From Sex in the City to The Sopranos and now Superhero TV and Movie Tours in NYC – How On Location Tours is Thrilling TV and Movie Fans
Georgette Blau is the founder of On Location Tours offering TV and Movie Tours in NYC. From Sex in the City tours to The Sopranos Tours and now even Superhero tours.
Georgette sat down with Tourpreneur Host Shane Whaley, and shares with us how she got started offering TV and movie tours in NYC
Georgette’s story is inspirational.
I started the company 20 years ago. I moved to New York right after college and I was walking up the hill one day and saw the building from the Jeffersons on the Upper East Side. The TV show that ended in the 80s, but I recognized the building and love that New York City has so many TV locations, so many movie locations.Georgette Blau, On Location Tours
In fact, it’s the most filmed city in the world, and once I found that out, saw that there wasn’t another tour, I launched.
I launched very small in a 15 passenger van. That was 1999, 2001 went into coach buses. I launched the NYC TV and Movie Tour in 1999. We’re constantly updating that tour.
In this conversation, Georgette shares her marketing strategies with us for tours. She also reveals how she built relationships with the likes of HBO and outlines some of the challenges with hiring tour guides for her movie tour business.
More about On Location Tours
On Location Tours, the Concierge Choice Award Winner for Sightseeing and Tours is one of the world’s largest TV and movie tour companies and the only one operating in multiple cities. The tours feature sites from the hottest and latest on the big and small screen.
Founded in 1999 by Georgette Blau, it has quickly become one of the East Coast’s most popular tourist attractions serving over 100,000 tourists and locals annually. Some of the tours include NYC TV & Movie Tour, When Harry Met Seinfeld Tour, Sex and the City Hotspots, Gossip Girl Sites, Sopranos Sites, TCM Classic Film Tour, Central Park TV & Movie Sites, and Holiday Lights & Movie Sites.
Mission Statement of On Location Tours
The aim of On Location Tours is to allow people the opportunity to straddle fiction and reality, letting them feel as though they are part of the TV show or movie, ultimately bringing them closer to the characters themselves.
We offer a new and exciting way to see the most filmed city in the world with our distinctive New York sightseeing tours. With On Location Tours, you’ll go behind the scenes of your favorite shows and movies – we give a whole new meaning to the term “site seeing!”
Our tour guides are local actors and actresses who have appeared on TV and movie sets in New York and Boston
This episode and interview of Tourpreneur@Arival is presented by Checkfront. The booking platform trusted by over 5,000 tour and activity operators around the world. You can start your own free 21-day trial over at Checkfront.com.
Join the Tourpreneur Insiders Facebook Group and grow your business by learning from other tour operators.
Links and Resources Mentioned on This Episode of Tourpreneur – the podcast for tour operators.
- On Location TV and Movie Tours in NYC and Boston.
- Georgette Blau
- On Location Tours Reviews on Tripadvisor
- Checkfront Booking Software for Tours and Activities.
Interview with Georgette Blau, founder of On Location Tours.(TV and Movie Tours in NYC) Full transcript.
Speaker 1: Today’s episode is brought to you by Checkfront, the booking platform trusted by over 5,000 tour and activity operators around the world. You can start your own free 21 day trial over at checkfront.com.
Speaker 2: Welcome to the Tourpreneur podcast. Travel industry veteran Shane Whaley will take you on a journey with fellow tourpreneurs, sharing their tips, ideas, insights, and success stories to inspire you to make your tour business the best it can be. And now please welcome your host, Shane.
Shane Whaley: And welcome to Tourpreneur at Arival presented by Checkfront. We are joined by Georgette Blau of On Location Tours. How are you?
Georgette Blau: Oh good, good. Thank you for having me.
Shane Whaley: Pleasure. How are you enjoying Arival so far?
Georgette Blau: Oh, I love it. It’s been so productive and what I love about it, it’s all about us. Finally a show that’s for the tours and attractions.
Shane Whaley: Fantastic. So On Location Tours, how did you get started?
