Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gift Wrappers

Busy week this week with joint activities with the Concierge Guild. On Monday some went a'caroling, and last night some wrapped gifts at Pacific Place. Here's Andree, Liz and Nicole decked out in their matching outfits! Thanks for volunteering, and showing the community that Tours Northwest cares.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


And by sheer coincidence, we are starting a much more public Tours Northwest blog the very minute that the 787 took off.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A New Way to Practice

This year we are doing a video Holiday Greeting for concierge and Hotel Staff. Some of us took up to 20 takes, some (Nicole and Richard did it in 2-3). Here's Dan's fine example of practicing until you get it right! If fairness, I'll also post one of me, in even more embarrassing detail.

We will be using video this year for many many reasons: practice and improve tours; reviews, marketing online and off, trash documentation, etc. Any ideas?

The Blair Geoduck Project

The cameraman was Robin, Dan's brother ... not "John".

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau

Click on this link and read a fascinating article about how Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau (SCVB) refers guests to us (and others). They do send us alot of business. Those of you who have been around awhile will recognize a familiar name in the article. Ann Peavey was a guide with us for a year, then went to be a concierge at the Westin, and since 2004 heads up the concierge desk (and as of this year, the Market Information Center) at the Convention Center.

Get to know Ann, Lu, James, Charla and the rest. Here's a picture of Charla and Lu on our Famous Seattle Tour last summer.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I'd better explain this fast before the captioned pictures go to someones' head! Bryan and Mark were PERFECT in filling out their Driver's Logs this year. Each and everytime they went to Mt. Rainier (over 100 miles away) and otherwise worked for more than 12 hours they filled out their logs right away. Completely, accurately.

They are this month's models for the rest of us. We do have a few forms to fill out, and they often need improvement in terms of clarity and completeness (e.g. DVIR, Accounting). Do a conscientious job and maybe next year YOU'LL have your picture under a "Perfection!" heading.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Outreach 24/7

Isn't this a great picture of Dee and Santa at Molback's? This was on Bryan's first Woodinville Wine Tour done through Click here if you want to see more pictures of the day.

What I like best, of course, is that Santa has been handed Dee's Tours Northwest business card and is intent on reading it despite the holiday moment. Thumbs up, Dee!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


It's nearly Dec. 1st and people have been asking about Spring Signups. We are going to try to do these in a new and efficient way. We are adding tours to our brochure times, due to the Olympics, so there should be more tours to signup for.

1. Signups will take place over 3 days (hopefully), Dec. 11 through 13th. (Each person, according to seniority, will be assigned an hour slot after consulting with you re your availability. It may well not take an hour to accomplish what we need to do.

2. We will be signing up for 3 months, not 4 months. This quarterly system will also be utilized for Quarterly Reviews so I can have a regular sit-down with each guide who will be working over the next quarter.

3. This is not meant to be a "hot and heavy" confrontation, but rather will be essentially an information session that both sides benefit from. I'll ask a wide range of questions: from availability during off-scheduled days to update address/tele/email info to Auto-Deposit of Paycheck to IRA contribution decision. We will cover goals for the upcoming quarter, as well as compensation issues. If you come in, you will be paid for the time spent; if we do this over the phone, you will not be paid for your time.

Stay tuned!

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Here is a snapshot of the floor of one of the coaches after a tour this week. The guide either did not walk the coach after the tour, or did not think this trash worthy of being picked up. (In another section of the coach, there were a pair of gloves and another guest called about leaving a cell phone on the coach-though that was never found.)

I'm tempted to make an online survey to see if others feel this small amount of trash should have been picked up. Windows smears are sometimes hard to see; dirt of floor is hard to judge ... but trash is TRASH and should NEVER be left on the floor or in the coach.

Walk your coach EVERY TIME. Pick up trash. Do the windows. Sweep if necessary; mop up spills!

Here's some other recent unacceptable floors:

Cell phone cameras are a terrible thing to waste: they will now be used!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wine Tasting!

We are in the process of investigating a wine tasting tour for the new year. As we did with the Famous Tour earlier this year, I have set up a few Meetup groups to test out the concept with us (one of the participants on Thu. had gone with Bryan on his inaugral Famous Tour.) You are more than welcome to come along to 1. have fun 2. put your toe in the water with this potential new tour. 3. And visit a distillery!

Visit and take a look; Bryan will be running this one on Sunday, Nov. 29th.

Nicole, Bryan and I went to Woodenville this past Thu. night for their Third Thu. Wine Walk. See pictures for that Meetup at the Whim Tour site.

