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  1. GANYC Members In The News Again!

    It's been a good week for GANYC members in the spotlight!

    First, Chris Barron was featured in a PIX11 News segment about the new energy efficient LED bulbs that are brightening up Grand Central Terminal. The 106 year old landmark continues to be maintained and preserved as one of Midtown's must-sees.

    And Robin London was spotlighted on Cosa Nostra News about her NYC gangster tours. Robin offers private tours centered around the mobster & gang history stories to be found around the city.

    Finally, GANYC member, historian, and author Kevin Fitzpatrick was on WNYC radio to discuss his most recent book, "111 Places in the Bronx That You Must Not Miss". Fitzpatrick's book seeks to draw attention to an amazing borough that is often overlooked by visitors to the city.

  2. Pix11 Spotlights GANYC's Fight Against Tourist Scams


    Pix11 News interviewed GANYC Vice President Emma Guest-Consales yesterday, to discuss the work professional guides have done to try and protect visitors from the duplicitous boat tour ticket sellers plaguing lower Manhattan.

    Hustles should not be considered just another part of the NYC experience. We urge the city to further these crackdowns, revoke the licenses of all ticket sellers working for these companies, and to overall ensure a pleasant, harassment-free experience for both visitors and locals.
     

     

  3. Guide Book vs. Guide

    Guide Book vs. Guide
    How an Expert Can Help You Read Between the Lines

    I have a confession to make: I spent my first year in NYC with a copy of Frommer’s Guide to New York in my purse at all times.

    It was my anchor in a concrete ocean. It kept me from drifting away.

    I pretty much memorized that book. I knew the addresses and hours of operation for all the major attractions by heart. I could tell you where to find the best Black and White Cookies (R.I.P. Glasser’s) or which dive bar was the best (Rudy’s in Hell’s Kitchen). But I also became fascinated with the history of the city, with the remarkable stories of New Yorkers past whose lives had so shaped my present. I owe a major debt of gratitude to that paperback. Were it not for Frommer’s, I might never have been inspired to take the DCA exam and become a licensed guide. 

    So, I feel a bit like an ungrateful hack sitting here at my keyboard telling you why having a Tour Guide is superior to having a Guide Book. The fact is, there are some great Guide Books out there. And if you’re the sort of person who likes to do some pre-travel planning (FYI- a bit of advanced preparation goes a long way in a city like New York) then picking up a guide book and familiarizing yourself with the logistics of New York, as well as narrowing down places of interest you can reasonably expect to cover during your stay, is incredibly beneficial.

    That said, there are some things a real, live New Yorker can do that no guide book, however thorough, can hope to accomplish.

    To illustrate this point, I turned to Fodor’s Travel New York City 2020 edition and my old buddy Frommer’s Easy Guide to New York City 2019.

    (A quick note: If and when you decide to get yourself a guide book, make sure you’re getting the most up to date edition! Turn over happens quickly in the city and what was there a year or two ago might be a thing of the past by the time you’ve touched down at JFK.)

    Let’s start with Fodor’s. This guide book is remarkably user friendly. Lots of beautiful pictures, maps, information about transit and hotels, ways to score discounts, you name it. It also has a lovely feature breaking the city down neighborhood by neighborhood and listing some of the highlights of each area that help to make it unique and memorable. So, Kudos to Fodor’s for that!

    Unfortunately, it’s suggested itineraries leave something to be desired. On page 84, Fodor’s has suggested One-Day and Five-Day Itineraries. The One Day begins downtown in the financial District with stops at Battery Park, Liberty Island, Ellis Island, Bowling Green, Wall Street, Trinity Church, Federal Hall, The New York Stock Exchange, National 9/11 Memorial and Museum, and One World Trade Center.

    It then suggests that travelers, “Take the subway uptown” to visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art or Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), followed by a quick stroll through Central Park and finally a visit to Times Square for a Broadway Show.

