Gate 1 expands, makes entry into Costa Rica

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GLENSIDE, Pa. -- At the beginning of a very rough 2002, Gate 1 here had a decision to make.

"Either we were going to lie down and play dead, or we were going to advertise like mad," said Ilene Braun, vice president of marketing and sales. "We advertised, and it paid off."

With business up 20% for the year, Gate 1 was able to go ahead with the expansion plans it had in place before last year's terrorist attacks. Those plans included launching Gate 1's first program in Costa Rica.

"It was a natural progression for us," said Braun. "We were already doing South America for about a year and a half. We operate Varig Travel Vacations, which is primarily Brazil [tours], but we also do other South American countries as Gate 1."

Gate 1 offers a menu of hosted, independent and escorted programs for Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, the Galapagos and Peru, from four-night, independent programs to 19-night, escorted tours.

The operator's new Costa Rica program will be similarly broad-based.

"We're doing it like we do other destinations; we're being a supermarket," Braun said. "We're offering everything from short, independent stays to fully escorted programs, hotel-only packages, honeymoon, fly-drive and adventure."

Departures are set through October 2003.

Gate 1's entry into Costa Rica will enable clients to take in some of the country's famed wildlife, including several types of parrots. Destinations for two-night plans include Guanacaste Province in the northwest, which is known for its beaches; Tortuguero, a wildlife preserve on the Caribbean coast; and Manuel Antonio National Park, with white sand beaches backed by an evergreen forest. Land-only rates begin at $229 per person, double.

All escorted tours feature two or three nights in San Jose; two nights in Arenal Volcano National Park with a visit to Arenal Lake; and an overnight in Monteverde and a visit to Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Options include nature walks, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding or visits to hot springs or beaches.

In addition, the firm's eight- or 10-night Costa Rican Adventure itinerary includes a trip to Sarapiqui and a morning of white-water river rafting.

Six-night plans start at $839, land only, or $1,279 with roundtrip air from New York (Kennedy). Ten-night rates start at $1,209, land only, or $1,679 with air from New York.

Rates are per person, double occupancy, and cover all transfers, accommodations, some meals and guided sightseeing.

Gate 1 pays 17% commission on the land portion of escorted tours and 10% on air and on all other programs.

In addition, to acquaint agents with the destination, Gate 1 is offering an agent fam trip to Costa Rica from Nov. 9 to 14 for $299 per agent, land only, or $399 with air. Prices for guests are slightly more.

"It's clearly a great destination for so many reasons," Braun said. "[Clients] can do as much adventure as they want or just lie out and enjoy the incredible views."

Costa Rica also appeals to travelers who want something more exotic than the traditional North American destinations but are concerned about going to Europe in the current environment, Braun said.

For additional information, contact Gate 1 at (800) 682-3333 or visit www.gate1travel.com on line.

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