Remember the Boeing-Winery tours we had four years ago? We'll be going back to Columbia Winery this Sunday! It remains a gorgeous place.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Odd and End policies that have come up this week:

1. Do NOT add any fluids to the engine compartment without approval! This includes spraying some compound on the belts to stop squeeking.

2. Keep up the great work on cleaning coaches after your tours to make them READY TO GO for the next driver. I took a random survey (and will continue to do so)and as a company we scored near 3 on a scale of 4. More soon....

Monday, September 7, 2009

Company Picnic, August 2009


And see all of the individual pictures here!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Compare and Contrast

This is an interesting article about Netflix. What of this would you apply to our business? NetFlix

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Truly Exceptional Service

We boast about exceptional service - door to door pickups, flexibility, information galore - in our Mission Statement but today we had a truly amazing example. And it was QUITE collaborative!

3:45 PMm, Saturday afternoon. Horrendous traffic throughout the area.

Jay was asked by his guest from the Silver Cloud if he knew where she could rent a wheelchair in town. He called the office. Nicole called several obvious candidates downtown but could not find anyone. I then TWITTERED the question and Ann Peavey (@SeattleMaven) at the Seattle Visitor's Center responded immediately to inform me about Access Medical Equipment. Nicole called them. They would be closing in 15 minutes, and not open again until Monday. AND they were north of Green Lake.

"No Problem!" we collectively thought.

Mark M. had just finished up another example of exceptional service by taking eight folks from the Westin up to Boeing to catch up with Andree's tour (he did this after shuttling his and another driver's guests from downtown to SeaTac after his 10 AM tour). He was on I-5 approaching Wallingford and swung over to 76th and Aurora to grab the wheelchair just as they were locking the door. He took it to Silver Cloud on Broadway; Jay charged the people at the Locks the cost of the rental.

We make it look too easy! Thank you to EVERYONE who was involved in this effort. You were generous, compassionate, energetic, and creative! Imagine the impression our company made on the guests (including others on Jay's tour), and the Silver Cloud Hotel staff.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Safe Driving

One of our chief concerns is that we provide our guests with a safe touring experience. Safety in terms of equipment and driving habits are continually discussed and worked on at Tours Northwest. We all watch safety videos each year, and we discuss practices and conditions throughout each tour day.

This year we have made an effort to clearly label all of our coaches with our new logo and telephone number. I would not say we are getting more calls, but be aware that we do get calls about driving while you are out there doing your job. We try to bring these to your attention when they happen, but its not always clear which coach was involved, and on occasion complaints are simply and clearly not valid. All are listened to, and gratitude sincerely expressed to the caller. Some are more serious than others. Lane issues - cutting off, not letting in, not signalling - are very difficult to determine what exactly happened. Complaints about speeding downtown or not yielding to pedestrians are taken very seriously, often because they come from our friends in the downtown core (e.g. our referral sources).

We try to keep a record of these calls/contacts so that we know of a pattern of behavior. One incident may not mean much; several incidents raises a red flag and will be dealt with.

This is a matter of safety AND a matter of public relations. You are representing the company; you often have a coach full of guests who are watching also.

Be Safe! Drive Defensively! Be courteous and conspicuously conscientious!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Historical Importance of the 4th of July!


Possibly stemming from a sense of patriotism, the Fourth of July is noted for many significant events in Washington history. On that date in 1889, Joseph Pearsall staked the first mining claim in Monte Cristo, which led to a brief boom for the mountain community. On July 4, 1915, Bill Boeing reportedly took his first airplane ride. That same day, Samuel Hill dedicated the Pacific Highway at Blaine. Exactly three years later, Hill was on hand to help dedicate the Stonehenge replica at Maryhill.

Seattle alone has its share of noteworthy Independence Day events. In 1854, it was the day Lake Union and Lake Washington were named, and on July 4, 1914, the Smith Tower was dedicated. Exactly three years later the first ship passed through the Lake Washington Ship Canal. And on July 4, 1965, Ivar Haglund launched the first Ivar's Fourth of July fireworks show, an annual extravaganza until this year, when it was discontinued.

Most Fourth of July events have been celebratory, but a few grim ones are worth noting. One hundred and twenty years ago, Ellensburg suffered a major fire that destroyed 200 homes and 10 business blocks, and the nineteenth century's last Fourth of July included a horrific tragedy in Tacoma. This year, wishes you a holiday both happy and safe.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Best Chef in Seattle?

