack Award Program Honors the Achievement

      MERRIMACK December 2, 2014 -- Tye's Top Tour & Travel has been selected for the 2014 Best of Merrimack Award in the Tour Operators category by the Merrimack Award Program.

      Each year, the Merrimack Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Merrimack area a great place to live, work and play.

      Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2014 Merrimack Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Merrimack Award Program and data provided by third parties.

      About Merrimack Award Program

      The Merrimack Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Merrimack area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

      The Merrimack Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community's contributions to the U.S. economy.

      SOURCE: Merrimack Award Program

      CONTACT:
      Merrimack Award Program
      Email: PublicRelations@awardservice.org
      URL: http://www.awardservice.org/

    26. How do we know, what we don’t know, we don’t know?
       
      First I have to say thank you to my friends who are helping me get work done and get my school work done. I could never run a business and go to school with out help from my friends.  I also have to say thank you to my TA, my professor, and my fellow class mates who are pushing to get the greatest value from the money invested in school. I keep bitching and moaning about how hard running a business is and going to school at the same time. Four weeks into my course and my website is looking really cool and I know about 1000% more then I did  a few weeks ago.  Sadly I did not know that I did not know so much little stuff that is so important.
       
      Here are just a few things I did not know.
      • Over the last 15 years I had purchased many domain names I actually ow 15 different domain’s with key search phases. What I deid not know was that half of them did not point to anything. Nobody until recently said make sure to check your domains and make sure they all point to your website.
      • I owned a domain that was misspelled. How foolish do you think I felt doing that I had owned this domain for five years and did not know there was a spelling error.
      • I never used common sense to realize that it was much easier for search engines to find us if we translated our pages into different languages. Last week I landed a $150,000 account, from an Italian tour operator, who found me by searching for me in Italian on Goggle. I wish someone would have made this suggestion years ago. I also had my pages translated into Chinese and have had multiple inquiries from Chinese tour Operator’s. It does make a big difference if you want to play in a global market place for search engines to be able to find you. Even adding a Goggle translator widget is important  once potential customers get to the landing page.
      • I never realized that my website was hard to read because of the different fonts I used.  Now my customers are telling me how much more they like my website. Never would have guessed in a million years how important it is to have one consistent font. 
      • Never knew how to get lead generating services working for me, four weeks ago I did not even know what an e-commerce lead generating service was. If you are not familiar with these services they send me qualified group and individual leads based on a profile I set up. It was like adding extra staff with no cost or overhead.
      • Four weeks ago I did not have a clue as how adds track you. Now that I understand how this technology works I am asking why I did not use it.
      • Before starting the class I am in I used linkedin as a sophisticated Rolodex. I did not understand how to use this tool for generating revenue.
      • Have had lots of classes in Social Media but did not understand how it was used for generating income. Now part of my day is dedicated to using Social media. If you don’t understand using Social media for profit you need to take a class.
      • I never realized that having multi colored navigation bars was confusing for some users.
      • I never thought that adding a reserve now button would increase my conversion factor. I thought my web site was intuitive. Over the last few years may 10 people told me it was hard to book on my web site. Over the last week at least 20 customers have told me how ease my web site is to use.  I didn’t change anything just added a button.
      • I thought it was obvious that a click hear to pay an invoice or purchase a gift certificate was something everyone understood.  I put this same information on a button and my customers are buying gift certificates now.  I had one customer tell me today he did not know we sold gift certificates.
      • Had another customer tell me they found the recipe button on my web site. It has been there for at least five years but was lost in the clutter.
       
      I could go on and on about all the little things I did not know, I did not know. Then there are the big things like understanding the analytical tools associated with my e-commerce marketing. I am not a numbers person so did not pay much attention to the analytical stuff, was I ever surprised to find out what I was neglecting.
       
      Those of us who relied on the customers coming to us for our knowledge have to do a reality check. The consumer is changing and those of us not smart enough to understand e-commerce need to hire people who do.  Those of us who own businesses that fail to evolve will become extinct. I will be the first to admit I thought I was pretty tech savvy and was leaps and bounds above my competition on technical stuff. When I realized the necessity of going back to school, I began to discover I did not understand how to use the tools available to us, or even what the tools were. For those that have not discovered it yet the next generation is more tech savvy then we will ever be. They have grown up computers, shop and buy using computers and are great at ferreting out their own information. Our jobs as travel professionals is not so much about our knowledge, but about helping our customers organize their plans, and turn their dreams into reality at the most affordable price.  Once the Packaged Travel Industry understands and define our new rolls the industry will evolve.  
    27. Exceptional customer service
      Do we see it? Do we recognize it? Do we appreciate it?
       
      Over the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to witness some incredible customer service , some people who thought they were giving good service and weren’t, and people that blew with a poor attitude.
       
      Here are some examples of great customer service and people I want to do business with.

      Jennifer from NineCats Design has put together my newsletter and helped my website evolve. We met at a Merrimack Chamber of Commerce meeting and just seemed to click.  Over the last few years Jennifer has given me exceptional customer service, well beyond anything I expected.  She is not afraid to tell me when I am wrong, as well as right, and is always encouraging me. When I started going to Grad School and did not understand some of the e -Commerce technical stuff I have to learn, she is always there willing to help me understand and explain a concept.  When my newsletter needs spicing up she finds the graphics that make it pop. Jennifer, is becoming a friend, someone I can turn to for advice, someone I can trust. Will I send her business at every opportunity, with out doubt.  Her prices are reasonable her service is exceptional. This is a person that has earned my business and my friendship. If you need help with your social media, webpage or building a new web page or newsletters contact her. NineCats design
       
      I had the experience today of calling Google Customer support trying to figure out how to apply a coupon code and begin to use Google Adwords.  I explained that I was a student and had as one of my assignments to develop pay per click advertising using only the coupons I had on Google, Bing, Yelp, and Facebook.  Much to my astonishment I was connected to Dyshown, a charming women that spoke exceptional understandable English.   Her first words were could I spare a half hour so she could get me up and running the right way.  I was calling for service and she was asking me if I could spare the time so she could teach me. I don’t recall ever, when I have made a request for assistance with any company, someone requesting my time to make sure I received the service I needed.  Not only did this woman show me what I needed, she made suggestions, so that my add might work better.  When I told her that my assignment was to spend a maximum of $25 out of pocket she showed me were I could get additional Google Adwords coupons and raise my budget.  How cool was that that someone went out of their way to help me.  I only wish that I could teach my own staff about customer service like this.
       
      Here is another story with a slightly different outcome.  I had been a customer of a local phone store for several years. This store has always given me exceptional service. A few weeks ago my phone charger was stolen, I was going to a business meeting in the restaurant next door and needed to charge my phone.  I asked the manager if he had an extra cord lying around, as I know that every phone store has extra cords. There was no issue and he graciously gave me the cord.  He had created an obligation on my part to give him my business.  My contract was up on my phone and I went back last night to give this store my business.  I stated I wanted to use the coupon for the free phone Verizon had sent me.  The next words I hear is: we charge you $50 and you can send in to get a rebate Visa Card, making it free.  I said I was not interested in any rebate cards. The next thing is I am reminded of the free cord I was given a few weeks ago.  The manager who had my business, made me feel cheap and that I had taken advantage of him asking for help when I was in need.  I got in my car, went to Best Buy got a better phone, for a dollar and was told how I could lower my monthly charge.  The guy at Best Buy made me feel good, he wanted my business and he took care of me. My local phone store had my business and blew it.  I will make it a point to return the phone cord I was given. The customer service had been exemplary, I believed that a fellow merchant was helping me out when I had a problem, not that a $2 cord was creating an obligation. It is in my DNA to help others when I can and would never through my help back in someone’s face.   When someone excels at customer service, I always wonder why someone would make a bone headed move like this. Why chase the customers away when you have built a relationship?
       
      One of things that I stress to my tour directors is that as a tour director there are a few basics items that our customers expect and with out these basics, there is no customer service.  You can be the nicest guy and smartest guy in the world but with out the basics there is nothing to build on. What are the essentials in the tour industry for a tour director?  There has to be water on the bus, no bus should ever leave unless there is a way for the customer to take a pill if needed. The restroom has to be clean with paper and hand sanitiser. There has to be a trash bag to collect rubbish. As I say these are as basic as it gets.  The tour director has to be well prepared and be in sync with the driver. When you get to a destination you have to walk the guests to the entrance. If you skip any of the basics there is no foundation to build customer service.  This past week I had to encourage a tour director who was becoming a friend, and one of the smartest and loyalist people I know, to seek a new career. After two seasons this friend just did not get why the customers were trashing him.  When I asked if there was water on the bus, the answer was no. When I asked what was done for five hours on the coach with no mike, a reply of nothing. When I asked if he had printed maps, another no.  When I had asked if he had gone over the routing with the driver and both were clear, another no.  We can only teach the basics of customer service and if anyone does not grasp that you need a foundation to build on to become extraordinary then it is time to move on. Our customer expectations and demand for service is high, if we fail to meet our customer neeeds with extraorniary service then we have no business.
       
      As we approach the holiday season I have made it a goal to recognize as many friends, family, employers, colleagues and people I encounter when they are providing good customer service. We all need to hold up these people who are making the world a better and kinder place. We need to recognize those who are treating us as we want to be treated. We need to recognize those that are not making excuses and getting things done. These people are the heart and sole of every business and often go unnoticed.  Please join me and give a shout out every time you see good customer service. Lets all recognize and encourage this positive behavior and speak out against destructive behavior.  Those employees who have bad attitudes or just want to get by need to be reminded that there are other places to do business. We all need to remind or colleagues we are in business because of the customer not in spite of the customer.

      Best wishes to all for a Happy Holiday Season.  Take a moment to recognise  those that understand the words customer service
       
      Mel Tye CTP/ CTIS
      Tye's Tours
      9 Riverside Dr
      Merrimack, NH 03054
      Email: info@tyestours.com
      WWW.tyestours.com
      603 424 4043/ 800 374 6819
    28. CHANGE IS IN THE AIR
       
      Some of you want to engage in discussion of the comments I have posted on my Blog.  Just like the seasons, change in the travel industry is inevitable. As the next generation becomes our mainstream customers will limited service hotels have to evolve?  I have no crystal ball but the feedback from my customers is yes.  The days when the majority of our travelers were seniors and today’s younger travelers have very different needs. Our senior travelers traveled for companionship and the security of a group. Our market now consists of less then 13 % of travelers over 65, which means that if our tours do not evolve, and our hotel choices don’t evolve then we will become extinct. The same is true with all segments of the industry hotels, restaurants, museums and attractions.  
       