    OK, Fodor’s. That’s a great day in theory. But in practice it’s probably going to be harder than it sounds. Never mind the fact that the itinerary fails to mention where guests might consider eating during this marathon of a day or that subway directions are omitted entirely. The sheer amount of suggested attractions in the Financial District has the potential to eat up precious hours of time a traveler doesn’t have to waste. I mean, this is One Day we’re talking about!

    I’m not saying I don’t think it’s worth it to see all those places. It is. And, to be fair, Fodor’s has extensive lists of restaurants, many of which I love and can vouch for personally. And it also provides a decent explanation of how best to navigate the subway system.

    But a good Tour Guide might break it down a little bit more like this:

    Take the subway downtown- we’ll pretend the traveler is coming from Times Square and suggest the #1 Train downtown to South Ferry

    Ignore the ticket vendors in the street! Fodor’s doesn’t mention these guys but South Ferry is crawling with them. They are scam artists. They are selling fake tickets. Or else they are selling tickets that will get you a boat ride to New Jersey. Don’t get taken!

    Head for Castle Clinton in Battery Park and board your ferry to Liberty Island. Consider getting your ticket online in advance so you can skip the ticket queue and save time.

    Now, for some Tour Guide Tough Love- if you only have one day to spend in the Big Apple, don’t get off the boat on Liberty Island. Take pictures of the statue from the ferry but only disembark at Ellis Island and plan to spend about an hour in the Immigration Museum there. The Statue is breathtaking, a marvel of engineering and design. If you somehow managed to score tickets to the crown (which you would have had to get months in advance) then sure, go up. By all means. But otherwise, Ellis Island is the place to go. 1 in 4 Americans can trace their families back to this slender slip of land in New York Harbor. A visit here is an American Pilgrimage and, in my humble opinion, this is where you should be spending your time.

    When you return to Manhattan, you can head over to Fraunces’ Tavern on Pearl Street if you’re famished and want a proper, sit down meal in a gorgeous, historic setting. Otherwise, save the food for later and walk North on Broadway past Bowling Green Park (This is the oldest park in New York and it has a remarkable connection to the Revolutionary War. Fodor’s doesn’t mention the story but any guide worth her salt sure will!). You’ll see The Charging Bull and Trinity Church. Take a moment to get a picture of Alexander Hamilton’s grave (the white, pyramid like monument at the far left of the church yard, visible from the street) before making a right onto Wall Street. Here, get pictures of The NYSE and Federal Hall before doubling back to Broadway and making a right to continue North. (Note: Wall Street was the sight of the first major terrorist attack on New York way back in September of 1920. The scars of that attack are still visible, if you know where to look!)

    At Saint Paul’s Chapel, hang a left and continue straight until you see the 9/11 Memorial.       

    More Tour Guide Tough Love- don’t visit the 9/11 Museum and don’t visit the top of One World Trade. I know, I know. But you have one day!

    Instead, pay your respects at the Memorial, then head into The Oculus (the glittering, white spikes of this “Bird in Flight” are impossible to miss). If you haven’t eaten yet, this is a good place to do it. Or just catch the subway uptown from here. Lots of subway lines converge in this location so you can head almost anywhere you like. But, since Fodor’s suggests a museum, we’ll work with that. Take the 4/5 Uptown to 86th Street and visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (MoMA is actually closed for renovations right now so that isn’t an option for our day in the city. Sorry, Fodor!) The Met is enormous, far too large to see in a single day. Fortunately, the museum offers free, docent led tours all day long. This is the perfect way to make the most of your visit. Look up the schedule online ahead of time and pick one or two that look interesting to you! And, season and weather permitting, stop by The Iris and Gerald B. Cantor’s Roof Garden. Yes, the drinks are pricey, but the views of Central Park are so beautiful and you only live once!

    (Note: if you’re travelling with kids, they’ll probably prefer The Museum of Natural History. Take the C train uptown to 81st street. Spring for the Planetarium and/or Butterfly Garden tickets!)