Georgette Blau: I started the company 20 years ago. I moved to New York right after college and I was walking up the hill one day and saw the building from the Jeffersons on the Upper East Side. The TV show that ended in the 80s, but I recognized the building and love that New York City has so many TV locations, so many movie locations. In fact, it’s the most filmed city in the world, and once I found that out, saw that there wasn’t another tour, I launched. I launched very small in a 15 passenger van. That was 1999, 2001 went into coach buses. I launched the NYC TV and Movie Tour in 1999. We’re constantly updating that tour.
Georgette Blau: It’s a lot of newer movies and TV shows. A little bit of everything. We launched the Sopranos Tour in 2001, the Sex and the City Tour in 2001, the Central Park Movie Tour, which is our only walking tour in New York, in addition to our recently launched East Village walking movie tour. That was around 2003, and then a few years later we launched the Gossip Girl Tour. Then the TCM Classic Film Tour in New York, and we also have a Holiday Lights and Movie Sites Tour. So yeah, we’ve got 10 tours in New York. We actually have two tours in Boston, a walking tour and a bus tour. The majority of our tours are bus tours, but we’ve definitely been keeping busy.
Shane Whaley: Absolutely. Which one would you say is the most popular of your tours today?
Georgette Blau: Our signature tour, our NYC TV and Movie Tour probably, because it encompasses everything. It’s kind of for everyone, so that’s been our most popular. We get so many camp groups, corporate groups, student groups on that tour, in addition to it running daily, 365 days a year. Our Sex and the City Tour continues to be very, very popular. That’s actually our second most popular tour every day. We have about 52 women and 2 angry men getting on every bus.
Shane Whaley: Right, absolutely. I really have been looking at your Sopranos Tour for a long time because I love that show and I so want to go on that tour.
Georgette Blau: It’s wonderful. It’s really, really wonderful. There are 42 locations on that tour from the Sopranos. Our lead tour guide on that tour has been killed off five times in the show.
Shane Whaley: Really?
Georgette Blau: So he includes a lot… He’s still alive. He includes a lot of those stories, the behind the scenes stories, and that’s what a lot of our tours are about. The behind the scenes stories, our tour guides are all actors and actresses. So they really are great at weaving a story and being very outgoing. And of course their schedules are flexible. So that’s also helpful.
Shane Whaley: Yeah. So how do you go about researching and planning the itinerary?
Georgette Blau: Yeah, we definitely have a formula. We start with the show distribution and then we go to not only how many locations, but how interesting the locations are, how they’re clustered on a map. So we literally will pin a map with locations, and if they’re too far and few between, we don’t go ahead with a tour. We may add it to our movie tour, but we decide if it’s worth doing a theme tour based on those few things.
Shane Whaley: I don’t know how it works with the legals. In terms of using the name Sopranos and Sex in the City, did you have to get permission for that or-
Georgette Blau: Yes. We actually work somewhat with HBO. In other words, we have a relationship. We end the tours at their store, which they love. So we actually had to work out the name with HBO. But funny enough, over the years our branding as On Location Tours became more and more important. So we really made sure that On Location Tours was on everything.
Shane Whaley: Yeah. And if you say for instance, I’m a tourpreneur in waiting, maybe in London. I want to do a movie tour, what would your tip be to someone out there in terms of approaching someone like a HBO? What’s some best practices?
Georgette Blau: First of all, hire a great trademark attorney. The number one thing, who hopefully doesn’t charge too much, but our attorney is great. She really deals with a lot of the studios and places like that.
Shane Whaley: Yeah, it’s one of the things you’ve got to spend the money on, right? You don’t want to get that wrong.
Georgette Blau: Unfortunately, yeah.
Shane Whaley: What do you find the most rewarding aspect of running your own small business?
Georgette Blau: I love helping people escape, especially into this TV land, movie land. I love the looks on their faces, the wide eyed views. I don’t get to tourists as often as I would like to. I’m usually stuck in my office, but when I do get out there, it’s such a thrill to see buses moving with people on them and people hopping off at the stops. People on our walking tours and especially when you’re jogging their memory of that scene, they’re going, “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I remember that.” And even, for example on our Gossip Girl Tour, there’s about 20% of people on the tour have never seen the show, yet they step off the bus. It’s basically like moms going with their daughters type of thing. They step off the bus and go straight to watch it. So we’re really also introducing these shows and movies to people.