      When our guests leave home after a frantic workweek they want to stay in places that are more comfortable and have better experiences then staying at home. They want a bed that is as good as the bed they have at home if not better. They want to watch TV on a bigger and better flat screen TV’s then they have at home.  They have become accustomed to quality coffee with verity found in K cups.  When they go to attractions they want to be part of the action they are no longer happy just watching from the sidelines. If they go to a racetrack, they want to ride the pace car and will pay to do so. They want us to try and get the bus on the track and do a lap. If they go to a museum they expect it to be interactive, few want to just go and read about stuff, If they go to a historic site or a mansion they want audio wands so they can explore at their own pace and in depth. If they go to an aquarium they want to interact with the trainers or feed the fish.
       
      Will their be a need for limited service hotels of course their will be, there will always be families with children and travelers on a tight budget. Will the tour coaches be staying in these properties probably not? Will there be luxury brands of hotels, of course there will b but will the motor coaches be staying there probably not? My research says that although price is important, quality is a much more important factor with our guests. Our guests are willing to stay a little further out to have a quality experience at an affordable price.  In one of the comments the analogy was that if you want a Ferrari then you have to pay for a Ferrari.  The reality is that our customers are not buying Ferrari’s, however the market is growing for hybrids.  The same is true in the travel industry; there will always bea demand for the luxury product and the budget property. The market for the Hybrid is what is growing. This is the hotel that has a comfortable bed, a coffee maker, a coffee mug, and a big flat screen TV in the room. The customers want a restaurant that if not attached to the hotel is only a few steps away.  They want to be able to buy wine by the glass and get a full glass of quality wine not a half full glass of a cheap house brand.  The customers are not cheap, and are starting to understand that price, quality and value are relational.  Will the customer pay a little more to have a coffee cup in the room verses paper or foam, yes. Will the customer pay a little more to eat off a plate, yes.  If the customer is paying for Internet will he feel he is getting ripped off with out a question. Our customers who do stay in hotels that charge for Internet now use smart phones, tablets and other devices to connect to the Internet.  Most have mobile hotspots to connect their devices. In today’s market we have to ask the question is charging for Internet service a profit center or creating ill will among our customers?
       
      Our customers are also fact checking the information, we provide.  Recently one of our customers sent us information concerning stories told by local National Park Rangers on how some of the places in New England got their names and some of the historical stories being told.  I have been telling these same stories for as long as I have been in the business.   The local historical societies refute these stories and claim the stories the rangers are telling are not accurate. They claim the meanings of the native words are more fiction then fact. What a surprise to me when I started fact checking some of the information we have been sharing as tour directors and finding out that only 60% was accurate.  Over the winter months I am encouraging our tour directors to take a hard look at the information they are sharing and change the stories we have been telling. If we don’t change our customers will know and will damage our credibility as tour operators.
       
      As I have said many times we can all be an instrument of change, or a victim of change but change is inevitable.  Being a victim of anything is never pleasant. It is always better to be proactive as our market changes then try to catch up later by being reactive.
       
      Thanks to all of you who have made posts on line, or sent me private email.  As we all share information the evolution of the travel industry will take place.  In response to the question of would I ever consider running budget tours to use the facilities currently available? The answer is no we all have to know our market and our customer and we are not the budget tour operator. We will seek ways to cut costs and provide our customers the best value but we will not sacrifice quality for price. We will continue to customize tours based on the requests of our customers and will customize any tour for any group/
       
      Mel Tye
      Tye’s Tours
      800 374 6819
      Email: tyestours@comcast.net
       
         
    29. I have been in DC for the last few days trying to discover trends, things we need to change, inspecting hotels and visiting new attractions. I have a few guests with me representing different markets. The first morning in DC I had a business breakfast set up and the owner of the hotel was an hour late. Do you think this created a favorable impression when I had to rearrange my schedule?   He had bragged that his restaurant produced the best breakfast in Virginia. Need I say the food was average and unremarkable? Hold this thought for a moment. The next day we ate in the hotel and had the included breakfast. First comments from my guests were paper cups for coffee; pastry was stale; and no fruit. This morning my guests said lets go out for breakfast where we can get fresh fruit, get coffee in a china cup, and they use real plates. I gave them a choice of where we went on the first morning or to an Ihop. They chose the first place where we stuck in a corner and the waitress seemed to ignore us. I walked up to the register by the door to pay the check. I must have unknowingly put on my invisible suit as three people came to the register and ignored me, even though I said I had been trying to pay the check for 15 mins. Only when I said if no one wants to take my money, I will leave did someone take my credit card. The restaurant was not busy so I can’t understand what the issue was.  Went back to the hotel restaurant just to do a spot check, still no fruit, no coffee mugs, warm juice.  To my industry friends if you don’t think our guests are noticing these things you are crazy. You are sending the business to your competition. Those of you who have failed to grasp that the customers are no longer asking but demanding fresh fruit at breakfast and real coffee cups, need to wake up. 
       
      At ABA when many of us meet I will be asking if your included breakfast includes real coffee cups, and if you are using paper or Styrofoam. If you are using Styrofoam and your competition is not, my business is going to the other guys. If you use paper and someone else is using real plates and silverware we will be migrating to the competition. Until I heard this same comment on so many of our tours and so frequently, I did not grasp that this was a real concern of our customers.
       
      Here is a brief run down of my experience in Washington
      1. Went to Wounded Warrior Monument, this monument is very moving and will now be included in all tours.
      2. Had lunch at Union Market Place, this was another new venue and would recommend for groups
      3. Sailed on Potomac Boat Monument Cruise. This is a definite no for our tours. The narration was canned, boring, repetitive and could hardly be heard. This is a pleasant boat ride on the Potomac nothing more.
      4. Went to the new White House Visitors center and found the movie moving with comments from Suan ford and the Johnson girls.  This is a good alternative for those that can’t get into the White House
      5. Went to the George Washington Gristmill and Distillery. There was no Wow factor and I would use this attraction for Middle school children.
      6. Went to Ft Hunt Park foliage was magnificent
      7. Went to Arlington National Cemetery watched a wreath laying ceremony, this is always moving.
      8. Went to the Newseum, this was my third time and still found in boring. I fell a sleep in the 4D movie for third time. One of my guests said the best thing about the museum was the Wolfgang Puck Restaurant. A second was fascinated and told me that two hours was not nearly enough time.  The Newseum will be an option but will not be included on tour.
      9. My guests truly enjoyed the national zoo. I am trying to figure out how to include the zoo in most Tours.
      10. My guests truly enjoyed seeing Washington at night.
      11. I have been relearning the city as so much as changed from when I was coming on a regular basis as a tour director.
      12. Visited 14 hotels and have made some choices for next year and for the inauguration in 2016. It does not matter who wins the election we will be here foe the inauguration. If you want to witness the change of power now is the time to start planning, especially if  you want to bring a group to the Inauguration.
      13.  Ate at Bucca de Bepo and the food was Yummy. Ate at Red Hot and Blue and food was Excellent
      14. There is never enough time at the Smithsonian.
      15. I will save hotel inspections for another blog.
    30. Tales from the Road and what our customers told us they want on our tours.
       
      This fall I took the roll of tour director on many of our fall trips trying to determine the needs of our customers to and to redesign our tours to better meet customer expectations.
       

      1. My first observation is the customers just don’t want to be with 50 passengers on a motor coach. Most of our customers told us they think that 25 to 30 is the ideal number. Those that were 70 and older told us that if the price went down they did not care how many people were on the coach.  Overall the customers told us they found the Sprinter tours more comfortable then most motorcoaches because they had more leg room.
      2. Our customers made it clear they did not enjoy the customers who talked non stop. We had on several occasions customers go to the rear of the coach to get away from the non-stop chatter. We had customers ask for earplugs and headphones for those that did not bring their own. I don’t know of a nice way to tell passengers to give their tongues a rest. other then making them aware by posting on my blog.
      1. Our customers were very annoyed by fellow travelers who were constantly taking pictures and posting pictures on the Internet that included other travelers. We will make it a point to make sure all travelers are advised that they must ask permission before posting photos of their traveling companions on the Internet. We will ask all tour directors to make this request of all passengers.
      2. Our customers told us they wanted downtime and alone time. This was the first time I can recall where customers told tour directors they did not want to take included tours and wanted to do their own things. We had customers on Nantucket that just wanted to shop not tour, customers who told us they were not interested in whale watching, customers that wanted to be dropped in Plymouth for a couple of hours to do their own thing or a trail  head in the White Mountains The trend for the future will be more to get our customers to a destination and give them time to do what they want. The trend seems to be that our customers want less inclusive tours.  Although our tour directors are trained to assist our customers in everyway possible, our guests advised our tour directors to leave them alone for a couple of hours.  We had several comments about tour directors adding extra stops and making the day too long. Although each of our tour directors want to make their tours unique we have to be mindful of time the extra stop takes. 
      1. Our customers told us that 8:30 to 5:30 was to long of a day and we need to shorten the days of the tours. It will be a challenge to shorten the days but will find  away to meet this challenge. 
      1. Our customers told us that when choosing hotels they wanted friendly staff at the front desk and want to be close to supermarkets and nearby restaurants. They preferred to have coffee available in the lobby, and would make it the room if they had to. Overall the consensus was that any hotel that does not have coffee and tea available on demand should not be used on a tour. They told us they found it very annoying when front desk staff did not answer the phone.  Our guests told us they found hotels that did not make key packets with individual guest names on the packet inefficient. 
      1. Our customers made it very clear that any hotel that does not offer free WiFi does not belong on a tour. If the service is slow or it takes a long time to connect go someplace else. The hotels that force guests to stand while using the Internet overall are considered inhospitable. Our guests have indicated they would choose a hotel of lower quality rather then pay for Internet or have slow Internet. They consider any hotel that has front desk staff that does not speak understandable English unacceptable. 
      1. Hotels that put guests on second floor rooms and did not have elevator access are no longer acceptable. Our guest made it very clear that it does not matter the price or quality of the hotel, if no elevator they are not interested in climbing stairs. Our group leaders have advised us that if they are in a hotel with out an elevator unless they are guaranteed 100% of rooms are on the first floor to find another hotel.  We had a hotel in Boothbay with an elevator that decided to close early and move a group to another property with no elevator. Even though the second hotel promised first floor rooms the group leader cancelled the tour with 30 paid passengers. 
      1. Our customers advised that when dining out they would prefer to have a credit for a set amount and they pay the difference or have a prepaid debit card for meals. Limited choice menus are not acceptable on tours any more. We had restaurants where customers were willing to spend over a $100 a person for dinner and they refused to allow our customers to order off the menu even when the entree orders would be called in 48 hours in advance. I question the owner of any business that would turn away a $4000- $5000 dinner check. 
      1. Our customers told us they did not want meals in fancy restaurants they wanted good reasonably priced food in local restaurants, with food typical of the area. 
      1. Our customers made it very clear that any restaurant that uses paper plates or Styrofoam containers or plastic silverware is not acceptable. They would rather pay a little more and eat off of real plates with real silverware. We had customers that went out for breakfast on their own rather then eat an included breakfast off of a paper plate. As we move forward  in booking hotels and restaurants we will stipulate that paper and Styrofoam products are no longer acceptable. 
      1. A very important point that was made was that visitors from foreign lands are not interested in American History. Visiting places such as Concord and Lexington, or Plimouth Plantation or historic attractions in Boston are not of interest to our foreign visitors. Comment cards from our overseas visitors often read too much history, too much nature, not enough free time. In 2015 we will strive to find a better balance on our tours. I am not sure when people come to New England during fall foliage time what they are looking for besides seeing the spectacular fall colors, whale watching and history of the region. I am wide open for suggestions and feed back. Our customers told us rather then hearing about the history of Boston they would prefer to feel the Vibe of the city. 
      1. While on Cape Cod our customers requested a stop for wine tasting. When we stopped at a winery at the end of Cape Cod and our guests found the winery was charging $10 for a tasting. They told me to get them out of there as fast as I could. Our customers felt they were being ripped off. When they asked to purchase just a single taste to find out if they liked the wine they were told it was $10 a glass.  I agree with my customers and will never stop at an attraction that is not proud enough of their product to allow a customer to sample before purchasing. The vendors trying to squeeze every dime out of the consumer deserve to go out of business. 
      1. Our customers have told us they are not interested in traveling any distance on a coach with out WiFi. If a coach does not have WiFi they expect tour directors to create a Mobil Hot Spot. WiFi on motor coaches is now a cost of doing business. 
      1. Our customers let it be known that the reasons they travel is to laugh, to learn and to experience another culture. They want to see how products are made, taste what the local people eat, and make new friends. They are looking for safety, security, and companionship. They only want a small amount of history and only in the broadest of terms. The only museums and attractions of interest are interactive. They prefer living history with costumed interpreters or computer activities where the guest can interface.  Anything that is a stagnant exhibit has no interest. Anything that requires a walk longer then 10 minutes or listed as a designated hike is too far. The majority of our customers ( other then the seniors) have asked that we get rid of the entertainment part of the tour. They  have told us that playing games like bingo on a bus is boring. They have requested an occasional video and soft music for relaxing. Our overseas customers commented that American Tour Directors talk too fast and too long. We will definitely overcome this challenge this winter season. 
      1. Our customers told us that they want the personal choice similar to the style  cruise lines have introduced to be the model for the tours. They have asked we design our future product so they have choice on daily activities and not to bundle an inclusive package. 
      1. I was very surprised that our customers told us that not allowing our tour directors to have a social drink with customers makes them appear aloof. The feeling was that as long as a tour director was not driving, our customers believe the relationship between tour director and passenger would be improved if a social drink  with dinner or after dinner were allowed.  Our customers believe that when a tour director is at a winery or brewery they should be allowed to sample with guests.  We will certainly discus this point and try to formulate policy based on customer suggestions. My personal belief is that alcohol and drugs never belong in the work place but am not opposed to making our customers feel more comfortable with our staff.
        