    Both museums have cafeterias but since you’re headed into Central Park after your museum visit, get yourself a hotdog while you stroll! That’s about as New York as it gets! Move south through the Park until you arrive at 59th Street. If you’re on the west side of the park, you’ll find yourself in Columbus Circle. On the east side, you’ll be in Grand Army Plaza. Either way, take the subway downtown to Times Square for your Broadway Show. Any Red, Blue, or Yellow train will get you where you want to go.

    You should have gotten your Broadway tickets ahead of time but if you didn’t you might still be able to score a last-minute ticket at the TKTS booth. Look for the “Big Red Stairs”. Alternatively, there are so many wonderful Off-Broadway venues you can consider patronizing. The performances are Broadway caliber, just in smaller venues with (often) less expensive seats! Have a look at The Signature Theatre, Theatre Row, or New World Stages.       

    If you’re planning to do dinner in midtown, Restaurant Row on 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues is full of solid options. I like The Hourglass Tavern and its cozy upstairs speakeasy Betti Bar. Joe Allen’s is a another favorite.

    Please, don’t eat in The Olive Garden or The Hard Rock Cafe. You’re better than that.

    I would add to this itinerary that a nice, late night, last hurrah might be a visit to The Empire State Building which is open until 2am and has much shorter lines later in the evening. Or, if you’re feeling fancy and want a great view of the New Year’s Ball, you can grab a (expensive but delicious) night cap at The Knickerbocker Hotel’s Rooftop Bar, St. Cloud.   

    That’s it for Fodor’s. Let’s look at my friend Frommer.

    My sentimental favorite starts its guidebook with a helpful list of “The Most Unforgettable New York City Experiences.” They are:
    *Seeing the City from On High
    *Walking the Brooklyn Bridge
    *Going to a Big, Splashy Broadway Musical
    *Staying Out Late
    *Touring Ellis Island
    *Travelling Underground (aka Riding the Subways)


    As you might have guessed, I’m basically on board with this list. If anything, I’d say it’s too short. I’d add:
    *Visit the Other Boroughs (I see you, Queens!)
    *Catch a Yankees Game
    *Eat the Best Damn Pizza on Earth


    They also provide lists for The Best Free, Best Off-Beat, and Best Family Friendly Activities in New York. They have lists of the Best Museums, Buildings, Parks, Neighborhoods to Stroll in, Best Food and Best Nightlife as well. It’s comprehensive if a little bit overwhelming.

    And, like Fodor’s, Frommer’s provides a suggested One Day Itinerary. They recommend you start your day at The Empire State Building, followed by a trip to The New York Public Library. Then it’s off to Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Terminal (have lunch in the Oyster Bar), The Metropolitan Museum, and you’ll end the day in Times Square for a Broadway Show.

    I both love and hate this itinerary. Here’s why.

    First, don’t start your day at the Empire State Building. Everyone else has the same idea you do. And the views in daylight aren’t nearly as good as the views after dark when the city is lit up and sparkling. If you want a daytime view of New York, and you’re headed to Rockefeller Center anyway, you’re much better off with Top of The Rock.  

    I love the New York Public Library. It’s such an iconic place and they offer daily, free tours! But if you have one day I’m not sure this is where I’d send you. Even the most hardcore bibliophiles might be better off checking out The Morgan Library and The Strand.

    I’m all about Grand Central Terminal. Seriously, go have lunch in The Oyster Bar. It’s an NYC institution in the best possible sense of the word. And there is an audio tour you can utilize while you’re there. But a guide would make the visit more seamless and provide a greater degree of nuisance and historical context.

    We’ve already been over The Metropolitan Museum, Times Square, and Broadway so I won’t rehash those. However, it’s worth noting that both of these One Day itineraries confine themselves (largely) to the same general areas. This is understandable to a point. You want to see the most well-known places. The sights you’ve seen in the movies. I get that. But having a guide with you who can expedite your adventures and steer you toward the places and things that most interest you is always a solid investment.

    Seeing a city with a guidebook is akin to visiting an aquarium. It’s all there to see, but it’s safely tucked away behind glass. Seeing a city with a tour guide is more like scuba diving. You’re all in.

