Area retailers to roll out commissionable plans

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Montana retailers are turning commemorations of the Lewis and Clark Expedition into business opportunities.

Three Great Falls agencies -- Davidson Travel plus branches of Flathead Travel and Morris Murdock Travel -- joined forces to work as an inbound operator. Michael Morrison, president of Davidson, said the team expects to have basic package components available by mid-September, to be found at the Great Falls Chamber of Commerce Web site at www.greatfallschamber.org, and the group later will offer more inclusive options, as well.

The aim, Morrison said, is to be "ready to roll" with packages that will be operated next summer. They will focus heavily on the Lewis and Clark anniversary, but some programs will highlight other Montana attractions, he said. For 2005, packages also will encompass the monthlong (June 1 to July 4) Lewis and Clark signature event in Great Falls.

The initial focus is on selling direct; however, packages will be commissionable, and Morrison -- a traditional retailer himself -- said he hoped other agents will help with sales.

Meanwhile, Billie Ruff, owner of Billings-based Travel Cafe, actively is involved in the city's bicentennial events. She was a partner supporting Billings' first annual Capt. Clark Signature Days festival in late July. The annual mid-July event will overlap with Billings' signature event in July 2006.

The county bicentennial commission issued Travel Cafe a letter of recommendation and will do the same for other agencies "that work as hard," a spokeswoman said. -- N.G.

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