      As I attend travel industry conferences over the next few months I will discus with my colleagues how we can provide our customers the products they are looking for based on comments from customers this fall.
    31. This past week I was in one of my favorite locations Quebec City. For those don’t know Quebec is the only walled city in North America and it is as close to having a European experience with out leaving North America.
       
      One of my passengers told me that they walked out of stores because the clerks did not speak English. Would a foreigner coming to Boston or New York expect to be greeted in their native tongue?  It would be nice but most likely would not happen. Part of the travel experience is learning about new languages, experience and culture.
       
      I was asked to try the Best Western Plus for a hotel. I was told the hotel was a four star hotel in the Central Quebec. The photos on the Website make the hotel appear that it is in Old town, it is not.  I have stayed at the Royal William and knew the neighborhood.  In the US if you stay at a Best Western Plus you know breakfast is included in the rate. This is not true on Best Westerns in Canada. The Breakfast at the hotel was $14.95 ++  for a very mediocre breakfast at best.  They also charge $29 per night for parking.  I asked the Bellman why I could not park at the meters which are free from 8 – 9 at night. The Bellman told me I would never find parking on the street. Fro three nights I parked on the Street with no problem.
       
      I had been told about Buffet of the World last year at ABA and was surprised at how good the food was overall and how reasonable the price was. They were carving, steamship round of beef, Montreal smoked beef, and Turkey. The buffet had Salmon, mussels, peel and eat shrimp, fresh salads, Greek, Italian, Chinese, Sushi and lots of other choices. This restaurant will now be on our tours.  I also went to a restaurant in the old city and had a  yummy salmon pie which I have now posted on my recipe page.
       
      Because of the small group we were able to visit a few extra attractions on the Isle d’orleans.  I had always thought black currents were like raisins. They look like raisins but tasted more like a cross between an apple and a grape.  The group enjoyed tasting the products and the fortified wines. Next it was on to a cidery where not only did they have hard cider but a whole variety of jams, jellies and relishes. I think I will add this stop to our Quebec tours next year. We also stopped at a cheese stop.  I thought this was a rip off as they charge a buck to get a small piece of cheese.  I didn’t like the cheese and thought the stop had little value for a sightseeing stop. It was nice having time to drive the Island as the scenery was spectacular. On the Ille d’ Orleans the woman at the cheese shop claimed that the cheese they produce was the first cheese produced in North America. I don’t know if it was true but it was a good story.
       
      The group enjoyed the artesian shops along the Beaupre Coast. We stopped to see Copper jewelry being made, at the wood carvers shop, the bread ovens and the honey tasting.  The group was impressed by the beauty of St Ann de Beaupre and Montmorency Falls.
       
      The group loved being able to wander through the farmers market  and taste the fres produce.
      Group also did not know that the battle on the Plains of Abraham determined that Canada would belong to the British Commonwealth and this was the end of New France.  Yes at one time there was a New England and a New France.  If you join us on one of our tours to Quebec you will discover the unique history of our Neighbors to the north.

      We go to Quebec every winter for winter Carnival, every fall  and on other dates by request.
       
       

    32. Listening to you our customers

      As we start to prepare for 2015 and put product on the market. I have been meeting with many of our group leaders and  talking to our customers.
       
      Here is what I have been hearing and want your comments.
       

      1. When it comes to limited choice menus they have to go.  You have advised us that there is no place for a limited choice menu on a tour.  This presents us with two options: 1. When you choose to dine as a group we will provide you with a meal credit allowing everyone to eat as a group but order what they want, if you go over the credit you pay the difference. 2. The second option is to use debit cards loaded for a specific amount per meal. 
            
            Why the two options,  on long days it is important to get you to a restaurant have a nice meal and then check into the hotels.

       
               I feel that experiencing new food and taste is part of the travel experience.  The comment made to me is that we are taking many of you to far out of your comfort zone. We will no longer take you to eclectic restaurants but will take you to neighborhoods where restaurants with different types of food can be found and allow you to make your own choices.  Sometimes on a busy Sat night this will  not be possible.

          2.   You have requested that we shorten the time on the coaches. We will do this by getting to a destination and using   local or alternative transportation.

          3.  You have told us that you feel like a prisoner on a bus when a tour director keeps you on the bus for three hours or longer with out a break.  I agree with you on this point and have adopted the  policy where tour directors who do not plan rest stops every 2.5 hours will be terminated.

         4.  It has been brought to our attention then several of our tour directors have been  changing the itineraries based on  a few vocal people on a tour.  Sometimes it is necessary to change an itinerary because a company goes out of   business or an attraction, restaurant or hotel no longer meets our standards. We will make certain that tour directors are not eliminating stops because a few vocal people want more shopping time or they want more time at a specific stop.  We have also been advised that some of our tour directors have been adding stops to enhance the tour making the days to long. We will strive to curb this practice but want to give tour directors the opportunity to be creative and make the tours as good as they can be.

         5. Y
      ou have asked for more short trips to new destinations because ou are tired of doing the same trips over and over.        Tye’s Tours is committed to adding at  least 10 new tours a year.  We will focus on adding more festival tours and destinations you have not been to.  The reality is that there are only so many destinations you can go to on a  motor coach  when we want to keep the trips  under five days.  You have told me that many of your groups no longer wish to travel with 50 as they once did.  The industry as a whole is addressing this  issue and more and more  motor coach companies are buying smaller coaches with more leg room and Wify available.  We have tried to addressed this issue and have  purchased our own Mercedes Sprinter  to handle these groups.  I am hoping the motor coach companies will retrofit some of their fleets to give the customers more leg room as we seldom need 55 passenger coaches anymore.
       
       
      Tales from the road.
       
      Over the Labor Day weekend I had the pleasure of taking a small family from the Midwest on a tour of New England. The family dynamics of a family wanting to spend time with an aging parent and at the same time realizing that spending extended time can be tedious.  It was interesting listening to snippets of conversation as the children tried to learn about the family history, that they may not have known about or forgotten.  It was a tour where my narration was not as important as their personal conversations and time together.  Once getting out of Boston we headed up the coast to Maine where we spent the night at the Colony Hotel one of the historic hotels of America. After checking in it was out for a lobster dinner and teaching my guests how to eat a lobster.  Most of our travelers from outside of New England think that it is the tale and the claws and that is all of the meat and never really get into the meat found in the body and legs.   The restaurant was running a special one lobster for $14 and each additional lobster $10. Yes lobster is inexpensive in New England and can often be found for as low as $3.99 a pound.  For those of us who live in New England, lobster is not a big deal but a treat for our guests who do not have abundant fresh seafood available.  Did you know that it takes a lobster seven years to grow to be 1 ¼ pounds the legal size to be a keeper.  As we drove the coast my customers were surprised at the signs for lobster and lobster rolls with inexpensive pricing.  We continued up the coast to Boothbay with a stop in Wiscasset for lobster rolls by the bridge.  Arrived at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and expected my customers to spend a couple of hours enjoying the gardens and flowers, 45 mins. later they were out and ready to check into the hotel. This was certainly one of my shortest visits to the garden but it was enough for these customers. On most tours an hour and a half to two hours is just enough time.  The advantage of small group travel is that you decide what is right for you.  The next day I did a morning drive around Boothbay before my guests departed for their harbor cruise and trip to Cabbage Island another picture perfect day with another lobster meal.  The next day we drove across to the White Mountains with a stop in North Conway for lunch and a few covered bridge stops.  I discovered as I listened to my customers conversation that the mother had worked for Omni hotels and found it was a real highlight to stop for a visit to the Mount Washington Hotel.   With small group travel we can adjust the itinerary to meet the needs and desires of the group as we travel.  We arrived at Cannon Mountain when I learned one of my guests had a fear of heights and there was no way she would ride the aerial tram.  Part of the group took the Tram to the top for a spectacular view while I remained at the base with my one traveler.  One of the comments I heard throughout my trip was how clean our parks and highways are compared to other parts of our country.  Yes in New England we take pride in keeping our roads litter free and our parks clean. To bad we have a federal government that feels it is ok to shut the government down every so often and allow the trash to build up. Today is primary day and my vote goes against anyone in office that allowed the government to shut down last year.  It was a pleasure staying in the mountains getting a good night sleep with the crisp mountain air before returning my guests to Boston for return flight home.  I was surprised at how eager my customers were to put mom on the plane before heading out for a nice seafood lunch.         
    33. YOU ASKED THAT I USE MY BLOG TO PROVIDE MORE THEN MY THOUGHTS.
       
