Harvard Tour Now on Tape

Company Hopes Tourists Will Choose Recording Over Humans

Boston tour guides may soon find themselves out of work if Cushing Tour Tapes has its way.

The company, which began peddling its wares this past weekend, rents walkmen and taped tours to visitors interested in viewing the Freedom Trail, Beacon Hill, and other popular sights on their own.

"Cushing Tour Tapes contains all the components of a professionally-guided walking tour," the company boasted in a press packet.

For $14, tourists may rent a tour tape, walkman, and small map for 24 hours at a time, said Melissa Radin, a Cushing representative. Tapes run about 40-45 minutes long and the entire tour lasts about one and a half hours at a normal walking pace, Radin said.

"People are very receptive," said Mark R. Ruckstuhl, who operates the Cushing pushcart in the Boston Commons.

Still, by Saturday afternoon, no one had actually rented a tour. "They weren't quite sure how the whole thing worked," Ruckstuhl explained.

Carole R. Cushing, who founded the company three years ago, wanted to allow tourists a chance to stroll through the city independently, Radin said.

"The audience we're after is the people who would normally go on a bus or trolley tour," Radin said. "This is kind of a quiet way to see the sights."

Radin said she did not expect taped tours to disrupt the Harvard campus, though one does pass through the Yard. "Tourists are going to go to Harvard anyway," she said.

She suggested that tapes might even "make it easier on the students," if tourists didn't have to ask them questions.

And if the tapes are successful here, Cushing plans to offer tours of New York, Paris and San Francisco, Radin says. The company will introduce the tapes in hotel lobbies and other local spots, including Harvard Square, later this month