Arguably - and newly, given his move from Woodenville to Capitol Hill - its Jerry Traunfeld of Poppy. He starred at the Herb Farm for many years and has written several cook books. Poppy gets RAVE reviews! On our Famous Seattle tour we go right by there (Harvard and Broadway) and should be pointing it out.

One of these days, we'll have a Happy Hour confluence: a delicious introduction to this star chef and his cuisine. Stay tuned.

And the BEST VACATIONER goes to ...

Loren Young visits exotic places, has the greatest times, and comes back with great tales. Here's his Facebook entry for today. 20,000 people at a midnight beach party in Puerto Rico! Who needs 200 naked bicyclists? As a recovering Catholic, I like the sound of that remedy for the alleviation of sins.

Be a Rockstar; serve a Rockstar

The Seattle Rock N Roll Marathon is occurring on Saturday and therefore we'll have warnings on the boards about places and times to avoid on your tours that day. (As we will on Sunday for the Pride Parade.)

We have offered a half price Famous Seattle tour to anyone who has the Rockstar pass. Honor this, of course, but also allude to the discount and market our Famous Seattle tour when you have Rockstar visitors on your other tours.

Ad Hoc Marketing

We had several great examples this week of ad hoc Marketing by guides while doing their pickups for tours at hotels. If you are appropriately conspicuous in the lobby, people will approach you and ask you about tours offered. Terry Jennings talked to two such groups at the Holiday Inn Express on Tuesday while he waited for his guests for the 10 AM tour; both groups called soon thereafter and made reservations on the afternoon tours.

Here's how you can enhance such encounters:

1. Wear the new Tours Northwest color! The cotton shirts have become a big hit among the guides (see Boy Toys below) and they do work for the purpose designed: they make you stand out so people can find you. Flaunt it. Mention it to the concierge. Point to the logo. Tell people to look for us all over town. We want this shirt to be a. noticable b. approachable and c. a brand of excellence. Do you have enough? (Only $10 for another) Returning school bus drivers ... make a special trip to say Hi and pick up your shirt(s).

2. Use your business cards. Pass these out to everyone and anyone. This is your opportunity to make a name for yourself, as well as the company. Urge guests to show it when they go to restaurants and stores. Elliott Bay Caf (ebc) will give guests a free cup of coffee when they have lunch if they show the card. Steelhead Diner and Elliott's will bring a free appetizer to their table. You won't always have brochures with you, but you should always have your business cards. Encourage guests to call us even if they just have a question about the city during their stay. GRATITUDE generates alot of business.

3. Take several brochures into hotels with you when you go to pick up guests. Be appropriately conspicuous, hold up the brochures (trying to find a "match" among the masses) and offer anyone a brochure if they appear at all interested. Emphasize our door to door service, large windows, several different tours, daily consistency and (obvious by your on-time presence) TIMELINESS!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Six Things Not to Say in Seattle

We all should know about how to be "proper" in Seattle so we can instruct our guests in the fine art of fitting in. Here are six statements one should NEVER utter in Seattle.

1. “Recycling is a hassle.”

2. “Bellevue’s pretty cool.”

3. “Would you like to come over for dinner?”

4. “I like driving better than biking.”

5. “Your dog just sh*t on my shoe.”

6. “I’m a Republican.”

Read the full article by Knute Berger for the funny details! And a sequel article as well.

The First Flying Saucer!

52 years ago today private pilot Kenneth Arnold saw what he described as a "flying saucer" over the Cascades near Mt. Rainier. Fittingly, there were lenticular clouds at the summit this morning. Keep your eyes open; tell your guests to be on the lookout!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The State of Fremont

Fremont will be celebrating the Solstice this weekend, so we will make the following modifications to our tours:

1. Famous Tour. Theo Chocolate is closed on Sat. and Sun. Therefore: After the Sleepless floating home, do not go into Fremont, just continue to the Sea Star. We will be providing guides with Theo Chocolate bars that you can give to your guests with an explanation of the company whenever you see fit.

2. 3 Hr. Premier City Tour. To avoid the heavy traffic and potential conflict with the parade on Sat. avoid Fremont. Go up to the 45th Ave. exit off of Aurora Ave. and take a left at the light. If you are running early, consider stopping at the Rose Garden at the Woodland Park zoo; otherwise just continue west to 15th Ave. W. in Ballard, go left to the Ballard Bridge, Fisherman's terminal and the Locks.

Boy Toys

Monday, June 15, 2009

OC Tour - R.I.P.

We have decided to cancel the Outlet-Casino Tours. Our numbers were very erratic and it became difficult scheduling drivers to do this run. We will consider taking groups there as charter work.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Convention Center, parts 2 and 3

Do you refer people to the Convention Center even if they aren't here for a Convention? This beautiful structure always has great art (e.g., this mural made of postage stamps) on the second floor, and of course the Seattle Visitor Center's concierge desk offers full services.