      Bugaboo creek restaurant evaluation.
       
      Today I was invited by Jon and Steve the managers of the Nashua Bugaboo Creek Restaurant to see if their restaurant would work for our tours. The good and the bad.  The hostess was very friendly and I was impressed that the staff was cleaning all the booths and dusting, in the off peak hours. The restaurant and restroom was very clean, the atmosphere casual and laid back.
       
      I tried several different dishes to get an idea of the food quantity and quality, as I had never eaten at a Bugaboo Creek Restaurant.
       
      Hot rye bread was served first it was good and hot and very satisfying. A plus for the bread.
       
      Next I tried a Caesar’s Salad. The lettuce was crisp the dressing flavorful and well seasoned and tasty. The balance of cheese and croutons were perfect. A plus for the salad.
       
      Next I tried one of the house specialties, barbecue chicken nachos. My comment on this dish was just plain awful. Whoever thought up the dish need to have their taste buds checked.  The dish consisted of flavorless corn chips with chicken and a sweet barbecue sauce, flavorless jalapenos, tasteless cheese and a dab of sour cream.  The sauce was so sweet it had to be 50% sugar, a dentist dream and a diabetic’s nightmare.  This certainly was not my favorite dish and something I would discourage my customers from ordering.
       
      Next came steak tips. These were very tasty, seasoned properly and marinated well.  However they would have been so much better if thrown on the grill for a few minutes to caramelize the outside of the meat. They looked like they came from a bag and heated in a microwave. As I said they were tasty, just not appealing to the eye. For steak tips they were average and not something I would rush to order again.
       
      Next I tried the baby back ribs. The ribs were very tender and fall off of the bone.  However they were covered in that awful sweet sauce.  I am a person that loves ribs and for me to take a couple of bites and leave them, you know my thought on them. They needed seasoning, and some heat and 90% less sugar. I honestly felt if I ate more of that sweet sauce I would be sick. Ribs might have been good if I could taste anything other then sugar. If this chain thinks that their barbecue sauce is good they need to do a taste test. In my opinion the sweet sauce is a complete failure and only a child in love with candy would appreciate this sauce. 
       
      Next I tried the mash potatoes, which were very rich with cream but lacking in salt and pepper. Once I added some seasoning to the potatoes they were good. They were made from red bliss potatoes cream and butter.  Someone should taste the food before it leaves the kitchen and they would know the potatoes needed seasoning or perhaps the cook forgot the seasoning all together..
       
      Next I tried the sweet potatoes fries. These were not bad in taste, but I like my fries crispy not soggy.  There was nothing at all crisp with these fries.
       
      Next I tried something called snowbird chicken tenders.  My opinion of these batter drenched flavorless chicken tenders was not good.  The better was so dense that it made the chicken tenders soggy. The chicken when you scraped off the batter was moist and tasted like the chicken had been soaked in a brine to give it flavor. It was the batter that was wrong, and needs to be cooked at a higher temperature, so it cooked all the way through. The batter also needs to be seasoned.
       
      Last I tried the chocolate cheesecake, which looked very appealing.  A couple of bites of this and knew it was enough. This dessert was just far too rich and sweet for my taste.  Someone who really likes sweet deserts would enjoy this cake. The eye appeal on this dish was the best of the dishes  that I saw.
       
      Truly enjoyed the coffee and had a second cup.
       
      Overall I would order the Salad, the bread and the coffee again.  I was not impressed with the quality of the dishes I tasted.   I stress that the managers choose the food I tasted so that it would be representative of what my customers might order.
       
      As a tour operator it is so important that we inspect as many hotels and restaurants that we use on our tours before taking our customers to these establishments. Per our customer requests I will publish at least one restaurant review every couple of weeks.
       
      Mel Tye
       

    34. As the year goes on we read our customers comments. You our customers let us know what you like and you don't like. As a tour operator we are also constantly trying to upgrade the quality of the tours with out increasing prices. This happen's as we build relationships, and the chance meeting of sales directors at industry events.   Myself and my staff are always trying to create a situation where everyone wins. This year for example we moved some of our tours to different properties because the rates went up so much last year.  The sales director missed our business and we are back at the Alex Johnson in Rapid City in 2015, and we were able to upgrade from the Quality Ito the Snow King in Jackson Hole. There was nothing wrong with the properties we were using and I will remain friends with the sales directors, however we weree able to increase the quality of the accomodations we use.  In the Canadian Rockies we will be chaning almost all of the hotels on the tour. In Banff the customer comment cards told us that you our customers wanted to be closer to the center of town. You told us that you did not want to take a shuttle and the property we had been using was just too far of a walk. We changed to the High Country Inn. The accomodations are similar at the High Country Inn but the terms are much better which helps us control price increases. In Jasper we will be moving to the new Crimson Hotel. This hotel is in the center of town and will be compleated this fall. This will be the newest hotel in Jasper. The comment cards also indicated you wanted more time in Jasper. The late July trip to the Canadien  Rockies will have an extra day in Jasper because you our customers asked for it. I am torn as the comment cards tell us you don't like the neighborhood around Grandville St.  The city has made great strides in trying to change this neighborhood.  Yes many years ago this part of the city was filled with prostitutes, but no more. This area does have a hip youg vibe with many new restaurants and the hotels all have been remodeled..  We will try staying in other parts of the city to see if you prefer a differnt neighborhood.  Vancouver has a high homeless population  because of the benefits available and climate. We are listening to you our customers and making the changes you request.  Our tours will continue to evolve as we read your comment cards. Tye's Tours is small enough to make changes  and large enough to compete with the big guys. We have the ability to react after we read our tour director reports and your comment cards and emails.
    35. Last week I got to visit one of my favorite destinations the Canadian Rockies as a tour director. What a surprise when I got the lowest tip in my life, in more then 75 trips to the Rockies. The tip averaged $1.75 per person per day and three customers stiffed me completely. This was a real shocker to me as everyone was laughing and seemed to be having a good time.  I know I am one of the best Rockies guide there is but I may have misread my customers. This group seemed to be well traveled and the group leader seemed to know that tipping of driver and guides were customary.   For three days after the trip, I beat myself up trying to figure out what I did wrong and what the guests were unhappy about. After all if I am teaching the classes to our tour directors on being a great tour director, there is no excuse for not acing every tour.  I asked the tour operator, we had arranged the tour for feedback and if he had heard any negative comments. Was I ever surprised when he told me the days were too long. I can’t do much about road construction or accommodating a group leader that wanted to make a stop that added an hour and a half to the day. I  agree when you add an extra three hours to any tour day it is too long, is that the fault of the tour director?  Another surprise was that they were unhappy that I made disparaging remarks about Asians when they cut us off while we were standing in line and were late returning to the snow coach.  I have nothing against the people from Japan who are used to being stuffed into trains during rush hour.  They have to be aggressive to survive, same as in most big cities around the world. I do have a problem with the influx of travelers we are seeing from China that have no manners and are the rudest people in the world as travelers.  You would think that after thousands of years Chinese Civilization and culture would teach the basics of civility.  They push and shove everyone out of the way and eat like pigs at a trough, shoveling in food as fast as they can. Perhaps no one has told them no one is going to take the food away. When I was in China on every trip, I ran into people who were polite and ate like civilized people.  Why are the Chinese travelers so rude and have no regard for anyone but themselves? Are there two sets of behavior for the Chinese Travelers one for at home and one for when traveling? Tye’s Tours was approved as a Chinese inbound tour operator, but I said no, because I do not have the patience nor will I subject my staff to this rude behavior or to watching pigs feeding  at a trough while we are trying to enjoy a meal. When the Chinese traveler becomes civilized I will be more then happy to serve their needs. The third thing that I was told was wrong with the tour was there was to much ethnic food. Vancouver is an international multi cultural city. One night we had Middle Eastern food that was very good.  There were a few that would not even try the food because it was different. They complained the food was too ethnic but refused to even taste it. The reality was that 95% of the travelers said they thought the food was really good. Those that were willing to try something different enjoyed the food. The service was good and the atmosphere was fun. The second night in Vancouver, we had dinner at the Rio Brazilian Steak House, where they serve the meats on swords at the table. They also have a cooked to order pasta bar and dishes like shrimp, salmon, mussels, and assortment of vegetables and salads. They carve both beef and pork ribs at the table and they have a show with the dancing girls to go with the meal. One customer told me that she did not like this type of food and would have preferred steak and potatoes. If she had only asked they would have given this customer all the top sirloin she could eat. I am not sure how one meal out of 8 can be considered too ethnic. Perhaps if I had given our customers Italian food that would have been more acceptable, then heaven forbid trying something knew.  I thought the purpose of travel was to expand ones mind and palette? I think the majority of our customers want something different then what they have at home, am I wrong? Do we have to go back to the boring meat chicken fish meals?

      The customers kept telling me I was the most knowledgeable tour director they had ever had, they told me they liked my sense of humor and how much they were enjoying the time in the Rockies and how fantastic some of the extra stops I added in were. The relity however they were unwilling topay for this knowledge in the form of a tip.
       
      The group leader told me she looked forward to working with me in the future so I was clueless as to why the tips were so low. I can never figure out why anyone who can afford a trip to the Canadian Rockies, have a great time and  are too cheap to take care of the tour director. How do we communicate to our customers that tour directors are dependendent on tips for 50% of their wages?
       
      It turns out that the group was instructed that a tip of $20 a person or $30 a couple was adequate. However even with this low amount most chose to tip in Canadian Dollars. On all of our tours our guides would expect a tip of $3 per person per day if they did an average job $4 per person per day for a good tour and $5 per person per day for an excellent tour.  I wonder how many of our customers could live on $1.75 per person per day tip? The real question is who needs the reality check, my customers or me?
       
