Entity to Tout Less-Traveled European Regions

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NEW YORK -- A new marketing venture partially funded by the European Union is promoting off-the-beaten-track regions of cultural significance in England, France and Holland.

The entity, called Exporting Cultural Heritage Overseas (ECHO), makes available to agents a series of suggested itineraries to help point clients to less-celebrated but culturally rich areas in the three countries, Judith Steegmans, project leader, said. Detailed itineraries are listed on ECHO's Web site at www.saturnus.nl/vvvf/go2europe.

Retailers make all the bookings necessary for an itinerary, such as air, transfers and car rentals. "Basically, we act as advisers to travel agents," Steegmans said, adding that there is no fee for these services.

The spotlighted regions encompass the French-Norman cities of Le Havre and Cherbourg; the English south coast cities of Poole, Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Southampton, and the Golden Circle region of Holland, including Flevoland. Steegmans said this "trinational partnership," which has financial backing from the tourism authorities in each of the three countries as well as from the European Union, "is rare because competition is so high."

The initiative came about after tourism representatives of the three countries realized that although many U.S. veterans of World War II have ties to these areas, the cultural-heritage market is fading and younger generations need to be targeted, she said. "Our suggested special-interest itineraries are designed for independent travelers who want to focus on culture, history, art, architecture and many other uniting themes," Steegmans told Travel Weekly. For example, the American Trail itinerary covers links to wartime England's south coast, Normandy and Flevoland. Other itineraries cover more general interests, such as gardens.

In addition to suggesting itineraries, ECHO recommends overnight accommodations and will assist retailers in obtaining net rates from hoteliers, said Steegmans.

Brochures can be ordered from the British Tourist Authority, (800) 462-2748, or from the Western France Tourist Board, (202) 659-7779.

ECHO, based in Lelystad, Holland, can be reached by calling (011) 31-320 282-800; fax (011) 31-320 258-080, or e-mail [email protected].

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