And now SVC encompasses the MIC, the Market Information Center at the entry to the Pike Place Market. Show them your Love (probably not a honk, but a wave would be good) and encourage the guests to go there!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Best Practices ... overheard

Mark McCormick explained the other day how he avoids those awkward moments at payment time at the Locks regarding tour prices. "I was told by the concierge it was $43.") During his standup he simply adds a line about the cost of the tour. If someone then bawks, it can be addressed and choices made. Old Brochure? Sorry, we have new brochures and prices as of May 1st.

It is also yet another habit to have so that we insure that people do not get on the wrong tour (never a good thing, though, Liz pulled it off fabulously once on MR!) Failsafe habits (like counting heads before leaving remote areas or starting your tour) work! It is (and has been several times this year) a thing of beauty when a horrendous potential problem is solved before it even occurs with a simple, conspicuous HEAD COUNT.

"Dispatch, I'm ready to start my tour with 17 wonderful guests." "Ok, have fun (without the stress of missing someone you should have picked up.)"

Stopping at the Troll ... and other places

Several questions came up over the past two weeks about rules/etiquette/habits of "how we should park" at various locations. The correct answer is relative to the busy-ness of the day. Here are the thoughts of the management team:

1. At the Troll. You should not let your guests off when it is busy with pedestrians, traffic or when you may be ahead of another of our coaches on a tour. The problem is one of delay and holding up other vehicles. Guests are understanding of "No Parking/Busy Traffic" explanations.

You can let people take photos out the open door, and you can even let them out if its a quiet day and no other vehicles are competing for the space (and, of course, you are on time.)

2. At Pioneer Square. You should move ahead as far as possible. It is allowable to drop people off or pick them up mid-block UNLESS you are impeding vehicles behind you ... in that case, move ahead!

3. West Seattle overview. Move ahead if there is one of our vehicles behind you in the tour. If not, then you can park at the good viewpoint.


All of these situations can involve several of our buses, and/or other tour companies (or shuttles), and/or members of the public. You can engage, communicate, inform or nudge. You should NOT berate, provoke, harass, confront or advocate in the extreme. Be polite and diplomatic. Deflect jerks and show your guests that you are calm, cool and collected. If you have a continuing issue with another company, report it to us and we will handle it if we see fit.

As Patrick Swayze explained in Roadhouse: Be Nice.

Saving money; Spot Times

One area that everyone can keep an eye on in order to reduce company expenses are Spot Times. They are set forth on the board (and this blog) and should be adhered to. Please do not come in more than ten minutes before your shift is to begin unless you have a specific business reason to do so. You may NOT work on your coach without being checked in. While it may be helpful to get coaches ready to go and leisurely get out of the yard way ahead of schedule, we have determined that any benefit is not worth the extra cost. Of course, it is better to be early than late, but coming in a half hour or more before your shift begins often takes away from our focus as a company.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Facts for the Week

1. Mt. Rainier: 14,410 feet high. We all know that! Are you able to tell your international guests that it is 4392 meters high?

2. Did you watch the first night of NBC's coverage of the Obama White House. Did you catch the gifts they give visitors? Fran's Chocolates! If your routing takes you by First and Union, crow about Fran's fame as the Obama's favorite chocolates (apparently, salted carmel). Also, encourage people to visit there to see the 5 by 7 portrait of Fran's granddaughter on the north wall; its a pointillist, made up of truffles.

3. Where did Mario Batali and Anthony Bourdain eat (and drink) after their appearance at the Paramount on May 30th? Cafe Presse! (If you have foodies on your Famous Seattle tour, point that out! It's known for its cheap great food and super hours: 7 AM to 2 AM.)

4. One hundred and twenty years ago this week, on June 6, 1889 a Seattle cabinetmaker accidentally overheated a pot of glue and ignited his shop at 1st Avenue and Madison Street. Fanned by a hot, dry breeze, the flames quickly spread through the wood-framed downtown. Volunteers struggled to douse them, but the town's privately owned water system delivered only a trickle. By that night, 64 acres of central Seattle had been reduced to rubble.

PC Luggage Bonus

Effective May 1st, we will be paying a $5 bonus for each fully paid Pre- and Post- Cruise guest you have on your tour. This is to compensate you for luggage handling, but, of course, there are many variations of how things work out in the PC world. Here are the basic rules.