      Myself and my staff will continue to strive for excellence and only hope that our customers appreciate what we do for them as tour directors. I am sure that that the low tip was a fluke not a trend. The reality is that if the tips start to trend to be this low we will have to raise prices so our staff can make a livable wage.

      We all need to give ourselves a reality check on a regular basis. I know I did a great job on my last tour. I apologise to any who were offended by my comments about rude travelers. Yes I will continue to try to expand our customers mind and palatte.  To the customers who think tour director's don't know who tip and who do not time for your own reality check.  I only hope that the travelers who did not tip needed the money to but food for them selves rather then compensating me for services rendered. After beating myself up for three days I am certain my reality is not fantacy.
    36. CHICAGO
      This week I am in Chicago always a fun city to visit. I am at a family wedding and have had the opportunity to tour and swap stories with cousins and relatives. My first cousin and myself are the only two in the family that seem to really have the travel bug. We both recalled how when we were little kids we sat at my grandfather’s foot and he would tell us these wonderful stories about where he had been and what he had seen. My siblings and other cousins never seemed to have an interest in these stories. We both agreed at the same time that these were some of our fondest childhood memories and why we both love to travel.

      I rented a minivan to try and make travel easier for some of my relatives GOING FROM VENU TO VENU I was shuttling my relatives back to the hotel after a Fri night rehearsal dinner and was on my third or fourth trip when I saw part of the wedding party trying to hail a cab. I offered them a ride because that is what I would hope someone would do for me if I were in that situation. They thought it was a big deal that we had just met and I was offering this courtesy. I have told my staff time and time again, help everyone you can whenever you can, because these little gestures will some day come back to you. These new friends have shared that I helped them and have already sent other relatives to me looking for travel advice.

      Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a few relatives on a 2.5 hour tour of Chicago and everyone wanted to know how I knew the city so well and had recall of much of the history. Yet they wanted to feed me the factoids they had gained from local guides. They wanted to know I how I knew where the shops that they wanted to go to and the restaurants that they wanted to eat at were located. My only answer was that it is my job as a tour director to know these things. It doesn’t matter if it Boston, New York, Chicago or Charleston or any other city that I have been too I absorb the history and culture of a region. After I have done a tour once or twice I will know that area forever. I watch the PBS channels when travel shows are on, the Food

      network and read about the places I might visit. Hate to say it my mind is like a sponge and can recall this travel trivia. My relatives made a good point an out of town guide will seldom know as much as a local step on guide. When I asked if they were willing to pay for a step on guide the answer was that is why they were doing tours with local guides. I ask the same question to our inbound tour tours and make the same comment to our tour directors. All of our tour directors have to be very knowledgeable of the area they travel to.

      Our staff

      Over the last month I have been riding the coaches with some of our second season guides as I do every year. You have no idea how hard it is for me to sit in the back of the bus and listen to my staff do a tour. My expectations are that every tour director should be as good if not better then me and I forget that I have 30 years of experience. My staff seldom meets my expectations, but you our customers like the personality of our tour directors, which is most important. I assure you I will continue to train the tour directors so they get better and better. One of my tour directors last week pointed out that when they work for other companies they get excellent ratings. The difference is that at Tye’s Tours the bar is much higher, what is excellent to one company is mediocre by my standards. Our tour directors are good and getting better but my expectation is that they will be the best in the industry. By most other company standards they are excellent tour directors, by my standards they are good tour directors. My goal is to provide every customer with the best possible travel experience they can have. Our tour directors constantly get requests and they work for other companies when I don't have work for them to gain experience. You our customers tell us how nice and caring they are and how much fun they are to be with. I want to build on that experience and not only have warm caring tour directors but the most knowledgeable tour directors in the industry.

      Spirit of Boston

      I had the pleasure of going out on the Spirit of Boston on June 30. To my surprise Entertainment cruises classed up the ship. In the past their was loud music where it was impossible to talk, the crew tried to sing and dance and were generally pretty bad although they thought they were entertaining. The food was always cold and mediocre at best in the past. The new menu was not only hot and tasty but had a good variety. The young lady doing the narration was ok and with practice could become good. This didn’t mater as I was by my customers tables and was doing a running commentary for my customers.

    37. Tye’s Tours  People to People program to Kenya
       
      5 years ago when Tye’s Tours first started bringing our customers to Kenya, we found some of the native village people living in filth and squalor.
      The children were naked and living surrounded by animal and human dung, flies carrying disease were everywhere as was broken glass and plastic
      wrappers. The village elders did not understand that the kids were dying because of the unsanitary conditions they were living in.
       
      Tye’s Tours took on the task of trying to help support a few villages and help raise the standard of living.  5 years later the kids are going to school,
      the filth has been cleaned up, the mortality rate is down, the village now has a well and the village is using outhouses. The village we have been
      helping, now has a one-room schoolhouse and the children are excited to be in school.  The village now has an educated teacher and the leaders of the
      village can all read and write. This is a direct result of responsible tourism.  We are making a difference and changing the world one tour at a time.
       
      This is what our customers are saying
      When Mel told us we were going to be visiting with some of the peoples in the Masai villages, I was excited to be sharing and learning from them.
      Since I belong to the missions committee in our church and we share a partnership with a church in Zimbabwe, I thought I had some idea as to how these people lived.

      I was not, however, prepared for the genuinely warm welcome we received as these wonderful people sang and danced for us and welcomed us into their homes.
      They were proud of their one-room huts with walls comprised of elephant dung, grass and water and elephant grass roofs, which the woman built.


      Their furniture consisted of two beds, one on either side of he room, made of sticks covered with cowhides. The women had a sense of humor, the men are tall and the doors
      to the huts are about 4' tall so the men have to bow down to the women to enter the huts.

      We were privileged to visit the children in school. This wooden one room school had been built by donations from tourist and a couple of dozen children were in class.
      We were greeted by songs of Jesus loves you and then they sang the alphabet song and shouted out parts of the body as a young teacher pointed them out. These beautiful
      smiling faces were so eager to please and so happy to see us. We shared with them some school supplies we had brought and eager hands reached out. The kids were so pleased
      to have their own pencil. We donated money for school uniforms as no child may attend school without one, which the chief accepted gratefully. It takes only $30 for a child to have
      a chance at an education. For many earning $30 can take up to a year, and some can never raise this money. The main source of income is selling trinkets to the few tourists
      that visit. The children all learn English and most are Christians. Once they are 10 years old, they walk approx 5 miles each way to a community school.

      These wonderful people were so very happy with so very little. It made me feel so blessed and so sad that I hadn't done more to help these people. I remember 1 teenager
      telling me that when he went away to a boarding high school, he was told to bring his mattress and so he brought his cow hide, the other children laughed at him, the teachers
      bought him a mattress.

      This was truly one of the highlights of the trip.

      We stopped at a picnic area. We had been given generous box lunches. There were some stray cats around and I gave some chicken skin from my cold chicken leg to the cat.
      Then I looked behind one of the picnic huts and saw a young teen. I gave him some fruit from my box, which he gratefully took. Then I collected all the unopened food from the others
      and brought it to the boy and he shared it with 2 others.

      The next time we had a picnic lunch, we all only took what we really needed to eat and then boxed up the rest, which the guide gave to some children along the way.

      That was another “feel good” moment.

      The safaris and the beautiful animals were exciting but I’ll most remember the people.

      Geri
       
      In 2013 as a graduation present from high school my Aunt took me on a safari to Kenya with Tye’s Tours. I left feeling lucky as I had overcome a number of hardships in my life.
      Seeing the wild life up close was amazing but sharing time in some of the villages changed my life.  I never thought that I would be 10 feet from a lion in the wild, seeing a rare
      snow leopard, lion cubs, or elephants a few days old. I realized how blessed and fortunate I was compared to the people we met who were happy with so little. I never could have
      imagined dancing with the native people would give me so much joy or giving a kid a pen would make me feel so good. If you ever have the opportunity to travel
      with Mel Tye to Africa it is worth every penny and the difficulty of getting there. 

      CA

       

      Please help us change the world one tour, at a time and experience the joy of interacting with these wonderful people.  In the USA we take for granted
      many of the blessings we have: water when you turn on the tap, food in supermarkets, pencils and paper. The food we through away every week would
      feed a village for a month. 

       
      Tye’s Tours will be returning to Kenya each and every May and we will be taking small groups with no more then 24 people at a time. We do this so we may interact with the people
      of the villages with out changing their culture. The gifts of school supplies and school uniforms are giving children a chance for an education they would not have with out our help.
      The dollars you spend are building schools, digging wells, getting doctors to the people and creating sanitary conditions for the villages. There is so much work to be done with very
      limited resources. There are no administrative and every dollar you spend as a tourist goes direct to those that can benefit the most. These people are very proud
      of their way of life and traditions. They are not looking or wanting charity but choose to improve their lives by sharing their culture and crafts with the
      tourists willing to visit. 
       
      You can’t imagine the joy a child has when he is able to draw in color with a marker or a box of crayons for the first time, or the pride a small child has of owning his own pen and pad
      of paper. The joy a mother has in sharing her humble home with strangers from a far away land.  Listening to teenage boys telling stories of how they were punished
      and forced to go to school because they fell asleep while tending the family herd resulting in a cow being killed by a wild animal is heartwarming. 
       
      My goal is to eventually to be able to send containers of school supplies rather then suitcases and give as many kids as I can at a chance for education.
       
      A trip to Kenya with Tye’s Tour is a life changing experience.   
    38. Last night I received a call from a customer and a friend who was going to Hawaii to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary.  I was told that her husband was going into the hospital for emergency bypass surgery. Other family members werer flying to Hawaii as a sureprise. Out of 40 travelrs only 6 had purchased insurance. They don't believe the airlines will only give them a credit for future travel and not a refund. the hotel is charging a penalty because the rooms were canceled less then 30 days out. I have spent the day trying to negotiate deals on the part of my customers. They are asking me why I did not insist on them buying insurance or build it into the package.   I explained that the cost of insurance was 7% of the package and the principal decided that he would roll the dice and use the money for insurance on something else. the dice came up snake eyes.  I can't stress enough how important it is to have travel insurance. There is that old line:  When you need insurance you say thank god I have it and when you don't need it you say why did I buy it.

