Agents find success with ScotsMaster course

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NEW YORK -- "Scotland has so much to offer ... I can convince just about anybody to go there."

That's one agent's take on the destination, which provides an abundance of vacation options and cultural attractions.

"Lowlands, highlands, beach areas, golf, history," said David Sampson, of Radnor, Pa.-based Sampson Travel, are some of the leading tourism draws for his clients, and the diverse range of leisure activities helps to make Scotland an easy sell.

Sampson is a ScotsMaster, having completed a rigorous course offered by the Scottish Tourist Board in connection with Edinburgh University.

"We are a full-service agency that happens to specialize in a few areas -- [all of] Great Britain and Australia.

"I started out [with Scotland] because that is my heritage and I loved running golf trips. Since then, [the ScotsMaster] has become a very good method to obtain leads," said Sampson, who earned the designation five years ago.

The agent added that the hoof-and-mouth outbreak "has definitely put a crimp in this year's bookings."

"No matter how convincing you are, people still fear the disease. Most of my clients have made other choices for this year. They say they want it to blow over and then they will come back."

Sampson said that most of his Scotland clients are FITs, and he gets a small amount of escorted business.

Another ScotsMaster graduate, Mary Todt, who works as an outside agent with Travel World of Shrewsbury, N.J., completed the course in 1998, and in 2000 earned the Brit-Agent designation.

"Both [courses] have proved useful," she said. "Nothing promotes enthusiasm and knowledge as much as being right there to see and experience for ourselves."

Sampson and Todt, along with many other retailers who specialize in Scotland, have a wealth of tour products from which to choose.

Virtually all tour operators to the U.K. and/or Europe package Scotland with other regions of Britain.

Here are some ideas for Scotland-only trips as well as some combination plans:

  • ETM Travel Group in Westport, Conn., offers a slew of options.
  • Its self-drive programs can begin and end in any city or airport with an Avis location, such as Edinburgh and Glasgow, for example, and it offers a range of accommodations.

    The firm's Bed and Breakfast Britain product line offers lodging in more than 800 bed-and-breakfast properties, guesthouses and farmhouses.

    Rates begin at $58 per person, double.

    Clients who prefer traditional hotels or inns can book Hotelpass Britain, which offers Scottish properties starting at $79 per person, double.

    ETM's Inns of Britain contains a selection of 400 "small and friendly" inns, with rates from about $74 per person, double. The operator's Mansions & Manors program offers upscale private home accommodations starting at $105 per person, double. Those seeking top-of-the-line lodgings can select from the Classic Collection of country house and castle hotels starting at about $150 per person, double.

    Clients who don't want a rental car have the option of buying a Freedom of Scotland TravelPass. Eight days of travel within a 15-day period will cost about $168 per person.

    ETM can be contacted at (800) 992-7700.

  • CIE Tours, based in Cedar Knolls, N.J., is one of only a few firms that offer Scotland-only escorted programs.
  • Its eight-night Scottish Dream program begins and ends in Glasgow and visits Stirling Castle, the Isle of Skye, Fort Augustus, Aberdeen, Glamis Castle and St. Andrews and Edinburgh.

    All breakfasts and most dinners are included, as is air, hotel and tour guide; land-only rates are available.

    Per person, air-inclusive rates for July and August start at $1,769; in September at $1,481.

    Agents can contact the firm at (800) CIE-TOUR.

  • Virgin Vacations of Norwalk, Conn., offers Scottish Sojourn, which is coupled with a stay in London. It's an FIT program that provides three nights each in Edinburgh and London. Transatlantic air is on Virgin and domestic air is on BMI British Midland. Through Sept. 2, rates range from $1,239 per person, double.
  • Pawtucket, R.I.-based Collette Tours is among the operators that package Scotland with other parts of Britain on motorcoach programs.
  • Scotland is featured in three of its Britain itineraries.

    Land-only rates during July and August range from $1,299 to $2,099 per person, double. Collette can be reached at (800) 832-4656.

    To learn more about booking Scotland, visit www.2001toscotland.com, or call the British Tourist Authority at (800) GO2-BRITAIN.

    For details on the Scotland rail pass, contact BritRail at (877) 625-4000.

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