1. The bonus is for the driver of the tour if he/she handles luggage during pickup of the guests and/or drop off of the guests. If they only minimally handle the luggage, then the bonus will go to another.

2. If a shuttle driver picks up the guests and keeps the luggage and drops the guests off with the luggage, they will be entitled to the bonus.

3. A shuttle driver who helps pick up the guests or helps drop off the guests is not entitled to the bonus. This, of course, should in no way affect their attitude or willingness to provide necessary assistance.

The calculations are made from a combination of the accounting sheets and notations on the tour spreadsheets (re shuttle help, etc.) Except for obvious and egregious errors, please accept our judgment and do not nitpick about the fairness of each variation on the PC theme. Bonuses will not be "split" by us; that is an option for guides, but helpers should in no way expect it or suggest it. This is a true fairness "bonus" to compensate for the extra labor needed on the PC tours; we will apply it in that spirit, and we hope you appreciate this change in policy.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The benefits of our New Look

Scott Major models our new vests, and shows the new logo on the decals that are on all of the buses now.

We had several instances in the past few days where guests and the guide were in the same lobby but didn't find each other for 10 min. These yellow vests will help solve that issue! Wear them; embrace them; love them.

Same goes for the logo on the buses ... very nice being able to tell people to look for the Tours Northwest coach.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kudos (times 2)!

A guest's email from this week:
We had a great time on our city tour! Our guide, Daniel, was a hoot! What made it even better was ow much history he knew about Seattle, its architecture, and its people. We will definitely book anohter trip with you next year, when we return! Contratulatios for your terrific business.
It should also be noted that Nicole took extra steps in an earlier email to find these same guests secure, free parking in SeaTac. FIRST CONTACT with guests is as important as an excellent tour. We provide exceptional customer service, along with extraordinary tours!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Tour Guide's Aphorism

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. Oscar Wilde

Friday, May 22, 2009

History Trivial: our first monorail

Do you know when a monorail was first built in Seattle? Click here to be surprised by the Boyles Monorail experiment. And here for a picture.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spot Times

Please follow the recommended SPOT TIMES for tours. We don't want you in too early, and we don't want you to show up late. If you are the first driver on a main tour, you do not need to call(unless you will be late); other drivers SHOULD call-in at least an hour before their spot time, or the night before (NB) in the case of the 11 AM tour which starts on June 1.

If you are not required to call, we will call you if it looks like your tour will not be running.

Morning Tour Spot and Call-in Times

MR BELL OC BTam 9am FSam 10am 10am 2d 10am 3d 11am
6 AM 7:45 AM 8 AM 8 AM 8 AM 8:15 AM 8:15 AM 8:15 AM 6 AM
Call Call Call Call Call NB

Afternoon Tour Spot and Call-In Times

1pm 1pm 2d BTpm 2pm 2pm 2d FSpm FSpm 2d OC pm 4pm
11:30 AM 12:00 PM 12:30 PM 12:30 PM 12:30 PM 1:30 PM 1:30 PM 1:30 PM 2:30 PM
Call Call Call Call Call Call

Monday, May 11, 2009

Anniversary of Wilkes Exploring Expedition

Am I the only one who sees an amazing resemblence between Charles Wilkes and Eric Idle? (Contest: who can come up with the best caption to this picture? Email me.)

You have all read the articles for the week, right? (See link in the right hand margin for Important Links for Guides.) If so, you'll know that Charles Wilkes led his expedition into Puget Sound this week, back in 1841 (seems to be a typo in paragraph three.) Elliott Bay is named after the chaplain on board.

Accounting Sheets for two DIFFERENT tours

If you run a double consisting of two City tours, the Accounting Sheet works well. If you run two DIFFERENT tours, such as a City tour and a Boeing or a Famous, then I'd ask that you use a separate accounting sheet for each. We divide up our Sales between types of tours and to get an accurate reading of how each does over the season, we need you to help out our Daily Accountant (Duane, or on occasion, Steve) by doing a separate accounting. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Our Start of the Season Party

Dan sternly forks out the new policies; and models the new company color (Mimosa!)

Duane, as usual, cleans up.

There are many, many more pictures from our party. In the upper right hand corner of the Flickr site, you'll see a slideshow button. Click here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Season Opener - Dinner at La Spiga - May 5th

On Tuesday, May 5th from 6 PM to 9 PM we will have a fine dining Season Opening Meeting. This will be very special! It will be held this year at Osteria La Spiga on Capitol Hill at Pike and 12th. This is a very nice restaurant, where Sabrina Tinsley reigns. She is one of three Iron Chef America participants from Seattle (Tom Douglas and Tamara Murphy are the other two). We drive by La Spiga (and Brasa and 4 of 5 of Tom's restaurants) and talk about these three on our Famous Seattle tour.

