Estate hopping

ome say you can't help being influenced by your surroundings. Such was the case of Lucretia Weiler, whose Asheville, N.C., agency, Fugazy Travel, is located in the shadow of America's largest home, the Biltmore Estate, built by George Vanderbilt in 1895.

Not surprisingly, her agency has a fondness for offering clients tours of stately homes around the world.

At the top of her list is the 250-room Biltmore Estate and Gardens. Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the house contains the masterpieces of art that Vanderbilt collected from his world travels. Its gardens was designed by the father of American landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted, and is the site of many public events.

Glamis Castle in Scotland, the childhood home of Britain's Queen Mother, is one of the stately homes that Lucretia Weiler visits on her tours of the U.K. "Stately homes were a natural choice for us based on our geography and have become a specialty of ours in England, Scotland, France and all around the U.S.," said Weiler.

In the U.S., she offers 10- to 14-day tours of Newport, R.I.; the James River plantations in Virginia; the Hudson River homes in New York, and the mansions of the Mississippi River Valley, from Memphis to New Orleans.

Her agency runs two tours a year, with groups that range from 12 to 44 people.

The tours to the U.K. are produced by British Heritage Tours, a small British operator based in Chester, England.

Some of the agency's next tours will be to Munich, Germany; Vienna, Austria; Budapest, Hungary; Italy, and Normandy and Brittany, France.

"I'm always looking for out-of-the-ordinary activities for my tours, and British Heritage Tours makes it happen for us in the U.K., where many of our tours take place," said Weiler.

As for why Fugazy Travel chooses to spend so much time in the U.K., she said that "after you see the houses in England and Scotland, the homes around the world pale by comparison."

For each traveler on her tours she produces a 100-page book of facts on the homes and maps of the places they will see.

"The books become a wonderful keepsake for our clients," Weiler said.

"Plus we want them to know that the tours are individually created and not available in travel brochures."

She explained that the purpose of her tours is to enable clients to "see history where it was made."

For agents who may be interested in offering similar types of tours, Weiler's agency offers them wholesale to other agents, who earn 10% commission.

Call (800) 221-7181 for details.

-- Laura Del Rosso

Kathryn in wonderland

gency co-owner Lucretia Weiler has gotten the kids involved in her latest breed of tours based on literature. Her 12-year-old granddaughter, Kathryn Young, who "simply loves to read," helped inspire Weiler to organize Bookworm Tours to England, in conjunction with British Heritage Tours. In fact, Young has now become the youth-leader spokeswoman for the agency's new tours.

Here is how Young described highlights of the Bookworm Tours she helped create: "We visit places where some of our favorite characters 'live' and see places where some of our favorite authors wrote about in their books or where they got ideas for their characters."

Lucretia Weiler's granddaughter, Kathryn Young, and the Dowager Duchess, Lady Mary of Strathmore and Kinghorne. Fugazy Travel's first literary tour will take place with Weiler and her granddaughter in England, July 9 to 19.

Young went on to discuss some of the features of the tour. "We will go to Ashdown Forest to see where Winnie the Pooh and friends live and play; we will visit the town where Lewis Carroll grew up and have a Mad Hatter's tea party, and we will go to Gloucester Cathedral where the Harry Potter movie is being filmed."

The only rules for the tours is that children be accompanied by their parents or grandparents.

According to Weiler, high school students would be the ones most interested in doing literary tours. "We're hoping to make it the type of tour that helps students see where some of the world's great literature came into being," she said.

Some surprises Weiler has in store include a costumed tea party and a reading of excerpts from "A Christmas Carol" by the great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens. The tour will be led by Weiler's cousin, a middle-school teacher with a master's degree in literature.

Raising the bar

hirty years ago, if the first hill of a roller coaster was 85 feet high, it was scary.

Today, they're building them nearly 300 feet high, and you get shot up that first hill.

Welcome to extreme times.

The bar for adventure hasn't just been raised, it's gone.

With this bar raising has come a major shift in consumer expectations.

People are getting braver.

So, too, must your travel recommendations.

Marc Mancini.This is especially true for those who define themselves as adventure travelers.

These are the people who buy Fielding's "The World's Most Dangerous Places." (I'm not joking. It exists and, more importantly, it sells.)

Here's what you must do to reach this market:

  • Realize there is a broad spectrum to adventurers.
  • For some (fewer and fewer), Europe is an adventure.

    For many, it's Tahiti instead of the Bahamas, Tanzania instead of the San Diego Zoo.

    For a few, it's backpacking in Cambodia.

  • Play to their fantasies.
  • At the heart of every adventurer is a fantasy: expeditioning to Antarctica; challenging the Himalayas; discovering the Galapagos, maybe even doing it on a masted sailing ship.

    Put the client in that adventurous picture.

  • Underscore ecology.
  • Adventurers tend to be more sensitive to environmental issues than most.

  • Suggest variety.
  • Unlike many, adventure clients don't like going, over and over, to a favorite place. They prefer something new every time.

  • Stress independence.
  • Adventurers are often the way they are because they dare to do what others don't.

    Individualism and freedom are important to them.

  • Talk activity.
  • Adventurous clients do not want simply to see but to do, to participate and interact with the environment they're in.

  • Suggest new settings.
  • Soft-adventure clients often want to do what they do at home -- canoe, trek or whatever -- in a new, exotic place.

    And if they're active at home, they're quite attracted to the notion of learning a new sport or acquiring a new skill during their vacation.

  • Don't worry too much about price.
  • One study concluded that the typical adventurous couple spends $500 per day on their trip and typically travel for 10 days.

    These are lucrative clients.

    Marc Mancini is a professor of travel at West Los Angeles College.

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