      On a second note many of you have been asking me about the paranormal investigations we have been running. In Jan. when I was first approched  about running these tours I was very sceptical. I would be the first to admit I did not believe in ghosts or the spirit world. My personal belief was when you are dead you are dead. It is a finality. Over the last six months as I have done more and more of these investigations my mind is changing. I still think that some of the images my guests claim they are seeing are due to vivid imaginations. On the otherhand I have listened to some of the conversations and have seen first hand interactions with the Spirit World and have started to believe. If you are interested in learning more about paranormal investigations and I will put you in touch with the four groups we are working with.  I started as a nonbeliever with an open mind and now I am a skeptical believer.

      My next blog will be from Kenya

    39. What a week 
      This week has been an interesting week. First of all I have engaged in a battle with 
      Princess Cruise who refuse to pay commissions owed. Princess claim that because many 
      of our customers originate from overseas they are not our customers. Tye's Tours spends 
      a great deal of time, money, and energy developing an international customer base. 
      Princess instead will send US jobs overseas so that they can charge overseas customers 
      an inflated rate. I urge all readers to boycott Princess Cruises and to send letters to 
      Princess customer relations stating that you feel travel agents should be paid for the work 
      they do. It is wrong that Princess will not allow US travel agents to compete in the Global 
      Marketplace but allows overseas travel agents to take our customers. We no longer will 
      sell any Pricess Cruise or tour and am encouraging an industry wide boycott until 
      Princess changes this policy. Tye's Tours will only sell Carnival Corp products by request 
      and will no longer sell or allow agents or affilates to sell Princess Cruises or products. 
      Carnival owns, Princess, Holland Ameriica, Cunard, Grayline of Alaska, and Princess 
      Tours. Hopefully the industry will take a stand aginst the Carnival Corp. 
      What a week
    40. Amee Farms 
      This past week I had the opportunity to visit Amee Farms in Pittsfield, Vermont. This 
      place is truly unique if you are looking for a quiet getaway and want to experience Rural 
      Vermont. The Wifi access was good, no cell phones ringing one TV in the lobby and I 
      don't recall seeing a phone in the rooms. I don't know how Perfect Vermont found me and 
      perhaps read some of my travel blogs. On arrival I met some of the other visitors who all 
      seemed to have some connection to either being bloggers or endurance athletes. I was 
      sort of the old buck and was twice the age of anyone I met. The other guests reminded me 
      of the people I knew in the outing club at U Mass. The guests reminded me of the 
      conversations and experiences I had when I was in my 20's and thought I was imortal. 
      Tom and Erlin were the hosts and were very gracious. I started to think I was in the 
      wrong place when the conversations were about death races and Spartan races and i was 
      looking for commonality. I was the only person invited that was in the travel industry. I 
      arrived at the farm at about 3:30 and was looking for a cold beer after driving three hours. 
      I found a jug of cold water with lemon and a tray of veggies and dip. I got it I was in a 
      place for people with a healthy life style. I am glad I stopped for a couple of slices of 
      Pizza on the drive up. My room had a queen bed and was very comfortable but I did not 
      get the decor of old beat up shutters on the wall. As I strolled through the inn I realized 
      that distressed doors and recycled barns was the decor of the place. At 4:30 we loaded up 
      in cars and drove to some of the other buildings. The first building was an old horse barn 
      where the upstairs had been converted into 8 rooms with bunk beds and two bathrooms. 
      A great place if you had a large family or had guests wanting Spartan accommodations. 
      We slogged through the slush and visited other spaces used for functions. Probably a nice 
      spot if you wanted an event in a barn. In the summer I was told the meadow is full of 
      wild flowers and there are miles of trails for guests to go mountain biking and snow 
      mobiling. I myself was looking for things like a pool, a bar, a hot tub. 
      That evening we were served a vegetarian meal that was very tasty and I was grateful 
      there was beer and wine flowing. An hour after eating I was starving and felt gas 
      building up in my system. Stayed up listening to stories of other guests until about 10:30. 
      The other guests all seemed to have great stories to tell of their adventures. I went 
      upstairs to answer emails and to use the bathroom in my room. As I passed though the 
      breakfast area I stumbled across some burnt chocolate chip cookies and stale muffins and 
      some fruit and scoffed them down. 
    41. The last few weeks have been very busy. I was in New Orleans for Mardigras and this 
      was my first trip to New Orleans at Mardigras. It was a trip-watching adults grovel for 
      beads. This was followed up with Red Sox Spring training. Next years trip is already 
      posted. We will also be adding a Ft Myers Beach escape. I truly enjoyed Ft Myers and it 
      is a great location for a short winter getaway. This trip is also posted. Then it was a 
      chocolate and pastry tour in n Paris. This tour was a great deal of fun and lots of laughs. 
      Next year I added an extra day so that we have time to drink champagne. If you are a 
      foodie this trip is amazing. It was very educational learning about good chocolate and 
      how our favorite chocolate treats are made. i think I ate more chocolate this past weekend 
      than I have in a year. Did I mention we also went to these amazing bakeries and 
      discovered that I would be twice my size if I did this tour very often? some of my guests 
      had no self control and ate more chocolate and pastry then they should have and 
      wondered why they got sick. 
      WHERE HAS MEL BEEN
    42. Next week I will be heading off to the ABA marketplace where I will be meeting with buyers and sellers of travel products. This morning I received an email and a call asking me to share advice on how to make the most of convention time.

      Here are my tips

      1. In 30 seconds or less you have to be able to tell whats knew
      2. Do twice as much listening as talking. When you are talking no one is buying. Shut up, listen and ask questions to determin needs.
      3. In less then a minute you have to be able to tell customers why they need you.
          How are you going to save them time, money, service the account and increase the bottom line.?
      4. No one cares how much you know, you can always share your knowledge at a later time.
      5. Be ready to do business
      6. Only promise what you can deliver
      7. Don't be late for appointments
      8. In 10 seconds be able to find out if the person you are talking to is a potential customer.
    43. Happy New Year !!!
      It is hard to believe that it is 2014. Where has the time gone? When I was younger I was told that time seems to speed up as you get older, I never believed this, but now seem to find this true. There never seems to be time to do all that needs to be done. Like everyone else my intentions are to get more things done in a year
      then actually get done.  I like you try to set priorities, and look at the folder of things that did not get done grow. None of us know what is coming tomorrow, so take the time from your busy day to be a friend. Find the time to help some one, share your knowledge, and the life lessons we learn. 

      This past New Year's Eve I went out with friends I had not seen in awhile. We were reminiscing about trips we
      had shared over the last few years and soon realized that the last few years spanned 20 years and the memories that seemed like they were last years, took place many years ago.  I realized that my reference point for my whole life was travel related; the places I had been, the adventures I shared, the memories created. Some how we got on the subject of my earliest travel memories. When I was kid our whole family piled into the family car and drove to North Carolina to visit my grand parents and relatives on mothers side. We never realized my parents did not have much money, until much later in life. As kids it was an adventure, where my mom packed food because they could not afford restaurants. We ate fried chicken, fought with my siblings and arrived the next day. What I remembered was the excitement of seeing my cousins, going to the beach, and trying strange foods.  I remember things like visiting my great grandmother in a nursing home and stopping to get crabs on the way home. I remember my grandmother scraping out the filling of the crab shells reheating it, placing it back in the shells and being served deviled crab for the first time. That taste always stayed with me and I have searched for those flavors when ever I travel south.  I remember my grandfather telling me tales of his last cruise or his last trip to exotic places with Uncle Harry and dreamed about visiting these places myself. When I think back to these times I was only five or six and caught the travel bug at an early age.  When we were at the beach my southern cousins joined us for a week or two and we soon learned that if we wanted money for candy or ice cream we had to earn it.  My older brother and myself walked up and down the beach and the fish pier in Morehead City collecting soda bottles and were paid 2 cents a bottle we collected. When our wagon got full with bottles we would cash them in. At that time 24 bottles bought us each a candy bar, 48 bottles was two ice cream cones. This was my first lesson in conservation and was appalled when people would through empty bottles into the ocean instead of giving them to me to recycle.  Knowing how hard we had to work to get a candy bar gave me the work ethic that served me later in life. I remember at 16 that my parents allowed me to travel to Niagara Falls with friends from high school. This was my first road trip with friends, no adults, and we camped out along the way. Thinking back I recall how much fun we had singing overlooking Niagara Falls and people putting coins in our hats. I recall being amzed by the falls and visiting the Matts brewry in NY 
       
      When I was in college I was constantly traveling with the Outing Club and when I could save up enough money
      I would have an adventure. My junior year my advisor told me I had too many credits and suggested I go overseas or I would graduate in January of my senior year. What started off as a junior year abroad program ended up as my senior year.  I spent six months in England and when I submitted my grades I was sent a letter telling me that I had completed all requirements for my BS. There was no space in my department and if I wished to return to the University for my senior year I would have to change majors. While in England I
      learned to fly gliders and learned about navigation for my pilot’s license. Rather then returning home I applied for a job on an expedition and ended up traveling from Morocco to Capetown overland for the next 8 months. This was my real education where I learned what I had been taught in books was not entirely true in the real world. When I returned to the US all I wanted to do was save up enough money to go someplace else. I was visiting the places my grandfather told me about as a kid, and having similar adventures myself. It was not long before I was enrolled in travel school and have been sharing my adventures now for 30 plus years.
       
      As we begin the new year by reminiscing about time gone by, my adventures, the friends I have made, and the friends I have lost I can’t wait to share my next adventure with those that will join me.   May you all have a healthy prosperous year and join me on one of my adventures. We can never laugh enough, or share experiences unless we step out of our comfort zones.
       
      I will do my best to  share my adventures with you this year through my blog.


      Mel 
    44.  So many questions about the Patriots Dolphin weekend Dec 14 -16
      I thought I would put all the answers in one place. Last year we had some challenges and I have taken steps to fix all issues. I have changed hotels as the Beach Plaza Hotel management was deceptive with half truths.They never told me that the suites promised were not accessible by elevator. I think everyone will find the South Seas Hotel Comfortable.   We had a xhallenge with airlines changing schedules. The Non stop flights from Manchester to Ft Lauderdale on southwest are gone. I have 40 seats reserved with a connection through Tampa. You can also buy your own ticket so the constant changing of flights no longer exiss.
      1.We will be flying out of Manchester on Dec 14 at 7:15 AM on Southwest with a change of planes in Tampa. there are no nonstop flights scheduled on southwest at this time. The return flight will depart at 4:10 PM and arrive in Manchester at 8:25 PM with a change of planes in Tampa. We want to avoid changing planes in Baltimore because of possible winter storms.
      2. Can we get our own air tickets? Yes, if you use the instant purchase fares on Southwest the tickets are $283, the group fare is $400. I encourage everyone to buy the seats while they are available and deduct the $400 off of the package. Group fares can name change instant purchase fares can not.
      3. Last year we had a challenge when South west changed us to Air Tran. If Southwest should change you to an Airtran Flight their will be no baggage charge and policies are now consistent. Southwest will only change you to an Airtran flight if they cancel one of their own flights.
      4. We will be staying at the South Seas Hotel on Collins Ave.  
      http://www.southseashotel.com/default-en.html
      the rooms are small at this hotel but they have a great location with direct access to the beach from the back of the hotel.
      5. Can you just get tickets to the game. Yes Game only tickets will be $100 and you will be welcome at the tail gate party if you want to join other New England fans.
      6. If you want to do optional sightseeing it must be prebooked before we depart. The culinary tours sell out fast and we want to be sure we have  enough passengers to run a bus to the air boat rides.
      7. If you have other questions please email or call me.
    45. So many of you have asked for a tour to see the july 4th Nathan's Hot Dog eating contest, and the Macy's 4th of July fireworks that we have added this new tour. if you tell us what you want we will create product o meet your needs.
    46. As most of you know this week there were two major things that happened in the tour industry. The disaster on the Carnival Triumph is going to drive the price of cruises down. Watch for cruise sales in the next couple of weeks. The long anticipated merger of  American and USair is going to drive the prices up.