We should arrive at 6 PM. We will have appetizers, a pasta entree, and dessert. Wine and other alcoholic drinks are each individual's responsibility this year; please limit consumption so we can have a pleasant evening and safe journey home.

Please call the office to RSVP. THIS IS A DRIVER/EMPLOYEE EVENT ONLY: we have lots of work items to cover - new tours, new faces, new rules. Thank you.

Consider coming a half hour early and walking around to explore this neighborhood. To the south is Seattle U (another Famous Seattle stop at the chapel and business school to see the Chihuly chandelier). And window/menu shop the great restaurants in the neighborhood: Boom Noodle,, Quinn's, Oddfellow's Cafe, a new Molly Moons ice cream shop (sample the pomegranite curry sorbet!), etc. Stop and say hi to Jimi, at Broadway and Pine.

(Personal post-side-note: After the party Andree and I walked back to our cars near 10th and Pine. Here is what we found: two Century Ballrooms (tango! and swing), Molly Moons with lines our the door, a DODGEBALL! game (which I first mistook for a gang rumble), bike polo! , and many people on the streets heading to clubs and restaurants. It really was one of the most vibrant city night scenes I have ever seen! Anywhere! Anyone want to go progressive appetizer-ing and dodgeball watching some Tues. night?)

And, finally, here is a very good article everyone should read. Think of these points in terms of this get-together, but then re-read and think of them in terms of your tours and your role of "hosting" our guests from around the world.

New Guides

We don't have pictures of all of our new guides yet, but these four will get you started in learning faces and names:

Martin Jay Menlove

Marvin Newton

Scott Major

Eric Litt

Monday, May 4, 2009

Maria won!

Maria Hines (of Tilth restaurant in Wallingford) just won Best Chef of the NW division at the James Beard Awards! Tom Douglas did not win Restauranteer of the Year, but was his incomparable self: NW casual at a black tie event. Here he talks about Porchetta and many many other NY restaurants he ate at ... in only one day (?).

Follow the James Beard Foundations Awards!

The James Beard Foundation Food Awards is a two day affair in New York City. Seattle is well represented and we allude to these awards on our Famous Seattle tour. Last night, writer Rebekah Denn won and night its the chef's turn. Tom Douglas and Maria Hines are two of several Seattle chefs nominated.

A fun way to follow this is to use Twitter tonight around 4 PM. Search for "beardfoundation" and read the entries throughout the early evening. We twitter as a company also - "toursnorthwest" - as a way of spreading word about our company and sending immediate news out to our followers. It has resulted in some business!

Or go to the James Beard Foundation site to get longer updates. A Twitter tutorial: a hashtag is a keyword with a # in front of it. You can search for those in Twitter and get ALL tweets that include them. For example, try "#jbf"; don't do "beard" and expect to avoid lumberjacks, hormonally challenged women, in addition to the food awards.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tip of the Week: Finding Guests at the Westin

When picking up at the Westin, if you can't find the guest to the right of the concierge desk, make sure you check out front on 5th Ave. before you head back down the escalator to your coach. If they are self-booked, they may well assume that in front is where we pick up. (Telephone people do try to explain everything, but with busy phones, we might miss this key direction.)

I post these tips based on real events when I'm reminded of Good Practices. On a recent Mt. Rainier tour this occurred. The driver drove away; the guest called (thankfully); and the driver had to come back to the Westin (thankfully, he hadn't gotten on the freeway yet.) It obviously is in the driver's best interest to not have to do so. It is a team effort, and the Dispatcher will remind and urge the driver to check and double-check for guests before they leave.

Related to all of this is an observation that everyone is doing really well on CALLING IN THEIR NUMBERS 1. before they leave remote locations and 2. before they begin their tour. Thank you!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

AAN Convention

This should be a HUGE weekend and a HUGE week. The American Acadamy of Neurologists are in town, and I have heard some numbers as high as 12,000 attendees and guests. We are offering $5 coupons at the 20 hotels where they are staying. (When you take a coupon, mark the number in the party - no need for 1 coupon per guest - and attach only the top part of the coupon to your accounting sheet.

Call or email us if you are available for more work this weekend, through next weekend.

