After graduating from Harvard eight years ago, Daniel Andrew could have followed a well-worn path to law school. Instead, he started organizing tours of his alma mater, leading theatrical, offbeat walks that included entertaining tales about naked winter runs, famous Harvardians, and centuries-old architecture.
“The Unofficial Hahvahd Tour” has since grown to a popular tourist attraction that employs more than 60 guides. Andrew’s company, Trademark Tours, has also expanded to offer tours of MIT and the Freedom Trail.
“I’ve found that not many cities have the mix of history, landmarks, coastline, and cityscape that Boston offers,” said Andrew, 29.
What are the main points of leading a good tour?
A good tour starts with a really good semicircle that creates as many “front row seats” as possible, like an amphitheater. Have good eye contact with everyone in the group and speak twice as slowly as you think you need to. One rookie mistake is looking at the building or statue that you’re talking about; that’s a no-no. Instead look at guests.
‘Pay what you can’ tours have boomed in Europe. Why are they still catching on here?
I used this model — asking for tips at the end of the tour — when first starting out, but it’s not sustainable once employees are on the payroll. Our tours are no longer free, but very competitive. The Hahvahd Tour is $10 a person.
How do you rate Boston as a tourist destination?
It’s hard to compete with all the city has to offer as well as highly recognizable brands such as the Bruins, Celtics, and Red Sox. And believe it or not, the top US attraction that Chinese visitors want to see is Harvard University.
Your scripted tour is edited to keep it accurate and up-to-date. What’s the latest tweak?
I’m proud to say that the Hahvahd Tour has many of the same stories I gave in 2006 when I started. Like the prank that Yale played on Harvard during a football game. The Yale students, costumed as a Harvard “pep squad” handed out placards to Harvard alumni that when raised together, basically dissed their own school. It was pretty epic. As we like to say on the tour, “We won the football game but walked away looking like losers.”
What’s your favorite place at Harvard?
Of course, Memorial Hall is the most unique building at Harvard. But I like to walk down the grass between Kirkland House, where Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook, over to Dunster Hall with its bell tower. It’s a very serene, picturesque place.
Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at email@example.com.