It was twenty years ago at IPW in Chicago that Mike Gallagher and Mike Morey, both of whom had established careers in marketing attractions in California, introduced a concept they had been working on for some time: CityPASS, which aggregates attractions in a specific U.S. destination into a prepaid booklet of tickets and selling the “bundle” at a price which amounts to a significant discount—usually around 40 percent—from what a consumer would pay for the tickets if they purchased them separately. Essentially, that’s it. While other multi-admission passes are part of the tour and travel industry currency, Gallagher and Morey were the first.
The two had known one another for a while. Morey had been president of Pinetree Service Corporation, a Los Angeles-area transportation and tourism services company, and later established his own marketing and research firm, specializing in working with museums, aquariums and zoos. Gallagher served for 17 years as executive vice president of Marine World Africa USA (now Six Flags Discovery Kingdom), taking over the job in 1980 at the age of 28. Their paths crossed at many industry functions, including conferences of the California Travel Industry Association, which Gallagher once chaired.
After back-and-forth discussion and planning, they finally settled on the multiple admission product they labeled CityPASS. And then, deciding to make their idea a reality, they debuted the concept with two cities—Seattle and San Francisco—and met with a positive response from operators and other destinations who had never sold such a product, even though some cities promoted packages of attractions within their boundaries.
After the sale of more than 17 million booklets and the addition of another 10 destinations (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York City, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Southern California—which includes admission to Disneyland, Disney California Adventure Park, SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOLAND California), it looks like their venture is working out.
By 2012, CityPASS had become sufficiently established that Megan Allen was named CityPASS president and CEO after moving up the ranks following her initial hire in 2000. Morey and Gallagher retained their co-founder title and responsibilities, stay active and do not use the word “retired.” Gallagher, for instance, has been especially active in travel and tourism industry organizations and in2013, was inducted into the U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Industry Hall of Leaders.
Today, CityPASS has well-established enough that destinations seek to have their attractions made part of the CityPASS brand. As for the attractions marketers who part of CityPASS, they realize their product is part of the brand is that, more or less, has the imprimatur of a product with a solid reputation across the global travel trade. The latter point is reinforced each year at IPW with the day-long media marketplace, in which some 500 journalists interact with U.S. travel suppliers in a venue that is sponsored by CityPASS and includes an awards program for best travel articles in three different categories and a packed reception for journalists who are known for their capacious appetites.
Keeping pace with technology means that the familiar CityPASS ticket booklets are fast becoming a memory: “We’ve seen sales go from primarily box office to largely online; we’ve gone from shipping every ticket booklet by post to sending a good portion of them via email; and, last year, we introduced our first entirely mobile pass, New York C3,” explains Allen.
But the company retains a personal, homey atmosphere where everyone knows one another—not surprising since CityPASS is located in Victor, Idaho (population not quite 2,000) in the Teton Valley and within walking distance of Wyoming.
Why Victor? As a spokesperson explained it to us, Mike Morey’s home is in Victor. When Mike and Mike began their partnership, Gallagher was the one who initially attended more trade shows and tourism events and was just generally on the road more. Morey, although he did attend various industry events, didn’t travel nearly as much as Gallagher. So, if the headquarters was to be in one of the partner’s hometowns, it made sense for it to be in Mike Morey’s.
It also means that there is a lot of room for CityPASS, now 20 years old, to grow for the next 20 years—at least.