      In the las t couple of years we have had United and Continental merge, Delta and Northwest, American and Usair, Southwest and Airtran. The reality is that the otherairlines will have to align themselves in order to compete. I wonder  how long the other major players will remain independent. I am guessing that we will probably see Alaska and Hawaiian airlines coming togetheror Alaska,  Hawaiian and Jet Blue coming together. If you go all the way back to when the airlines were first deregulated the prediction was that the free market in the US could support five airlines. We are at that stage where in the next few years we will find the US market will have five airlines and little competition. 
    47. I have been working all weekend adding new tours to the web site and correcting errors you our customers told me about after receiving our last news letter. I do appreciate everyones feedback. Please let us know what you want for tours so we can add the right products for you.

      I have changed the Ogunquit overnight, have some of the theater tours up, I have added theBoston  Tea Party Ships, I have added the new trip to the Beronx Zoo, and a host of other new tours.

      I am alos working on giving the website a fresh look, everything takes time and I am responding to suggestions as quick as I can.

      For those that sent me emails that I have not been responsive as normal. The comments are fare. I came down with the flu and spent several days in bed. I just have not been able to work my normal 14 hour day. I am feeling much better and my response time should improve. 

      To all of our customers please be aware that many of the airlines are increasing charges for baggage. As of Feb 15 No more free bags to Mexico or the Carib. If you fly expect to pay a baggage fee. 

      As the airlines merge their is no consistency in policy. If you fly on Southwest you get bags free but if you fly on Airtran you pay for bags. The airlines are merging but they are still two airlines.

      Yes the cruiselines are discounting again and yes great deals can be found on cruises.

      Please ask your friends to sign up for our newsletters.

      Mel
    48. I have just returned from the ABA marketplace in Charlotte. I have been adding new tours as fast as I can type them. We have added Jersey Boys  Feb 23 and Wicked Sept 7, both in Boston. We will be doing Segway safaris at Clark's Trading Post this summer. We will be creating new tours to the NY Botanical Gardens which we have not done in years.  Ogunquit Playhouse has their show schedule out and I will be posting the summer theater trips in the next couple of days. I ask that if you have suggestions for 2013 let me know as I honestly don't know what you the consumer wants any more.  

      The good news is that prices appear to be stable thrrough 2013 with very small increases. The airlines are going crazy the service keeps getting worse and the prices keep going up. If you plan to fly buy your tickets early or you will pay through the nose. The airlines are not discounting for group seats and are charging more then for instant purchase seats.

      What seems to be hot is Europe because of the strength of the dollar. Culinary tours are becoming more and more popular as we become more aware that processed food is not good for us. Wine tasting tours are still popular as are the National Parks.

      I can't wait to get back to Africa in May, and hope that many of you will join me for this amazing experience.

      Mel 
    49. I was just in the Mushroom capital of Pensylvania tweaking our new Mushroom farm tour. Please look at the new iteneraries on line. I thank all of our partners in the Brandywine Valley who helped us develop this new tour.

      I did not knowe the mushroom had so many uses including medical uses until I visited the Mushroom Cap store. A big thank you to Cathy and her staff for sharing their knowlege with our guests.

      Until I did this tour I was unaware of how fast mushrooms grow and how many pounds are harvesated in a day by hand.

      For our shoppers PA has great outlet stores and our holiday shopping tour will be a big hit.

      For our gardeners coming the flower show with the mushroom tour is going to be a big hit in 2013.

      The food at the Brandywine Prime restaurant gets cudos. Michael and the staff did an outstanding job.

      We found out that at the present time, trying to be in as tudio audience as part of a group at QVC is not realistic.

      As a male I am always surprised by the purchases our customers make in outlet stores. We will meet this demand and develop better outlet shopping tours.  If you are from outside of New  Hampshire the Merrimack Premium outlets are open and we have great shopping packages for groups in tax free NH. We have negotiated rates at area hotels so you do nto have tto.

      Mel
    50. OVER THE LAST WEEK WE HAVE HAD MANY REQUESTS FOR JERSEY BOYS IN BOSTON. I ADDED FEB 23 AS A 2:00PM PERFORMANCE. WE ONLY HAVE A LIMITED NUMBER OF TICKETS. THIS WILL MAKE A GREAT CHRISTMAS PRESENT.
    51. I WANT TO WISH ALL OF MY FRIENDS FAMILY AND CUSTOMERS JOYOUS WISHES FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON. WE ALL HAVE TO BE THANKFULL FOR THE THINGS WE HAVE AND LET THE THINGS WE DON'T HAVE GO.

      To all of you who keep telling me the check is in the mail. 
      I now have more then 30 hotels that have told me the check is in the mail. We don't expect you to work with out getting paid so why do you expect us to work with out getting paid? So many of you keep telling me that it is no big deal but when you have 30 hotels owing between $200 and $500 it adds up quickly. In 2013 I think I am going to start posting my dead beat hotel list.

      To our customers that expect me to buy air tickets and theater tickets with out getting paid the answer is no.

      This Dec has been a very interesting Dec. we started out the month to Miami to watch the Patriots play the Dolphins. The Patriot's won but played poorly. It was nice to have a time in the sun to enjoy South Beach. Working with the airlines is becoming more and more challenging as the airlines merge and consolodate. Non stop flights keep going away and come back a week later at a higher fare. When we book a group and then move the group when airlines cancel a flight, and then the airlines won't give us the original seats back it becomes a nightmare. Southwest which used to be an easy airline to work with has become very difficult to work with. The want to get away fares are lower then the group fares and we have to book these fares first and put the remaineder on group fares. This means multiple records and problems when the airlines change schedules. I long for the good old days.

      I am not sure what is going on with our customers as this is the first year in 20 years where most of the holiday tours have canceled. We did not run one, one day shopping tour to NY this Dec. and have had very few customers on the overnight tours. I sure hope that when the government figures out what they are going to to do about taxes, social security, medacare, and medicaide that our customers start spending money again. 

      Several New England Tour Companies are closing their doors or have closed their doors this year. I appreciate all referals especaily group referals sent my way.

      I was at the Vienna Boys Choir in Springfield last week. Everyone seemed to enjoy the show.  The music was soothing even If we could not understand the words.

      Mel

    52. I hope everyone had a great Holiday. The Wed. before the Holiday I was advised that two more New England companies were no longer going to be operating tours  leaving another whole in the market. We will do our best to try and fill these holes and hope you will send referals our way. 

      It is getting harder and harder to fill the motorcoaches as the senior population ages and expeses don't keep up with income. At one time the cost of a touer was based on 40 passengers as that was the average load factor on a motor coach. We are now basing the price of a tour so that it can operate with 25 paying passengers. Yes this means the price of the tours will be more expensive but the alternative is to cancel the tours.  A bus now costs close to a $1000 a day. That means transportation costs based on 25 paying passengers is now $40 a day. The average lunch is now running $20 per person with tax and tip. By the time we add in either an attraction, an event or a theater ticket day trips are going to average a $100 a day and overnight trips are going to average $175 a day. The reality is that because day trips are costing a $100 a day their are fewer seniors that can afford to travel like they used to.   

      Every tour company in the country is looking to develop new markets to bridge the gap and replace the traditional senior travelers. This means you the consumer are going to find fewer and fewer traditional tours where everyone does the same thing.  You are going to see more and more specialty tours or more and more Hop on Hop off passes for sightseeing. We all have to evolve or go out of business.

      Tipping once again is becoming an issue where our tour directors are working harder and harder  and the individual and the groups are neglecting to tip. Tour directors are dependent on their tips to make up 50% of their income. When someone fails to reward a tour director for the services they offer they are forced to seek other employment. The most common line we now here from group leaders to tour directors is we will take care of the tip and will send the office a check when we get home. Of course the checks seldom if ever come. Several of the motor coach companies are now adding a madatory 15% drivers service charge to the bills, driving the costs up further.  

      As a tour company when one of our vendors screw up the customers hold us responcible. If the vendors are unwilling to offer us a refund we end up with the choice of not using the vendor again and most often refunding part of the trip costs direct to the consumer. We will always do what is right for our customers as it is far easier to keep a customer then constantly be looking for new customers.

      We wish everyone a jouous holiday season
    53. I just returned from a week in Las Vegas and thought I would share this information. The Duce ( that runs on the strip) has now gone  up to $8 for a 24 hour pass $6 for a two hor pass. The monorail is now $5 per ride. I had the opportunity to visit the new visitors center at Hoover Dam and to see the new bridge. I highly recommend this stop it is worth the $35 it costs to see the site. 

      For years we have promoted the free trips to Laughlin. The trips are no longer free and cost about $10 and only go on Mon. Wed. and Fri. This is a 10 hour day to ride to another gaming town. We are going to drop this feature in 2013.

      I had the opportunity to stay at a couple of different Vegas Hotels. I like the Trop it is bright and light but the crowds just were not there. The food at the Beach Cafe and the upscale restaurants was good and many in my group ate many meals at the Beach Cage. The other restaurants were expensive and not very good. I don't like Starbucks which is the coffee shop.

      I stayed at Hooters a couple of nights as I had never been to a Hooters Hotel. If you are looking for $25 rooms off the strip but close to the MGM and the Trop. this place is ok if you like dark and dingy. I did not find the property clean inside or out. The information given by the girls at the front desk was unreliable at best. I would never reccomend this hotel.

      I was pleasently surprised by the Flamingo. The hotel was busy and the renovations are almost complete. I would not hesitate in putting people in this hotel. I myself like the quiet of the Trop. but others who want to be surrounded by peole and noise liked the Flamingo.

