BERKELEY, Calif. -- Backroads, the biking and hiking tour specialist, is "hunkering down" to weather the unpredictability of the travel business in the coming months, said Tom Hale, company president. The firm, one of the largest specializing in active vacations, is well-positioned because it's always had an extensive series of North America departures.

"With our strong North America trip selection and with strategic management of our international offering, we're confident we'll successfully weather the storm," Hale said in a statement. As reported, to stimulate business Backroads is paying agents 15% commission through Dec. 31.

Backroads' tour of the San Juan Islands of Washington state features kayaking. A company spokeswoman said Backroads' bookings are gaining strength but are nonetheless down from their 2000 levels. "Our schedule has lots of capacity right now, and we expect to run perhaps 70% to 80% of our departures" in 2002 because minimum participant levels might not be reached, she said. "We want to offer as much variety as possible to start, and then prune over the course of the year" as clear booking patterns emerge.

Those booking patterns are expected to be heavy for North America, and the changes Backroads has made reflect those projections. The company has canceled biking trips to Turkey and walking trips in Nepal. It has trimmed departures for Bali, Morocco and Japan.

Backroads also delayed the launch of multisports trips to Nepal; India; Malta; Sicily, Italy, and Bordeaux, France; walking trips to Tibet, and biking trips to the Czech Republic and Austria. In early 2002, the firm expects to reevaluate start-up plans for those trips and, as it monitors consumer response to world events and the travel climate, decide whether to proceed.

Backroads will go ahead with 18 of the 30 new trips it was scheduled to start in 2002 -- a schedule set prior to the terrorist attacks. They include six biking trips in France, Ireland, Italy, Bali, New Zealand and China; two walking trips in Italy -- one along the Amalfi Coast and the other in the Dolomites -- and 10 multisport programs in Morocco, Thailand, California, Washington, Canada, Utah/Arizona Canyonlands and the low-country islands off the coast of Georgia.

Some of the new trips in North America include:

• A five-day biking, walking and sea kayaking tour of the San Juan Islands of Washington state, starting at $1,798 per person, double.

• A seven-day biking and hiking trip in Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon, starting at $1,998 per person, double.

• A six-day biking, hiking and horseback-riding program in Zion and the Grand Canyon, starting at $1,798 per person, double.

• A six-day biking, walking and kayaking tour in the Santa Barbara, Calif., area, with accommodations at the Four Seasons Biltmore, starting at $2,398 per person, double.

• A six-day biking and hiking trip to the low-country islands of Amelia, Fla., and Cumberland and Little St. Simons off the coast of Georgia, for $2,098 per person, double.

• A six-day biking and hiking program in Banff and Jasper national parks in Canada, with stays at the Jasper Park Lodge and the Chateau Lake Louise, starting at $1,998 per person, double.

For more information, contact Backroads at (800) 462-2848.

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