Shane Whaley: what would you say has been the biggest challenge for your business?
Georgette Blau: Oh my gosh. There’s several challenges, but I would say probably the largest challenge has been the hiring process, really. So anywhere from the tour guides who, again, we only hire actors and actresses, but finding the right one. We are known for our very interactive tour guides and we’re famous for that, so we’re proud of that. But the challenges over the years of hiring them and also with actors, it’s a lot of… There is that administrative aspect that they don’t all love. And also, I would say the full time people in the office. We have a really fun topic of TV shows and movies, but when it comes down to it, it’s hiring the right people. It’s, are they going to enjoy their daily jobs.
Shane Whaley: Absolutely. How do most people discover your tours? So they’re coming to New York City on holiday. How do they find out about your tours?
Georgette Blau: Generally the tours are discovered through Google ads. We have brochures in the hotels. We do social media, but we really target it to getting people onto the buses, not just being social and that sort of thing. We do a lot of SEO. We started very early on with digital marketing back almost 20 years ago. We have a lot of detailed pages on our websites on the movies, the TV shows, the neighborhoods. We do a lot of link-building into those pages. We work with a lot of OTAs. We started working with Viator, now TripAdvisor, in 2001, Expedia in 2002. We’ve had longstanding relationships with them. I’ve found over the years it’s a whole combination of ways that you’re getting in front of people.
Shane Whaley: Absolutely. And which booking platform are you using?
Georgette Blau: We use FareHarbor.
Shane Whaley: And how’s that working out?
Georgette Blau: Yeah, it’s been great. We were actually the first company onto Zerve and Zerve unfortunately three years ago went under. And we had already been looking into FareHarbor and decided to make the move. So it was a natural move. And I find that a lot of the personalities that I loved at Zerve are at FareHarbor.
Shane Whaley: Yeah. What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you in terms of running your own business?
Georgette Blau: What comes to mind is probably the advice my father gave me, which was to try to get as much PR, media, press as you can, not only for the exposure but also of course, it saves money in advertising. It almost feels more organic than a lot of the other ways to market.
Shane Whaley: And I asked you that question because there’s at least two Tourpreneurs I know who are very grateful for your mentorship. We spoke to Carrie recently at Atlanta Movie Tours, and of course our mutual friend Tony over at Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours. He sings your praises. He credits the whole success of his business to your mentorship in the early days.
Georgette Blau: So nice, so nice. I send him a check every week, so I’m glad he’s saying that.
Shane Whaley: Yeah, absolutely. But that’s so important in this industry, isn’t it? To be able to help each other. That’s why we have the podcast. That’s why we’re here at Arival to learn from each other and help each other grow.
Georgette Blau: Oh, absolutely. I have to say, what surprised me the most going into this industry is tourism. I would say first and foremost in New York.,Oh my gosh, the tourism industry, we’re all friends. Even the, quote unquote, the competition, we’re all in it together in all of tourism. But that’s what shocked me. I’ve become so close to so many people over the years.
Shane Whaley: Fantastic. Where can people find your tours online?
Georgette Blau: It’s onlocationtours.com is our website, and one little tidbit I forgot to add is that we recently launched a superhero tour. So we’re really, really excited about that. It’s a learning curve for me, because I know very little bit about superheroes and comics. But it’s been so exciting in New York seeing all of these things film, the Marvel, the DC, and we’re really excited. It’s been growing really fast.
Shane Whaley: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you for coming on the show today. We’d love to invite you back on. I’ve got a million questions in my head right now that I want to ask you. I’d love to find out more.
Georgette Blau: Thank you.
Speaker 2: Thanks for listening to the Tourpreneur podcast. Be sure to visit tourpreneur.com to join the conversation and access the show notes, including links to the resources mentioned on today’s episode. This is Tourpreneur.