Branson: Tour Operator Takes Flight

Country Tours, a two-year-old tour operator based in Chantilly, Va., plans to inaugurate air-inclusive tours and air-only service from Dallas-Fort Worth to the M. Graham Clark airport at Point Lookout, Mo., approximately 1.5 miles south of Branson.

Joel Grossman, vice president of marketing for the tour firm, which operates the airport under a lease from the College of the Ozarks, said that at press time a contract for the scheduled air service was pending.

Three roundtrips per day are anticipated, he said, with service expected to begin by April 15. By late February, Country Tours plans to open a sales and reservations office in South Florida in support of the Branson program, Grossman said.

Agents will be able to book overnight and longer packages with a choice of hotels, either an Avis car rental or transfers and theater seats, he said.

The airport has been expanded to handle 32- or 48-seat aircraft such as the DeHavilland Dash 7, which can utilize the 3,500-foot runway. A new passenger terminal, security services and baggage claim system is in operation as are several gates, Grossman said.

In late spring, Country Tours expects to add flights from one or more Midwest cities, such as St. Louis, Kansas City, Mo., and Memphis and Nashville in Tennessee.

In two years, the M. Graham Clark runway will be extended to 6,000 feet, enabling it to handle all commuter and regional planes, including 100-passenger jets. Boeing 737s and 727s will not be among those accommodated, Grossman said. Larger aircraft, used by TWA and United Express, serve the airport at Springfield, Mo., about 50 miles north of Branson.

Grossman said any agent or tour operator may book the new air service. The new flights, he said, should help agents generate new travelers for Branson: honeymooners, singles--people who do not want to take a motorcoach.(Branson is heavily dependent on motorcoach tours to bring in clients.)

Until the sales and reservations office opens, inquiries can be directed to Grossman c/o Tourism Solutions, (954) 434-8214; fax (954) 434-9334.

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