    You’ll recall how I mentioned the fence at Bowling Green? Without a tour guide, it’s just a fence. With a guide, it’s a Revolutionary relic.

    And that’s the crux of this article, isn’t it? Your guidebook gives you a window into the city but your tour guide flings the doors open wide and invites you to the party.

    Fodor’s and Frommer’s are indispensable tools for the savvy traveler. But even they have listings of the best tours in the city. That’s because they recognize that a guide book, however well compiled, can only take you so far. Guides pick up where the books leave off.

    Incidentally, I didn’t see GANYC mentioned in either of the guidebooks I referenced for this article. A gross oversight, I’m sure. Come on, Frommer’s! Don’t let me down.

  4. Spotlight on GANYC Guide: Christine Lazzara


    Introducing GANYC guide: Christine Lazzara

    Company: Just Ask Christine, Custom Curated NYC Experiences

    Social Media: Facebook / Instagram

    Phone: 917-913-5962

    Email

    =====================================

    How long have you been a tour guide?

    I've been a guide officially for 3 years, unofficially for many more!  Local to NYC, I am the girl people call when they want to know where to go, what to do or to be shown around!

    What time of year would you consider your busy season?

    March through June seem to be my busiest months.

    What drove you to become a tour guide?

    My love for my city which never wavers.  I can't help but get excited about sharing with others the infinite magical treasures that New York City has to offer.

    What is the most gratifying part of your work?

    The most gratifying part of my work is helping people accomplish their bucket list items and so much more.  To be a the facilitator of someone else's unforgettable experience and helping to create beautiful memories for others, fills my heart and makes me proud to be doing what I love.

    What types of tours do you offer?

    I offer all types of tours as my business is custom oriented.  Walking, Private, Public, Custom, Mystery .. anything goes!

    Do you offer Niche Tours?

    I offer Custom Tours to the wish list of my client, and where they get to see New York City like a local, with a local.  My most prevalent clients are families and first time visitors who I often help with planning as well as guiding.

    How long have you been a member of GANYC?

    I became a member of GANYC in March 2017.

    How did you hear or learn about GANYC?

    Colleagues.

    How has GANYC helped you and your business?

    Meetings are very informative and keep me in the loop.  Job Board is great for leads as well.

    What's your advice or Tour Guide tip you love to share to people visiting New York?

    Stop, look around and take it all in, even if things are speeding by you on all sides.  Talk to Locals.  And, look up!  There is so much beauty and oftentimes it's above you.


    (For more info or to book a tour with Christine, check out her GANYC profile by clicking here.)

  5. Tour Guides Are The Solution To, Not The Cause Of, Overtourism

    GANYC members are likely very familiar by now with controversial new regulations barring guided tours from areas of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. In effect May 16, these regulations ban commercial tours from the new Statue of Liberty museum, the Statue's pedestal, as well as the buildings on Ellis Island. Some exceptions will be made during inclimate weather or in the cold winter months, where guides can make a brief intro indoors.

    This controversy was covered by the NY Times, ABC 7 Eyewitness News, Curbed, Travel Weekly, and others.  You can also read GANYC's official statement on these new regulations: here.

    GANYC made several compromise offers to the NPS-- a certification program for guides touring at these sites, a code of conduct for guides, etc-- and unfortunately we did not receive a favorable response.

    Professional, licensed guides have nothing but respect for National Parks (one of the crown jewels of this great nation) and its amazing rangers, but they cannot meet the demand of increased visitors to sites like the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and other great sites. Professional commercial tour operators fill that gap.

    Guides are with visitors every step of their journey— from the security queues in Battery Park (which involves navigating a mess of predatory third-party ticket vendors that the city seems unable or unwilling to do anything about) to helping move groups on and off the boats to navigating the islands themselves— ensuring efficiency. We offer a full-service experience: customer service, answering questions, and acting as ambassadors of this rich history. Audio guides and plaques cannot answer questions, they cannot share their stories and humanity, they cannot provide that human touch that make lasting memories and connections to a place.

