Packaging imagination and adventure


By any standard, Atlas Travel International, a $100 million agency based in Milford, Mass., may be described as a corporate travel agency.

So why is the agency selling books, duffel bags, pillows and stationery designed for preteen girls?

For starters, founder Elaine Osgood wants to increase leisure sales (Atlas' business mix is 79% corporate, 18% leisure, 3% groups), and she likes partnering with others to mutual advantage, especially if the hook-up has social value, as well.

So, it was a nice piece of luck, or maybe fate, that Kelly McCoy, whose company handles marketing for Atlas, and Bobbie Carlton, director of marketing for B'tween Productions of Lexington, Mass., met last fall at a networking event for local businesses.

B'tween is creator and publisher of the Beacon Street Girls series of books and related materials for preteen girls. The company aims to produce literature, media and gifts that highlight positive role models and build self-esteem. This year, it launched an adventure book series about five preteen heroines who travel the world.

The McCoy-Carlton meeting occurred just as the first adventure book, "Charlotte in Paris," was published.

The two companies almost immediately "hit the ground running," said Osgood, with a plan to offer tour packages for preteen girls and their parents based on the Paris trip described in the book.

The idea, Osgood said, will be to include the traditional Paris sightseeing attractions along with the specific restaurants, shops or other experiences described in the book.

The tours will be promoted through the Beacon Street Girls' Web site, e-newsletters to preteens and their parents and Atlas' own newsletter.

While Atlas aims to attract customers for these and later trips, B'tween's benefit is the opportunity to offer additional wholesome and mind-expanding experiences for tweenagers. The trips also draw more attention to the books themselves.

To emphasize the connection between the book series and travel opportunities, the two companies are sponsoring a nationwide sweepstakes that girls can enter at and at Atlas offices.

The contest runs through March 31, and the winner of a trip for two (envisioned as a mother-daughter affair) to Paris will be announced in April.

Atlas will be a consultant to B'tween on future books in the series -- the next is "Maeve on the Red Carpet," and the destination is Hollywood. Atlas vacation specialists will author articles on family travel for the Beacon Street Girls' monthly parenting e-newsletter.

Atlas also has exclusive rights to sell the first adventure book's related merchandise. Those goods are sold at the Savvy Travel Shop, a retail store at Atlas' branch in Lexington.

This partnership between a travel agency and a publisher with a mission is untested. But previous partnerships of a different nature have been successful for Atlas.

A couple of years ago, the agency teamed up with a seller of high-end kitchens to promote culinary tours to Italy. For each tour, they planned a travel night at one of the dealer's showrooms that had a working kitchen, the better to serve Italian food made on-site.

Osgood said both companies invited their customers to the event, and that both got business from the other's clientele.

A supporter of Milford-Whitinsville Regional Hospital since she founded Atlas 20 years ago, Osgood uses the agency to assist the hospital with fundraising. When the hospital is the source of personal travel bookings from employees or volunteers, Atlas splits the profits with the hospital.

Osgood is contemplating the next steps for growing business at her agency's travel store. While it sells luggage and typical travel accessories, the Savvy Travel Shop was launched five years ago primarily to sell fashionable clothes that travel well.

Calling it a "prototype," Osgood is looking at expansion to other locations, but the first piece of a nascent growth plan is putting the store on the Web this year.

She was unsure if franchising was in the cards, but she said that in 2007 the store "will get more of our attention."

"We'll determine the next steps, and I look forward to seeing what we come up with," Osgood said.

Think you're a good candidate for an upcoming Agent Life? Contact Nadine Godwin, Agent Life editor, at [email protected], and please include your agency name, agency location, telephone number and e-mail address in the message and put "Agent Life" in the subject line.

Perfect Itinerary

Climbing Kilimanjaro

Mike MacNair, mountain climber and CEO of MacNair Travel Management in Alexandria, Va., designed and took the following trip with other travelers last year.

Day 1: Start taking Diamox, altitude sickness medicine. Depart the U.S.

Day 2: Arrive in Amsterdam for overnight.

Day 3: Start taking Melarone malaria medication. Depart Amsterdam; arrive at Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, where an Abercrombie & Kent representative will escort the group to the Mountain Village Lodge. A re-creation of a traditional African village, the lodge sits in the heart of a coffee estate and offers views of Lake Duluti and Mount Meru.

Day 4: Acclimatize by walking with an armed ranger though Arusha National Park.

Day 5: Travel from Arusha to the Machame village on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro to begin your climb. Hike for about six hours through a dense forest of rubber trees and giant figs. Machame Camp is at 10,000 feet.

Day 6: Rise at 6 a.m. for a view of Uhuru peak. Hike about six hours into the Hagenia zone to the Shira Plateau with its sweeping views across the Masai Steppe. Shira Camp, 12,500 feet.

Day 7: Hike for six hours. Cross the Shira Plateau through the pass at Lava Tower. Barranco Camp, 13,000 feet.

Day 8: To facilitate adjustment to the altitude, hike only about four hours, along the Barranco Cliff, with no altitude change. Karanga Camp, 13,000 feet.

Day 9: Hike four to five hours, with views of Mawenzi Peak to your right and Kibo Peak overhead. Make it an early night in anticipation of a long day tomorrow. Barafu Camp, 15,200 feet.

Day 10: Rise at midnight, climb a winding path flanked by Ratzel and Rebman glaciers. After about six hours, you will reach Gilman's Point (18,630 feet) on the rim of Mount Kilimanjaro's crater to watch the sunrise. Walk around the rim to Uhuru Peak (19,340 feet). You then begin the descent to your last campsite on the mountain, with a stop at Kibo Hut for a rest and refreshments. Total trekking time, approximately 13 hours. Mweka Camp, 10,200 feet.  

Day 11: Continue your descent to the base of the mountain where your Abercrombie & Kent driver/guide will greet you with a picnic lunch and transport to Arusha and the Impala Hotel.

Day 12: Depart early for Ngorongoro for wildlife viewing and an afternoon crater tour. Dinner and overnight stay is at Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge.

Days 13-14: Depart for the Serengeti for two days of wildlife viewing, with meals and accommodations at Seronera Wildlife Lodge.

Day 15: Take one last early-morning game drive before departing Arusha for Amsterdam.

Day 16: Arrive in Amsterdam; depart for the U.S.

The Perfect Itinerary is an example of an itinerary an agent crafted his or herself, not available anywhere else, but can be duplicated by other agents to sell to their clients. To send an example of an itinerary you've customized, e-mail to [email protected] with "Perfect Itinerary" in the subject line.


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