We are also doing a big marketing push due to the arrival of our new brochures. Get used to the color goldenrod!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Seattle based novel .... and NYT's article about author

Yet another great Seattle-based novel written by a Seattle author: The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. Its voice is of the dog, Enzo; its metaphorical theme is auto racing. The first trumps the second, as most people I know who have read and loved it are women (who HATE auto racing, generally). Read this review at Amazon and then buy the book or order it from the library!

You will recognize the settings in the book: Lakeview Cemetary, Capitol Hill, Madison Valley!

Update: New York Times article about the author, Garth Stein.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quality Control and (Elk) Oversight

Bryan Dutt, as well as Duane Differding, has been working on detailing the coaches all winter long. Elk oversight keeps them on the straight and narrow.

It is a good reminder that with May 1st around the corner we should all increase our efforts to keep the coaches clean for the next driver and in good operating condition.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Famous Seattle Tour training

On April 16th Mark McCormick led this group on a training run for our new Famous Seattle tour. There are two other set dates for training: Tues., Apr. 28th (3 PM, Robb); and Sat. May 2 (10 AM, Mark). Sign up now! Check out the comments and photos left by the (Whim Tours in Seattle group) people who went with Robb on April, 19th.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Video: Why Tourism Matters

KCTS video from Southside Seattle's lobbying trip to Olympia. Our coach and our driver, Mark McCormick, are prominently featured.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

First Two Weeks of May

Here is a taste of the MANY tours that are being offered as of May 1. Signups are on their way around!

BARRY BARR now; Jean Marc next.

Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
May 1 May 2
9:30FS RS MM
3pmFS LF

Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
May 3 May 4 May 5 May 6 May 7 May 8 May 9
9amCT JM
10amOC RS
1pmCT LF

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Do you get questions about the Twilight vampire book, and the Olympic Peninsula? Read this article by Sunset magazine for some excellent perspective.

Hotel Max

A VIMBY (Video in My Backyard) of the Hotel Max. Interesting to get an inside view of this very hip, very artsy venue.


The Space Needle's SkyCity was the highest grossing restaurant in the city with over $15,000.000 in sales in 2008. The average bill for a meal was $54 with 277,448 meals served.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Best Practices: Timeliness

Mark explains the meaning of a 15 min. stop to guests at Pioneer Square.

The Impact of FAMOUS SEATTLE tour

Jeesh. Robb and Mark run a couple FAMOUS SEATTLE tours the past two weeks, and the book The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (set at the Panama Hotel) - which they mention - gets onto the NYT Best Sellers list for Fiction, No. 15.

Coincidence? I think NOT!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Famous Seattle Tour 1.0

Robb lead our first Famous Seattle Tour this past Sunday. Steve arranged a group to go along and a good (and educational) time was had by all. Here are a few of the pictures.

Friday, March 20, 2009

SAM's First Youtube video

On Twitter, I saw that Seattle Art Museum posted their first youtube video to preview an upcoming show. Gosh! Could Tours Northwest be far behind??

By the way, Tours Northwest just gathered up our 100th follower on Twitter. Our followers include the Fairmont Hotel, Starbucks, Theo Chocolate, Trophy Cupcakes, and even local news people. Check it out: toursnorthwest at

With this tool we can announce that we are, for example: 1. coming to Bellevue for pickups 2. sending another coach to SeaTac 3. have the capability for small groups to go on a hiking trip together 4. are supportive of other local businesses on Twitter, etc. etc.

Ivar's Clams JUST started following our twitters and we exchanged puns (good for both businesses). One exchange results in more action, including a lecture by my daughter, who is in New York, but loyally following Tours Northwest twitters.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

2009 Mariner Commercials

See all the very funny commercials for the 2009 Seattle Mariners here.

For old times sake - wait, this is timely - the Ken Griffey clone video from years past. Another related clip: Letterman's Top Ten re Griffey after he hit his 500th home run (note that DodgeBall was in theatres back then).

Friday, March 13, 2009

Long Term Planning 101

Who says we aren't on top of things?

Summer Signups? Coming soon.

Name and logo change? Coming soon.

New tour and tour manuals? Coming.

Company Summer Picnic? NAILED! Thanks to Liz.

We'll be having a Company picnic on Friday, July 17th at Tukwila Community Center. There will be a softball game; the gathering will be from 4 PM to 8 PM; game at 6 PM.

Do NOT say this isn't enough warning! 4 months+ !