      I was impressed with the decore at the Winn and the Bellagio. This was my first visit to either hotel.

      One night I ate at the Heart Attack Grill the food and drinks were pretty good, the idea of putting on a hospital gown a bit hokey.

      One night I ate at the Fremont Casino Buffet. I was surprised by the quality and the low price. I also ate at the Flamingo buffet one day and have to say that I thought the quality at the Freemont Casino was better.

      Made the stop at Ethel M Chocolates. Everything in this store is overpriced but I do enjoy the cactus garden.

      Happy Thanksgiving 
    54. It is Feb 09 and I can't belive that spring is only a month away. Many of you have cabin fever and looking to get away. There is still plenty of space on the March 21 Florida Escape. People are traveling again and many of the tours are selling out. Those of you who are still waiting for the last minute to book your escapes may find that their is no space when you get around to booking. I urge you not to wait to the last minute as you have done in past years. 30 days out we are releasing space to the hotels which means the space is not available anymore for the last minute booking. We will however always try to accomodate you but we have to charge for the cost of contacting all of the vendors to find space for you.

      Mel

    55. This weeks blog deals with a question I was asked earlier this week and that is: “how do I see the industry changing and how we are adapting to this change.”

      The most noticeable change is our customers are getting younger and younger every year if not in age then in spirit.  I have met many people who are old at 70 and many people who are young at 80. A person’s physical age is not really relevant, but the mental age curiosity, and physical ability is most important. Our vacation packages are designed for the free spirit and the concept that the motor coach is used for transportation not for exploring a destination.  Our customers are telling us that anything longer then 2.5 hours on a coach is too long and five hours is the absolute limit for a days travel.  I had the unpleasant experience of being shifted from Amtrak to Grayhound last month because of New England flooding. We ended up going to DC by bus one way and returning by train the other way. All I can say about riding all day on a Grayhound bus was it got me where I wanted to go, but was uncomfortable and I was stiff. My backside was sore and I was miserable cramped with no leg room. This made me evaluate the coaches we are using and I can assure you I am looking for coaches that have less seats and more legroom. We will never go more then 2.5 hours with out a stretch stop, rest stop, and food stop and will not spend more then five hours riding on a coach if we can avoid it.  We are committed to using only hotels that offer free Wi- Fi as our customers don’t have to be connected but desire to be connected. If a hotel is not offering Free Wi-Fi  we are dropping these hotels like a hot potato. We will not subject our customers to the hotel that think they are offering the customer a service at $9.95 a day for Internet connectivity. In 2010 I have pulled series contracts from 23 hotels that refused to offer our guests free Internet access. This is a non-negotiable point on all future contracts. If a hotel does not offer free Internet Access then our guests will be staying in other hotels. The herding of our guests to group dinners is a thing of the past along with the three choice menus. On the majority of our overnight tours our guests will receive prepaid credit cards where they can choose how they spend the money for a meal. They may choose to eat Gourmet one night and a burger the next. Our tour director will always have suggested restaurants and will always invite those that would like the social aspects of a group meal to dine together. We have also taken out much of the structure of a tour so our guests can explore the places that interest them at there own pace. This means in most cities we will have hop on hop off passes included. This last week I was asked why we are using so few step on guides and the answer is our customers don’t want to ride on a bus for three hours and listen to blah blah blah. They would rather use the coach to get to an area and then explore. Boring museums are gone, inter active, and living history museums are in. Our customers from overseas now want wine included in meals and coffee tea and water are no longer acceptable. We are finding that many of our customers prefer small tours and will spend the money to have their own driver guide. The most important change is our customers understand the difference between value and price. They will spend a little more to have greater value. The industry evolves every year and we are changing to meet the needs of our customers.

      Mel Tye

    56. Many of you have asked that I update you on whats going on with my attempts to get the Chinese tourist to the USA.

      As of today our first group of travelers from China will be arriving on April 7 and will be doing a 10 day Boston, New York and Washington Trip. If you read my newsletter ( CLICK ON THE NEWSLETER TAB   on the website.) you will see that this has been a long process and has taken more then a year to get the travelers here. The issue has been one of getting Visas. This has been a learning process for Tye's Top Tour & Travel as this is a new area for us.

      For the last year I have been very involved in the China inbound program and have been trying to help travel agents and my fellow tour operators capture part of this growing market. You will find that if you get involved in this market there are a few things you have to be aware of.  Once you understand the requirements and procedures then you might be successful in bringing inbound travel from China to the USA.

      I have told many of my colleagues I would leave sign posts and share my experience as I went along.

      1. Ask for Visa numbers. The Chinese Travelers will send passport numbers and then discover they cannot get Visas, resulting in wasted effort on everyone’s part.

      1. When the Chinese Travelers apply for Visa the US Consular officers will ask for a number of items. If they can’t produce any of these items the Visasare being denied with out explanation.
        1. They have to prove they are traveling with one of the 172 approved tour operators for inbound travel from China.

        1. The traveler must prove they will return to China or the visa is treated as an immigrant Visa. In order to prove the visitor does not intend to immigrate to the USA once hear, they must establish the following criteria.

      a. They have close relatives in China the y will be returning to

      b. They own property

      c. They have a bank account with substantial amount

      Become familiar with the information on this page.

        http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/niv_info.htmlhelp your customers with this application form https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/  almost 25% of our  Chinese customers are unable to fill out the Visa form with out assistance. This page will answer many of your questions about visas. http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/niv_faq.html

             

        1. The Chinese often require all group contracts to be signed in person in China. If you are doing a group contract, every contract has to be notarized and you have to pay a notary fee equal to .3% of the value of the contract. I urge you to make sure that you do not have to send someone to China to sign a contract and have a clear understanding of who is paying for the notary fees. I was very surprised when I was told the notary fee had to be paid in cash; as the Chinese government does not accept checks and credit cards for these fees.

        1. Please review the requirements for offering travel to the USA for Chinese citizens.

        Leisure travel from China is heavily regulated. China has signed bilateral agreements with more than 90 countries in order to facilitate the ability of leisure travel groups to travel outside of the country. Travelers may only use travel agents approved to conduct outbound travel.Likewise, a Chinese travel agent may only use a tour operator that is on an approved list to arrange leisure travel for Chinese groups.

        Tour operators in the receiving country must have policies and procedures in place to ensure that Chinese groups would have the best possible travel experience and have access to Chinese-speaking guides, materials, etc. In countries with which China has outbound travel agreements, the receiving country's government is tasked with regulating its tour operators to ensure compliance with these policies and procedures.

        In the United States, the government will not fulfill that role. The government has looked to the private sector to self-regulate tour operators engaged in Chinese inbound travel to the United States. NTA is uniquely positioned and was the obvious choice to take a leadership role in facilitating the inbound tourism.

        With its long history of tour operator education and industry self-regulation through membership requirements, NTA is the most qualified U.S. organization to fulfill this role.

        The NTA China Inbound Program

        On February 20,2009 NTA became the only U.S. trade association to have a program for tour operator regulation accepted by the Chinese National Tourism Administration.

        1. The Tour Operator shall commit to be directly, legally and economically responsible to each tour participant for each component/element/aspect of the group tourist travel occurring in the US.
        1. The Tour Operator shall commit that group tourist travel in the US shall be in strict accord with itinerary   and that any changes to the itinerary must be approved by the group tourists and/or their travel agent.

        1. The Tour Operator shall commit that group tourist travel itineraries and pricing information shall be in  Mandarin Chinese and in English.
        2. The Tour Operator shall commit that group tourist travel shall have a guide or accompanier fluent in  Mandarin Chinese.
        3. The Tour Operator also must attest that no aspect of the itinerary will be misrepresented and that the  location and quality of lodging must be accurately portrayed in tour advertising and confirmations.

        1. The Tour Operator shall commit to utilizing suppliers and contractors that are sufficiently licensed,  maintain up-to-date registration and insurance and are in compliance with applicable laws, rules and  regulations relevant to their tour function.

        1. The Tour Operator shall commit to reviewing crash data, safety ratings and safety records of motorcoach subcontractors utilized for China Inbound Group Travel. The Tour Operator shall also commit to  utilizing motorcoach subcontractors properly licensed in the state(s) of operation for China Inbound  Group Tour Travel and which are in compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulations.

        1. The Tour Operator shall commit that shopping opportunities for China Inbound Tour Groups shall be  conducted without coercion at reputable shopping facilities, with quality products, with the greatest care  f or visitor safety and well-being.

        1. The Tour Operator shall commit to participation in educational programming in order to keep abreast of  current issues and trends in the Chinese Inbound U.S. market.
        2. Lastly, beware of the request for special gifts. On my last trip to China I was told that a contract could not be signed until I produced a special gift for the managers I was working with. I was further told that the gifts I had brought were too insignificant for the business we were doing and only gold or gemstones were acceptable. I was taken shopping so that I could produce an appropriate gift. I felt I was being told that if I did not pay this  bribe the contract was dead. This does not happen in all of China but in specific areas. My advisor told me what was expected was a minimum gift value at $400 - $500 for every million dollars in business.

      1. I have been traveling over the last few weeks. My last big trip was to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Hard to believe but this was my first time experiencing Mardi Gras in New Orleans. First of all the Myth that girls show their breasts to get beads never happened. I was told that this used to take place on Bourbon Street along time ago when pigs were on the balconies. Since they no longer allow the parades on Bourbon St this behavior is not as common and is discouraged. When I saw adults groveling in the gutter for plastic beads I began asking the question of where the custom of throwing beads come from. I asked many people including in Mardi Gras store and in the Museums and did not get an answer. No one seemed to know why but only it was a tradition, that people throw thousands of dollars of beads and creates mounds of trash. Since no one was able to tell me including local tour guides I did some research. Lots of different stories but this makes the most sense. he story traces back to when Alex Romanoff from Russia, visited New Orleans. He was given their strings of crystal beads one purple, one, gold, and one green. The gold represented wealth, the purple power and the green justice. When Romanoff cast of these beads it was symbolic that while in New Orleans he was casting off 
        responsibility and was allowed to party with the people of New Orleans. The tossing of beads became symbolic of casting away responsibility for the evening and showering parade glowers with the promise from the King of the parade with the blessings of wealth, power, and justice. This is also why every Mardi Gras Krew stops and is toasted by dignitaries and a symbolic exchange of beads take place. The next time some one asks why they throw beads at Mardi Gras now you know. 
        If you have never experienced Mardi Gras I encourage you to let yourself go and engage in the fun of catching beads and letting the inner child out. Mardi Gras
        comes early next year and we will be departing on Feb 10. 
           

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