THE BOEING TOUR
The new Boeing Tour Center that opened in December 2005 was a hit with visitors. The company extended its schedule to seven days a week and added two observation balconies in the plant, for a total of three. Many spaces on the scheduled tours are sold out between May and September. During this peak season tours begin at 8:30 a.m. with the last guests returning by 7 p.m.
Between opening in 1968 and moving to its new facility in 2005, the Boeing Tour had hosted over 2 million visitors from around the globe. By 2005 the annual attendance had grown to over 100,000, and the Future of Flight project’s business plan forecasted doubling that amount at the new Boeing Tour location.
Just a couple of years after its new facility opened, the Tour welcomed its 3 millionth visitor since its 1968 beginnings. A few years later, on June 18, 2013, four young women from China were treated to a VIP Tour as the 4 millionth visitor. By 2014 the annual number of Tour guests topped 264,000, and attendance is on pace to exceed 300,000 for the 2015 calendar year. By the end of 2015 the Tour will have hosted more than 2 million visitors in the 10 years at its new location.
The Tour has always been popular with international travelers. Over the years the proportions of visitors from the various parts of the world have changed.
In February 2006 two four-foot by three-foot maps were mounted on a wall in the lobby, flanking the Information Desk – one of the world and the other of the United States. Visitors are asked to put a pin in the area they are from. At the end of each year, the pins are removed, and then the new year’s visitors place theirs.
Canadians remain the largest segment of foreign visitors. In the early days of the new Tour Center’s operation European and Australian visitors constituted the next largest groups. By 2014 the number of visitors from China had increased substantially, as have travelers from Japan, so that now Asia is the second largest source of foreign guests.
The Boeing Tour is still drawing famous visitors. David Reese, Senior Manager – Visitor Relations for The Boeing Company, remembers a particular VIP: the first man on the moon.
“One of my favorite days here was the day that we had Neil Armstrong come to visit us. We had a lunch up on the Future of Flight Strato Deck with Neil and his Korean War-era squadron from the Navy. We were able to sit and chat, and just have a great time and then tour the Boeing plant – one of my favorite days in my career.”
Today the Boeing Tour of the Everett plant is operated today by a dedicated team led by Mr. Reese and overseen by Tour Center Manager Roy Henslee. There are currently ten full-time employees, and additional workers are engaged to meet peak season demand. In 2005, just before it moved to the new facility, the Tour was staffed by only six full-time guides and one manager.
In addition to running a premier tourist experience, the Boeing Tour staff has been a close collaborator with the Foundation in its education program. For example, in 2015 the Future of Flight Foundation and The Boeing Company developed a Boeing Career Tour for students.
The Boeing Store has also worked with the Foundation in a number of ways, including presenting book signing events and offering use of its photo booth (located in the Gallery) to visitors and for private events.