    Moreover, the NYC guide community has professionals who speak every language. GANYC itself first began as a multilingual guides association. Visitors, foreign or otherwise, crave a customized & time-sensitive experience that the audio devices & rangers just cannot provide, despite best intentions. Foreign guests more than most will be hurt by this ban.

    As concern overcrowding and "over-tourism" grows, it pushes more & more public sentiment against tourism altogether. Commercial tours are not the cause of overcrowding in big travel destinations, but, with our flags and umbrellas and lightsabers, we are the most visible and easy scapegoat.

    And it is not just Liberty & Ellis Islands. In the past year, we have seen record crowds in NYC from the Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center, down in Dyker Heights during Christmas, and many other places. Will calls for bans for tours at those locations come soon? If the city doesn't take preemptive action to make NYC more friendly-- a reprioritization of public space, a new model of urban planning-- then perhaos they will.

    GANYC remains committed to finding solutions, as we are on the ground every day with the tourist experience. As we were reminded during our recent trip to Washington DC for Destination Capitol Hill, 15.7 million American jobs and $2.5 trillion in economic output annually are created by the travel industry, as are 1 in 10 US jobs. What we do matters. The growing antipathy toward tourists will keep resulting in more bans and attacks on our profession if we do not keep standing up and pushing forward.

    GANYC remains committed to working with any city or federal agency that want solutions, and not shortsighted restrictions.
     

  6. Destination Capitol Hill

    Guides Association of New York City (GANYC) members traveled down to our nation's capitol this week to attend the US Travel Association's annual Destination Capitol Hill event. This 2-day event involves educating both travel professionals on how to make their voices heard, and then a full day of meetings with congressional staff on Capitol Hill on issues important to US travel. In attendance for GANYC were Harvey Paul Davidson, Emma Guest-Consales, Patrick Casey, and Jeremy Wilcox. With the former two representing New Jersey and the latter representing New York, GANYC was able to meet with members from two states, expanding our influence.

    On Wednesday, DCH attendees gathered at the Grand Hyatt to hear from the US Travel Association (represented by Roger Dow, Tori Barnes, Erik Hansen, Will Brown, & others) and their invited guests. We were reminded of the power of travel: it generates $2.5T in economic output, creates 15.7 million US jobs, and has created $69 billion travel trade surplus. Given the state of global politics, and America's changing standing in the world, we cannot take it for granted that international travelers will choose us for their vacation or business travel needs. We must work to remain an attractive and welcoming destination for travelers.

    One featured speaker on Wednesday was former congressman Kevin Yoder (R-KS), who discussed with Ms. Barnes on how constituents can most effectively lobby and reach their representatives. All the events that day were followed by a networking reception.

    Thursday was the key day: the Capitol Hill visits. Between the 4 members in attendance, GANYC had well over a dozen scheduled meetings with Senate and Congressional legislative directors, as well as a couple dozen packets to drop off at other New York & New Jersey offices. It should be noted that, with these meetings, it is fairly rare to meet with the Representative or Senator themselves, but rather it is a sit-down meeting with their staff responsible for legislative matters. For those who never done something like this, it is highly recommended. A visit to the Senate and House office buildings-- which are open to the public-- is a great way to restore faith in our democratic system and truly engage with it. Most of the staffers you meet with are, not unlike tour guides, very busy but absolutely in love with their work. GANYC members had meetings with the staff of Senators Schumer, Gillibrand, Menendez, Booker, and Representatives Pascrell, Nadler, Clarke, Espaillat, Peter King, and many others.

    Some of the issues that the US Travel Association wished to push representatives on included: the renewal of Brand USA (a public-private partnership created by the Travel Promotion Act, to market the US to international travelers), the passage of H.R. 1996 (to rename the important visa waiver program as the Secure Travel Partnership, & other related purposes), the passage of H.R. 1225 (Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act, to address the maintenance backlog of the National Park Service... Senate version is S.500), and a renewal of America's travel infrastructure.

