Thursday, April 16, 2009

Once upon a time there were fam tours...

I'm participating in a blogger fam tour. What, you may ask, is a fam tour? Well, children, gather 'round and I'll tell you a story.

Back in the long, long ago days, before the internet put travel information at our fingertips, there were these people called "travel agents." They held the keys to the kingdom of information about flight schedules and hotel rates and all sorts of other bits you needed to know if you hoped to venture beyond the borders of your own little burg. They worked very limited hours and required you to come to their lairs if you wanted more than a cursory tidbit of information that could be given over the phone. These dark ages - like 10 or 15 years ago - made travel far more difficult than it needed to be. That was not the fault of travel agents at all, it was just how the system worked.

Although most travelers who were at the mercy of these people who had the information never knew it, these travel agents were also going on "fam tours," short for "familiarity tours." They would be invited to hotels and attractions and cities and amusement parks and cruise ships and any other place where they might be able to encourage people to go. The idea was that they would fall in love with it and tell people they just had to go there.

As anyone faced with such a thing would do, travel agents took advantage of these perks. And, they, indeed, did encourage people to travel to, stay in, eat at, and visit these very places. It was good for the agents. It was good for the fam tour hosts. It was a happy time in the kingdom. For everyone except, perhaps, the traveler, who was still at the mercy of these people who had all the information, not to mention the memories of all this travel, some of which was far more exotic than going to Disney

Well, a group of people in Hutchinson Kansas, where I live, decided to bring the fam tour idea into the modern world. They have invited some bloggers to come to Hutchinson for a couple of days and see the sights, in hopes they will have something positive to say about it on their blogs. They graciously invited me to join in, and it has been really cool so far. I'm taking a day and a half of vacation in order to do it and it has been well worth it so far. This modern version makes so much more sense, because bloggers talk to many people at once these days.

Hutchinson does have some excellent attractions - the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, a world-class museum devoted to the space program, and the Kansas Underground Salt Museum, the only museum of its kind in the western hemisphere. Even though I live here, I try to make it a point to appreciate what's cool about the community.

This morning we were treated to an amazing tour of the Cosmosphere by director Chris Orwoll. It included some behind-the-scenes areas and needless to say I'll have many more photos to share with you later.

Here he's showing us a glove. Not just any glove. It's a space suit glove. Not just any space suit glove...

That's "Aldrin," as in Buzz.

It was amazingly cool to walk into this "white glove area" this morning, where artifacts are stored, and see incredible things lying around like this metal press pass from an Apollo mission.

This morning I got to touch a space suit - with the white glove, of course - a nice follow up to getting to touch a moon rock recently.

This afternoon we went for a tour of the Fox, then had dinner at the Airport Steakhouse, and went back for an IMax show at the Cosmosphere. Tomorrow is a very full day of activities. Not only is it fun to see interesting things, but it's great to meet other bloggers. Check out the other bloggers and read about the tour at What's Up Hutch.

I'm quite impressed that this is happening. It's a different way to approach things and I'm always interested in exploring possibilities.
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sigerson said...

Clever idea! It's good to see that small cities, often maligned (including by me) for "same-old, same-old," are trying something new and -- I hope -- succeeding.

Patsy Terrell said...

It is a great idea and something I'd like to see other cities doing - of all sizes. It costs some money, of course. But, as I told someone a couple of weeks when I was trying to convince them of a new idea I have and they were giving me the party line about, "well, we do this and this and this..." Knowing they weren't going to be supportive of my idea, and I had nothing to lose, I said, "and none of that is working... so you can either keep doing what isn't working or you can try something different." Needless to say, they did not offer to support my idea. Big surprise there.