For a segment of today's travelers, "being there" and "seeing it"
is not enough. They seek a measure of hands-on direct interaction.
Such trips could focus on learning experiences, like photography,
cooking, painting and language study, or involve activities such as
hiking, trekking and biking. Clients also could be part of a
Painting in the land that produced such greats as Monet, Cezanne
and Renoir is guaranteed to inspire would-be artists. Clients can
take a course in technique through a U.S. or French school.
Some tour packages also feature classes in the other visual
arts. For example, France's landscapes and attractions offer
wonderful opportunities for photographers, but not all visitors are
able to take advantage of them. France Photographique, (310)
378-2821, and Close-Up Expeditions, (800) 457-9553, both offer
tours that include professional advisors.
While some view cooking as a practical necessity, others consider
it to be an art form. For the latter, what could be a better use of
their leisure time than perfecting their skills with some of Paris'
Established in 1895, Le Cordon Bleu, 33-1-53-68-22 50, presents
a wide range of cooking classes and demonstrations focusing on
basic or regional cuisine, pastry and bread baking. The school
boasts 32 master chefs, the majority from Michelin-starred
Classes are also available at the Ritz-Escoffier School of
French Gastronomy, held in the Ritz Hotel, 33-1-42-60-38-30.
In our age of global travel and a global economy, Americans'
traditional indifference to mastering foreign languages is
diminishing. Clients interested in increasing their proficiency in
French could join language courses in Paris and a number of other
For instance, Lingus Service Worldwide, (800) 394-5327,
represents schools that offer immersion courses throughout France
at all levels of proficiency. Lodging options range from family
stays to five-star hotels.
For almost 40 years, Jacques Pillet, concierge at Paris' Hotel
Meurice, has been sharing his favorite spots with guests.
To lovers of art and handicrafts, Pillet suggests Le Viaduc des
Arts (9 to 129 Ave. Daumesnil). Here, 60 brick and stone vaults,
situated below an abandoned railroad viaduct, house artisans'
workshops and galleries. He also likes Galerie Vivienne, a
19th-century shopping arcade housing elegant boutiques.
For pleasant strolls amid flowers and greenery, Pillet
recommends Jardin des Plantes, created in 1626 by Louis XIII's
doctor as a royal medicinal plant garden, and the Bagatelle garden
in the Bois de Boulogne, filled in summer with every imaginable
species of rose.
As for dining, Pillet suggests the tea room and Sunday brunch at
Musee Jacquemart Andre, a 19th-century mansion on Boulevard
Haussmann; L'Os a Moelle on Rue Vasco de Gama, a typical Parisian
bistro, and for fine dining, La Grande Cascade, set amid the trees
of the Bois de Boulogne.
Specialty Tour Tips
Travel industry professionals offer the following tips on the
most profitable way to book clients on specialty tours.
One recommendation is to approach operators with a preformed
group, according to Michael Italiaander, president of Expo Garden
Tours, a Redding, Conn. company focusing exclusively on garden and
horticultural programs. Italiaander suggested contacting local
chambers of commerce to discover garden clubs and horticultural
groups in your area. Befriend these people and show your knowledge
about programs meeting their special interest, he said.
After a successful first tour, agents can suggest similar trips
to other destinations. According to Italiaander, France alone could
account for several repeat sales, with each trip visiting a
Karen Herbst, co-owner of the International Kitchen, was an
agent for 12 years before becoming a tour operator. Key to
increased profitability, she feels, is convincing the client that
you are selling -- and the client is buying -- a week of magic.
Agents must know the product thoroughly so they can describe it
with sincere enthusiasm. "Belief transcends a sales pitch," said
Herbst. "Clients hear the truth in your voice and respond to