    GANYC and its Board have worked to make our organization more than a mere collection of local guides, but also a globally-recognized face of the travel & tourism in America's largest city. Events like Destination Capitol Hill, as well as our trips to events around the world for the NFTGA or  WFTGA help boost this profile. We are thankful for our members support, and we will keep working to make sure that people know to turn to GANYC for the best information & experience related to New York City travel.

  7. Spotlight on GANYC Guide: Stephen Dym


    Introducing GANYC guide: Stephen Dym

    Company: Wed in NYC

    Social Media: Facebook

    Phone: 917-855-6830

    Email

    =====================================

    How long have you been a tour guide?

    15 years.

    What drove you to become a tour guide?

    As a Native New Yorker, public speaker, performance artist and history buff it was a natural fit.

    What types of tours do you offer?

    I am a wedding officiant and specialize in tourist-oriented custom elopement style weddings in public spaces in NYC (like Central Park and Dumbo).

    What is the most gratifying part of your work?

    Helping people celebrate each other and sharing their joy.

    What time of year would you consider your busy season?

    April to December.

    Have you or your company received any awards?

    Weddingwire’s people choice award 2017.

    What special deals, sales, events or promotions are you offering to GANYC Members and our industry partners?

    I will be happy to offer commission/finders fee for referrals. I look forward  to referring my clients and their guests to activities and tours with partners  and GANYC members and to other collaborations.

    How long have you been a member of GANYC?

    6 months.

    How did you hear or learn about GANYC?

    Word of mouth.

    What's your advice or Tour Guide tip you love to share to people visiting New York?

    NYC is a great place for tourist-oriented, elopement style weddings. Iconic sights such as Central Park, Top of the Rock, and Brooklyn Bridge Park (DUMBO) offer free or almost free exciting venues and the entertainment and dining opportunities are among the best on the planet.


    (For more info or to book a tour or wedding with Stephen, check out his GANYC profile by clicking here.)

  8. Spotlight on Industry Partner: Explorica Tours


    Introducing GANYC industry partner -- Deirdre Rivas, of Explorica Tours

    145 Tremont St., 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02111

    Website: https://www.explorica.com/

    Email

    Social Media: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter


    =================================


    What year did your business open?

    2000.

    Can you tell us a little about your ideal customer?

    Teachers with open minds for adventure!

    What drove you to work or create this company?

    I have been a licensed DC and NYC tour guide/director for 10 years and I have a HUGE passion for a student travel. I am also an organized leader and TD trainer, so becoming the TD Supervisor was a logical next step when I decided to get of the road for awhile.

    What is the most gratifying part of your work?

    Knowing that we can provide life changing experiences for students.

    What time of year would you consider your busy season?

    March-June.


    (About Explorica: Founded in 2000, Explorica helps teachers create educational tours full of authentic, interactive learning experiences. They specialize in connecting teachers and students to new cultures, languages and people on educational tours across the globe.

    Explorica’s combination of exclusive online tools and personalized service enables them to create tours uniquely suited to provide both the best value and the most customized tours in the industry.

    Every Explorica tour includes flights or bus transportation, accommodations, on-tour transportation, most meals and an expert, full-time Tour Director dedicated to your group. And with veteran Program Consultants, Customer Care Representatives, and comprehensive, user-friendly website, they’re always here to support you from the moment you contact them, to the minute you shout bon voyage!

    Join more than 1 million teachers and students in experiencing the world on Explorica tours.)

  9. 2019 GANYC Apple Awards: Full Video!


    We once again thank everyone who made our 5th-Annual GANYC Apple Awards such an amazing evening. We as tour guides professionally celebrate this city and we created these Awards to honor the other people and institutions who help tell its story, and keep its history alive. With our wonderful hosts The Bowery Boys, we believe we did just that on March 4 at the SVA Theater. 

    Missed the festivities? Here is the video of the ceremony, and our other video packages:
     









    We look forward to celebrating with you again next year!
     

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GANYC is an association of independent tour guides. Each member is licensed by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. GANYC provides a listing of all member guides to the public.GANYC is not liable, or responsible, for contractual obligations made between clients and tour guides. GANYC stands for Guides Association Of New York City.
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