Ritz unveils new luxury tour product

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ALHAMBRA, Calif. -- One of the highest volume operators of tours to Asia, Ritz Tours built its business on a slogan of The best quality tours for the best price.

We always felt like the travel market was like a pyramid, said Ritz Director Evan Chan. The top is luxury travel, and we always felt that was a small segment -- at most a thousand or two -- and we didnt market to it. We wanted 20,000.

But lately, Ritz has been rethinking its premise, resulting in a new style of tour, the Premiere Series, targeting that luxury market. And now Chan is finding out its not such a small segment after all.

We were seeing demand, he said. I dont know if there was a shift or not. Now were finding out from advance bookings that its pretty large.

In the past, Ritz offered its product in one style, Deluxe. The formula is to use five-star hotels but keep overall tour prices affordable.

The Premiere series uses the best hotels in every city, Chan said, such as the InterContinental Grand Stanford in Hong Kong, the St. Regis in Shanghai, the ShangriLa in Beijing, the Sheraton in Guilin and the Sofitel in Xian. At least one dinner and entertainment is included at each hotel.

Optional extras in the Deluxe series are standard inclusions in the Premiere, such as a Qin Dynasty Dinner Show and a rickshaw ride through the historical district of Hutong in Beijing.

Premiere tours have a maximum group size of 24, in contrast to 30 to 35 for the Deluxe series.

The Premiere series will debut with four programs. Three are upgraded Deluxe programs: upstream and downstream Yangtze River programs and a 13-night China Panorama tour. 

The fourth is a new itinerary, a 16-night Tokyo & China Highlights tour starting from $3,399 per person, double.

Ritz Tours reservations line is (800) 900-2446. Its Web address is www.ritztours.com.

A discount of up to $200 off per person is available on bookings made by Dec. 31, 2005, at least 45 days in advance of the departure date.

To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].

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