Applications with resumes (or nominations) for team captains can be emailed in (cleverest team name coupled with fairest selection process will win.) Rumor has it that we have the best umpire on the West Coast lined up (although he probably will be selectable on one of the teams as well.)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Why Tourism Matters

Seattle Tours providd charter coach service to members of our Tourism community to go to Olympia, WA to visit the legislature and governor, March 9th. Visit the excellent web site maintained by our friend Meilee at Seattle Southside is All of this directly impacts our jobs and our abiding interest in the Pacific Northwest. Mark McCormick was our driver, and did his usual outstanding job of representing the company; he (and our coach) was filmed for a KCTS report, so keep your eyes open.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

All you can eat about Seattle's restaurants!

If you are interested in adding our new Famous Seattle Tour to your repertoire you should start reading Nancy Leson's blog every day. Is she manic, having too much fun, flaunting her perfect job, or what? In her blog she gives you an inside view of the city's best restaurants and chefs. We will be going by (pointing out) many of these; some we'll featuring in short videos. Learn the names, learn the fortes! Nancy is the restaurant reviewer from the Seattle Times (job security?) and also makes an appearance on KUOW on Weds. Her blog is different from her reviews.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Duwamish Tribe

We can all get behind the efforts of the Duwamish Tribe in their quest for recognition. They have a great web site and new Long House just a few miles away. Let's all make a point of visiting it soon! In Seattle Magazine this month there is a good article about their leader Cecile Hansen. Begin by watching the video on the web site.

Bathroom cleanliness is next to Godliness

Starting March 1st we will have current Seattle/Northwest information in the holder by the throne. ALSO, please note that we will have a regular, conspicuous cleaning of the whole bathroom by our morning staff. If you see any problems, this is one area you have my permission to HARASS us about.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

March: Name Change-Over Month

Have you heard the rumors? Yes, we are changing our name, effective April 1, 2009. We will be known as Tours Northwest. We are doing so for several reasons. We wanted a distinct name on the internet; "Seattle Tours" was being used by too many other people and search results were therefore muddled. We want to project the fact that our tours go outside of Seattle as well as around the city. We want to take two steps forward on our colors, logo, and web presence.

There is alot to do in changing our name. We hope to have everything in place by April 1st, when we get much busier. The best way of staying on top of this is to check in regularly with this blog which I try to update daily. We will have a much larger "footprint(s)" online which we'll be explaining; a new tour called Famous Seattle; new business cards; enhanced video capability for several of our coaches; some excellent "partnerships" out there with other businesses; and a heightened sense of responsibility for living up to our Mission Statement.

Again, the best way for you to learn as we change is to check in here. Daily! I'll be following up in email and phone to nudge you towards this end. In the early part of March, I will change the name here to reflect our new name. Another online presence will be under ToursNorthwest. Imagine calling in the first sighting of a salmon at the locks, road openings at Mt. Rainier, offer instant "Thanks" to people out there that make our lives easier, and other IMMEDIATE news ... and for hotel front desk people or other "fans" to be able to follow (the key word in twitter) us for the latest and greatest.

Spring! Excitement!! It's in the air!!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Eats at Pioneer Square

The Elliott Bay Cafe has been renovated and redesigned by Tamara Murphy of Brasa (she is one of three Iron Chefs America in Seattle). I would like all drivers to 1. check it out themselves and 2. see how it works when you recommend it to your guests during our stop. My thought is that we may well extend the stop from 15 min. to 20 min. Our stopping times there are perfect for the slow times of the cafe. Plus, we can call in orders for your guests if, for example, your SeaTac guests are hungry and looking for lunch on the tour. Try it; let's discuss it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Innovation of the Week Award

At Seattle Tours we like to recognize real achievement. Duane Differding, our own "Uptight Seattlite", recently solved a problem that has plagued us for the past several years. The hook on the 2 by 2 to hold the gate open against NW gales was at times difficult to, well, hook onto the fencing. In addition, it would have only been a matter of a few centuries before the fencing itself wore through. Duane provided a cheap and effective addition that now saves us many seconds each morning (they add up over the years!) Great innovation, Duane. Now get back to your real job of counting money and detailing coaches.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Savor Seattle even more

When we pick up people in remote locations, we do like our guests to stay downtown, in large part so they can really learn and enjoy the intricacies of Seattle. We tell them about buses and taxis back to their hotels in the south end (or remote downtown), and offer to drop them conveniently off at the front door of the Market or Needle. Consider this: tell them that the Market is a complex and fascinating place and that they should consider going on the Savor Seattle Tour run by Angela Shen, or the Ghost Tour at night with Mercedes Yeager.

These do not conflict with our tours and offer added value for people who are new to Seattle. You can always call the office to check on times of the tours; and maybe even make the reservation for the guests.

Angela and Mercedes are friends and refer us their guests for tours. Let's make sure we reciprocate!

Thursday, February 12, 2009