Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Detours Touring: Fighting City Hall

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Detours Touring: Fighting City Hall

Article excerpt


Rasa Vella stared in shock and disbelief at a notice from the City of Philadelphia's Fairmount Park Commission. It demanded $5,600 for a permit to use the trails and sidewalks abutting the city parks for her Segway tours. Vella was concerned and frustrated as she sat at her new desk at DeTours Touring in the Old City section of Philadelphia. It was less than a week before her scheduled July 1 opening and Vella had not expected such a large fee. The Philadelphia Streets Department charged her an annual permit fee of $40 to use the streets and pavements in Center City Philadelphia and she could hardly believe that the Parks Commission charged so much just to ride Segways by a parkland that comprised less than 20 percent of her six-mile route. She had repeatedly requested information about the fees and received no response. This close to opening, the fee was a major setback for her fledgling enterprise.


Vella was born in Michigan, where several members of her family business owners, and later moved to Reading, Pennsylvania. She completed a degree in entrepreneurship and marketing at Syracuse University and worked briefly for the Detroit Pistons and, sailed with Semester at Sea, and served with the Peace Corps in Africa. Vella relocated to Philadelphia in 2007 to pursue a master's degree in sport and tourism management at Temple University. She completed an eco-tourism placement with Kapawi Lodge in the Amazon Rainforest and another placement with Comcast Sports. While completing her studies and placements, Vella actively searched for a career opportunity that encompassed her interests in recreation, tourism, and entrepreneurship. Upon graduation from the program at Temple, Vella worked part time jobs so that she had time to find the right opportunity.


During a family vacation in Paris, Vella took a 3-hour Segway tour of the city. The Segway proved a perfect way to explore more of Paris than the average tourist could while enjoying the benefits of a guide's local knowledge. The proverbial light bulb went off in Vella's head. Segway tours were an opportunity to combine her love of outdoor recreation with tourism in her adopted hometown of Philadelphia. To the best of her knowledge, no one in Philadelphia was providing Segway tours in the historic Old City district.

Upon her return to Philadelphia in September 2009, Vella immediately began working on feasibility analysis via a business plan for a company focused on Segway, running and bicycle tours of Old City. She circulated the first draft to her uncles, both of whom were self-employed and potential investors, in December 2009. In February 2010, after some discussions and plan revisions, Vella's family members tentatively agreed to inject up to $50,000 of equity. DeTours Touring began to work toward an official launch date of July 1, soundly in the middle of peak tourism season, which permitted time for acquisition of resources and startup efforts.

Tourism in Philadelphia

Philadelphia was the fifth largest metropolitan area in the United States, and home to around six million people. Founded in 1682 by William Penn, its name literally meant "City of Brotherly Love". Philadelphia was probably best known for being the birthplace of the American Revolution in 1776. The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson and signed by the founding fathers in the Pennsylvania State House (now known as Independence Hall). In 1787, the Constitution was signed in the same location. Philadelphia served as the capital of the United State from 1790 to 1800. Many of the major landmarks from revolutionary times were preserved as part of the Independence National Historical Park (INHP), often referred to as 'America's most historic square mile'.

According to the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC), the Philadelphia region received over 37 million domestic visitors in 2010. …

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